MST Week: Zombie Nightmare (1994), or Dude, I Can’t Believe How Much This ROCKS!

15 07 2009

We’re back for more MST3K reverie! But, as you’ll notice from the clip above, something’s missing. Something’s not right. Where, oh where, is our buddy Joel? Who is this strange man in the shadowy theater? Well, midway, through season 5 of MST3K’s 10 season run, Joel decided to call it quits. Although he had started the show way back in ’89, he felt (and the story changes every time as to why) he needed to take himself in a new direction, namely off-camera. So with the star of the show riding off into the sunset, and nobody at first who was possible to take the seat between Tom and Crow, head writer Michael J. Nelson answered the call to action. He’d been in the show a number of times before doing bit parts and helping on the show in many other ways, but in 1993 he decided to be the man in the silhouette for the rest of the series.

This meant a slightly different take on the dynamic of the show. As head writer for most of the show’s run, the comic content of the show remained largely unchanged, but the atmosphere was different. The Bots treated Mike more like a younger brother than a captain or a dad, as they had more experience on the S.O.L. than he did. It makes for some really funny sketches, watching the Bots lord themselves over a fresh face. Mike was also different in the sense that he brought a more spontaneous energy to the show. While Joel definitely had his wild side, he seemed perpetually baked and lackadaisical. Mike was fresh-faced and dewy-eyed, so his lines came out with a particular enthusiasm that had previously been unheard. It’a not better or worse, in my opinion; just different.

But I think Mike is perfect for this movie today, because you’ll find that Mike has an extreme distaste for disposable aspects of pop culture, and nothing is more disposable than impotent 80s metal.  So Zombie Nightmare, a 1986 zombie flick starring Canadian metal singer Jon Mikl Thor, has a lot of disgust going for it right from the start. It’s a loud, obnoxious, dirty little film about voodoo bringing a wrongfully killed young man back to life to avenge his own death at the hands of some hit-and-run punks. The punks talk a lot of noise about how they’ll  never get caught and that nobody saw them, but when they get taken out one-by-one by a body-building zombie, they change their tune to the dulcet tones of Motorhead and Girlschool.

The plot is musty and cheesy, but my main concern is who stars in it, namely TV’s Adam West and future former movie star Tia Carrere! Adam, during a low point in his career, and Tia, during a happy medium, must have been paid incredibly modest fees here, because it shows. Adam especially sleepwalks through the proceedings like he has something better to do (news flash; he didn’t). You know, I respect anyone who goes out there and takes the modest fee and makes the crappy movie as long as they do it with everything they have. Acting shouldn’t be better or worse as the pay fluctuates. Adam here knows he’s in a shit role, and instead of making the best of it, I halfway expected him to fall asleep in his scenes with the young detective.

The riffing here is great, and as I said there is a different atmosphere here than in Joel episodes. Mike and crew are armed to the teeth, and they come out with almost contemptuous mockery for a film like this. These guys are pulling no punches here, and it is sweet music to my ears to see the gloves come off. The cast is especially ruthless to celebrities like Adam, taking a dive for cash. They mock everything, from his sagging career to his once-great series Batman even the dreaded Boat Show incident (“Super King…”). He gets pummeled so bad that they actually write apology letters to him at the end of the episode!!! But they give no quarter to anyone in this episode, so Adam is just another comedy casualty here.

I love when people say how they really feel. And, after six seasons of pointed remarks, I’m glad to see the show was willing to really go all out for a movie like this. It’s a great episode, though not as great as either Cave Dwellers or Eegah. It’s not a matter of Joel or Mike, but rather what the movies have to offer, and Zombie Nightmare is honestly pretty generic when compared to a prehistoric giant and a bamboo hang-glider. So, while the movie gets a putrid 3 Mikls (???) out of 10, this episode gets a stellar 8 1/2 inebriated Adam Wests out of 10. Don’t stop rocking, dude!

Keep an eye out for my next review of MST today, a little horror show that slacks my jaw every time called Eegah!!!

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