I Was a Teenage Zombie (1987)

Author: Brett H.
Submitted by: Brett H.   Date : 2008-07-18 03:42



Directed by: John Elias Michalakis
Written by: James Martin, Steve McKoy and George Seminara
Produced by: John Elias Micahalakis and Richard Hirsh


Reviewed by: Brett H.







“Of course he’s dead. That rock we tied to around him weighed a ton. He’s at the bottom of the river!”
“I’m telling you, he’s not! He’s just as alive as you and me… and Christ, is he pissed at us!”


Teenagers and horror films go together like peas in a pod. I Was a Teenage Werewolf and Teenage Zombies capitalized on this back in the fifties and throughout the horror boom of the eighties, brave filmmakers traveled back in time and rekindled these ideals. Films such as Teen Wolf, Phantom of the Mall and I Was a Teenage Zombie came forth and impressed the cheese audiences. I Was a Horror Novice would best describe myself the last time I witnessed I Was a Teenage Zombie. Probably about the age of seven, I remember very little about the film except the cover art stuck with me over the years. I took my own trip back down memory lane and rediscovered this teen horror/comedy gem and it’s funny just how it comes across now in comparison to how I perceived it then. Even if the memories are as faded as those sun-dried VHS covers that spent day after day baking by the window on those old video store shelves.

Baseball star, Dan (Michael Rubin), his buddy, Gordy (George Seminara) and their nerdy buds are all getting ready for the Spring Dance at their local college. Dan can get any girl he wants, but he has a bit of trouble chasing sticky-sweet Cindy (Cassie Madden). The nerds have even scored some decent looking chicks, but Gordy is more worried about other things. Weed, especially. As luck would have it, the town’s dried up and he’s in debt to biker buddy, The Bird (Kevin Nagle). After paying the ever-paranoid hippy/Nam vet, Moon (Theo Polites) a visit, the boys are shit out of luck. He’s got acid, cocaine, heroin and every other drug under the sun (all of which he did last night), but no Marijahoobie. Enter weed man, Mussolini aka Moose (Steve McCoy), the Mexican king of shitty drugs. Gordy scores some defective dope from him and when he goes to try to get his money back, Moose gives him a dirty beating.

The Bird doesn’t take kindly and the gang goes out to teach him a lesson. Moose doesn’t go down so easily, as he manages to handle four guys at once. Dan then grabs his trusty bat and bashes him over the head with it... and it’s a lights out grand slam. They dump Mussolini in the river so as not to get discovered and promise not tell anyone what they did this summer. It’s amazing that the local nuclear plant mysteriously closed down the day before and the river has been contaminated with radiation. Back from the dead and exploding out from the middle of the river (he was dumped maybe a foot off shore), green-faced Mussolini goes after the kids who wronged him. He’s even stronger now, and the boys sure got their hands full. Hell breaks loose before the guys come up with a plan to take down the growling, gargantuan drug dealin’ green-faced creature from the radioactive river. But, at what price will they have to pay to take down the monster for good? And, more importantly, will Dan get Cindy after he’s become... a teenage zombie?!

I Was a Teenage Zombie is very low budget effort with some very mediocre acting, but with a lot of heart. It’s mostly a comedy and the horror elements are played for fun, but nonetheless the film is incredibly fast-paced and entertaining. Playing like a pure 80s teen drug/sex comedy, the boys are a hoot and you’re on their side every step of the way. Steve McCoy plays his Cheech-like role to the best of his ability and Mussolini is one of those awesome cheesy horror villains (the zombies in the film can actually speak) that you love to laugh at. The vast supporting cast all play their roles well and every nerd is damned nerdly (one doesn’t even know how to use a bat!), the tubby guy is damn slow, the girls are nice and ditzy and the old-timer at the local malt shop always has good advice. And in true 80s fashion, everyone gets along moderately well and they all have ladies. Except for the older Mussolini, whose asshole The Bird promises to shish kabob with a baseball bat. You love all these guys and when they are killed, you feel sorry for them. Those 80s characters are hard not to feel bad for. Everyone was so damn nice!

As a child, I remember not being scared of the film, but enjoying it very much. It’s not hard to see why as I have always been a fan of teen comedies and horror ever since I can remember and this film is a pretty great representation of both... even if the horror is light-hearted and meant for giggles rather than thrills. In particular, I remembered two scenes from the movie. One was a rape scene in which Mussolini rapes one of the nerd’s girlfriends (all the while, nerd boys' buddies are cheering whom-they-believe-to-be-him on, they didn’t think he had it in him!), which turned out to be pretty brutal. Snarling with his mouth open, the green bastard goes pretty hard (she even begins to enjoy it!) before snapping her legs out of her hips. Blood squirts heavily and it’s pretty ghastly, really. As a little kid, I remember being confused and I asked my cousin if it still felt good for him even though she’s in pain. Looking back, for that brief moment, I am instantly reminded of the Canadian film, The Pit which deals with a weird kid’s strange fixation with sex. Except, I wasn’t nutty as shit. Another scene that I recall is one in which a teacher is taking attendance at school when she calls out a guy’s name. A croaky-voiced teen pipes up, “he’s dead” and I remember wondering just what would happen if a kid died during the school year. It seemed unfathomable back when I was six or so, but later on in life I would actually experience such tragedy.

If you track down I Was a Teenage Zombie, be sure to get it uncut. There’s a great scene in which a teen's face is ripped off very graphically. Although the gore is cheap, it’s cringe inducing because the hand physically pulling the makeup off the fake skull has to tug hard to rip through it and it adds a whole new sense of realism and torture. The ending is awesome as good zombie vs. bad zombie duke it out in a machete battle to the death, complete with rolling heads. The film stays sort of true to Romero zombie lore, as you need to destroy the brain to kill them. The teens, however, don’t have brains because they figure the best way to kill the zombie without coming close to it is to get a good zombie to do battle for them. I guess a bullet would make too much sense, and for that matter, it just wouldn’t be as cool. Most of the subplot deals with Dan’s struggle to cope with his newfound zombie-ness and it wouldn’t be an 80s movie if he never tried to get the girl of his dreams even if he’s looking a little green. The ending is… sweet, we’ll say. Again, it’s something that could only be done in the decade known as the 80s without being laughed off the screen.

Of particular interest is the slight Porky’s and 50s teenage horror movie hints the film drops. There’s no denying the malt shop was a staple of the culture at the time, and it’s a staple here. Mussolini refers to Dan as, ‘Mickey Mantle’ which reminded me of The Coroner’s throttling of a baseball loving nerd in the epic, Doom Asylum. I guess both villains admire a good power hitter. The music is cheesy 80s cover-sounding fodder, but it’s still catchy enough and it makes the movie seem a bit more realistic and down to earth. Light-hearted comedy melts with sex and some great crappy horror grue and after 90 minutes in the blender known as my VCR, it’s safe to say that I highly enjoyed this hilarious work of “art”. If the thought of stealing your best buddy’s corpse from his own funeral so as to bring him back as the walking dead to wage a machete war with an evil, Mexican, drug dealing zombie is appealing to you, there’s no going wrong with I Was a Teenage Zombie. It is movies like this that exemplify why I love the 80s. Track this one down. It may be tough (especially if you seek out the Image DVD), but if you like cheesy flicks, it’s worth the trek. Buy it!



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