This is a film that absolutely screams 1980s! Whether you are focused on the style, the clothing, the music or the hair, it is positively dated. But that’s okay…we love this kind of stuff, right? What’s quite different about Zombie Nightmare, in comparison to other films that happen to have zombies, is that in this film the zombie is the hero. Sure, if you actually think about these sorts of things, all zombies are victims of their conditions, yet here, Tony Washington (played by the mighty Jon Mikl Thor) is a victim of heartless humanity, only he gets back at those lacking said hearts. During a prologue to the story, Tony’s father (John Fasano) is killed after rescuing a young woman (Tracy Biddle) about to be raped by two James Dean-wanna-bes. Tony grows up to be buff and have feathered hair, and is shown to be very close and loving with his mother (Francesca Bonacorsa). To add to the tragedy of the Washington family, Tony is run down in the street by five spoiled brats, cruising while drunk, looking for their next thrill. And this takes place right after he stops the local grocer from being robbed by two punks! His mother’s loss is turned into sorrowful anger, having both of her loves taken by mindless violence; only when Tony is killed, she knows who to call. It turns out, the young woman her husband saved before being murdered for his heroism also happens to be a local Voodoo priestess named Molly Mokembie (Manuska Rigaud). Molly and Mrs. Washington want revenge and are willing to get a little dark in order to make it happen. Molly Mokembie whips out some incantation action and Tony returns from the dead to seek out his killers and settle the score. Frankly, you can’t help but cheer for the slaughter of the yuppie brats, especially their ridiculous looking leader, Jim (Shawn Levy). As the story unfolds more, Jim’s connection to the history of our hero makes him even more of a hack that you want to see get what’s coming to him.
I must say, however, Jim’s death would have been much cooler if Zombie Tony had taken his frosted and over-hair-sprayed scalp. Actually, the only satisfying deaths are the first brats Zombie Tony tracks down: Peter (Hamish McEwan) and Susie (Manon Turbide). They’re found at the local sports club, sharing in their post tennis game celebration that happens to be one of the more awkward love scenes in cinema. You have to dig when two people are on camera that clearly have no chemistry and are trying to be sexy with one another. Zombie Tony snaps Peter’s neck and leaves him treading water in the hot-tub and after a chase through the facility he bashes Susie’s head in with his baseball bat. After the gruesome annihilation of the first two yuppie brats, we meet the investigator, Frank Sorrell (Frank Dietz), who is immediately troubled by the brutality of the situation. He has to answer to Captain Churchman, played the one and only Adam West, who doesn’t take Frank’s concerns all that seriously and is misleading the situation by feeding false information to the press, and their own files; he doesn’t really care how the deaths happened, as long as they can wrap it up quickly. I’ll leave the rest to you folks, for your own discovery and enjoyment, as the plot does toss a twisteroo our way for the sake of keeping things from being too textbook.
There is a detail I’d like to comment on that I have found to be a mystery: When you watch the opening credits, a fellow by the name of David Wellington is listed as the screenwriter; however, on the packaging, the name given for that job is John Fasano. I sure would like to know what’s going on with that. Adding to the confusion is the fact that Frank Dietz gives Fasano’s name in an interview he did for Shout Factory’s MST3K release of this film. The internet gives no proper information on this subject, so I’m going to have to dig a bit in the future in order to find the truth.
Another oddity that I will set straight here is this: the soundtrack is primarily made up of Hard Rock bands, including the infamous Motorhead and the very underrated, Girlschool. Yet, there is also a name a lot of us in Metal know in those credits and that is Pantera. Since those rowdy Texans were a very bad Ratt knock-off during this time, I’ve listened carefully during the film trying to hear their contribution. I actually have a couple of their albums from their 80s era, so I had an idea of what to listen for.
Funny enough, I was doing a touch of research and it turns out that this is a different Pantera! It is actually the working name that Jon Mikl Thor’s wife, at the time, was using for her musical endeavors. Since the Texan band already existed and had albums out, I figure this was either one of those matters where copyrights weren’t international, or no one cared enough to see if such a name had been thought of elsewhere.
So by all means, if you enjoy a bit of cheese on your Horror-buffet, you must check out Zombie Nightmare…just be sure to keep your hairspray away from any open flames.
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