The wild and unruly eyebrows of John Saxon return in this relic from the eighties - and a lot of fun it is too! Zombie Death House is just mindless entertainment from start to finish, and sometimes it's just what a viewer wants.
The story is very simple and is hardly likely to stretch anyone's brain cells and tells the story of how a government bio-weapons designer (John Saxon) decides to test out his new chemical weapon on a bunch of inmates at a prison. He unleashes the virus and then seals off the prison and watches the results from the safe confines of his mobile vehicle, which is stationed outside the perimeter of the prison. Things don't go quite as smoothly as planned though, as there is a fly in the ointment in the form of wrongly imprisoned Derek Keillor (Dennis Cole) who is desperate to prove his innocence - and to get revenge on his mob boss, Vic Moretti (Anthony Franciosa) who he chauffeured for. Moretti framed Keillor for the murder of his wife, with whom Keillor was having an affair. Upon arriving at the prison, Keillor discovers that Vic's gay brother, Franco (Michael Pataki), is also imprisoned there, which is going to make life pretty unpleasant for him. However, once the outbreak of the virus occurs and the prison descends into mayhem, Keillor gains the upper hand and demands an audience with Vic Moretti. Moretti is summarily summoned to the prison, on the pretext of keeping the peace and to help out his brother. Once inside though, Vic realises there is no escape, as the prison is under quarantine. So not only is there the virus to contend with, there are fierce personal battles being fought within this stressful situation. Things descend into further chaos until Keillor and his new-found love interest discover a way out of the prison and in the process allow Colonel Burgess (Saxon) to get his just desserts.
So, is the film actually any good? No - it's utter crap. But good crap, if you get my meaning. Any film that is graced with the presence of genre veterans of the calibre of John Saxon, Ron O'Neal, Anthony Franciosa and Michael Pataki has to hold a great deal of interest for genre fans. But no, it's not a good film by any means and has 'direct-to-video' written all over it. Don't let this put you off though, Zombie Death House is immense fun and the aforementioned actors each bring a sizeable quota of entertainment value to their roles. The gore isn't exactly plentiful, but there's still a moderate amount of the red stuff strewn about to keep most horror fans happy. My only gripe is that, despite the title, there are no actual zombies - the 'zombies' are little more than plague infested victims who have become ravening, murderous monsters. In fact, the opening title card looks to have had 'Zombie' electronically added to it.
Having said all that, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie - so you can take that as a recommendation, if you will. My advice is to go into it with low expectations and you'll find yourself more than a little entertained throughout the duration. A classic this ain't - but I found it to be top-notch entertainment. Then again, I have a penchant for trashy B-Movies, so my recommendation might well prove to be a curse for some of you. Personally, with a cast like that listed above, I don't think you can go wrong!
Retromedia's DVD presents the film fullscreen, but I saw no evidence of pan-and-scanning and the image doesn't appear to be compromised in any way, so my guess is that this is the way it was intended to be seen. It's also further evidence that this was intended from inception for the straight-to-video market or, perhaps, cable TV in the States. The picture quality is pretty good and about what you'd expect from a low-budget movie like this, I certainly have no complaints about it - it looked just fine to me. The audio is presented in DD 2.0 Stereo and sounds good enough, if unspectacular. The dialogue was crisp and clear, but sound levels did tend to vary throughout. Overall it's not a bad presentation at all, and for a little over £7 from online retailers there's little room for complaint.
There's not much in the way of extras either, save for a trailer - but I have to mention that the DVD comes with an amusing $1,000 Shock Insurance Policy signed by Fred Olen Ray, which entitles the beneficiary to said sum should they die of shock whilst watching the movie. Not even remotely likely, but it's a nicely humorous touch and gives you an idea of the cheesiness that lies in store for prospective viewers.
Review by C J Otter
|Released by Retromedia/Image Entertainment|
|Running time 90 minutes (approx.)|
|Ratio - 4:3 Fullscreen|
|Audio - English DD 2.0|