Thursday, April 14, 2011

Be Kind, Rewind: The VHS Reviews ~ Night Life (1989)

a.k.a. Grave Misdemeanours and Zombie Academy
“There’s good reason to be afraid of the dark"

Synopsis: This is the story of Archie Melville (Scott Grimes, "Critters 1 & 2"), a down on his luck teenager that’s just trying to catch a break. Forced to work as an assistant mortician for his miserable Uncle Verlin (John Astin, "The Addams Family") as part of a deal he made in order to go to college. Charly (Cheryl Pollak, "My Best Friend Is a Vampire"), his only friend, tells him out of the blue that she’s been offered a job and is leaving town. The girl that he wants to get with (Lisa Fuller, “The Monster Squad”) is dating his arch-enemy (Kenneth Ian Davis, “The New Kids”), who leads a group of preppie snobs that are constantly tormenting him. Just when you think things couldn’t get any worse for the poor bastard, the shit really hits the fan.

After his tormentors are suddenly killed in a car accident , Archie’s given the gruesome task of preparing the bodies for burial. Later that night, the mortuary is struck by a bolt of lightning that (you guessed it) turns the corpses into bloodthirsty zombies hungry for revenge.

My Thoughts: Although you don’t actually see any zombies until the second half of the film, I still kinda liked this one. It starts out like your typical 80’s teen movie (except for the fact that some of it takes place in a mortuary). Canadian director David Acomba does a great job of developing the characters and keeping a pretty fast pace, so you never get too bored while you’re waiting for the fun to begin. He even flexes his directing muscles a little by throwing in some creepy dream-like sequences and gives the movie a bit of a darker tone, something that you don’t see too often in a horror comedy.

The acting wasn’t great, but what you’d expect. One exception was John Astin, who was perfectly cast as Archie’s heartless Uncle Verlin. Scott Grimes is who he is (never too bad, but never any good) and the rest of the mostly unknown actors were hit and miss. The zombie make-up was a little cheesy, but most of the gore was surprisingly well done and they came up with a few creative kills.

So overall, I’d have to say what this movie lacked in originally, it made up for in execution. I would probably describe it as a cross between the John Hughes movie “Some Kind of Wonderful” and “Return of The Living Dead”. I thought most of the humor worked and it’s got some pretty nice gore, especially for it’s time. One of the best things about the horror genre is that most horror fans don’t ask for films to be perfect, just for them to be fun …and seeing a couple zombies having sex, that’s fun stuff!

My Rating: 7.5 / 10

Definitely worth checking out if you can get your hands on a copy. There’s no DVD to speak of, but you can always pick it up on VHS. Used copies are selling for a little over $20 on amazon, so I’d suggest searching around on eBay for a possible bargain.

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