• Zombie High



    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: December 15th, 2015.
    Director: Ron Link
    Cast: Virginia Madsen, Sherilyn Fenn, Paul Feig, Richard Cox
    Year: 1987
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    The Movie:

    One of those cult oddities that never got a DVD release, Ron Link’s Zombie High now gets a Blu-ray roll out from Shout! Factory.

    The film stars Virginia Madsen as Andrea, the new student at Ettinger High, there on a scholarship where she hopes to ace all of her classes and make something of herself. She’s set up with her new roommate, Suzi (Sherilyn Fenn), but still pines away for her boyfriend Barry (James Wilder) who goes to a different school some distance away. Things are fine at first, there aren’t any real problems, but as Andrea gets acclimated to her new digs she starts to notice that something is off. The faculty members are all sort of cold and clinical and her fellow students seem less like high schoolers than they do almost like robots… driven to succeed at all costs.

    Eventually Andrea learns that the reason they are the way that they are is because the students are being operated on and turned into the business world superstars of the future, but that not everyone comes out of the operation alive. Complicating matters is the presence of Andrea’s history teacher, Doctor Philo (Richard Cox), a dreamy older man whose charms she seems to find impossible to resist! But of course, in a plot twist that won’t even surprise your mom, Andrea learns that Philo is one of the faculty members behind the strange conspiracy and those odd operations, and soon she will learn the truth behind what’s really going on at Ettinger High… whether she wants to or not!

    This one has more in common with The Stepford Wives than it does Dawn Of The Dead or Fast Times At Ridgemont High (as the title might suggest), as the zombies in the movie aren’t so much the shambling corpses that feast on human flesh you might find in a Romero or Fulci film as they are…. young Republicans? Yeah, let’s go with that. Once the students are operated on all they really seem to want is to drink the Kool-Aid. They’ve no problem giving up free thinking or individuality when they can all dance in step together at a party or getting right out their outre style in favor of a nice, clean, respectable haircut. There’s humor here, and some of it works quite well, but the pacing is slow and anyone expecting hefty dollops of gut munching will be disappointed as the movie isn’t particularly gory.

    This works better as a satire than as a horror film. And that’s fine. The cast are game, at least. Virginia Madsen is as pretty as a picture here, long before she got an Oscar nomination for Sideways. She plays the part well and she looks great doing it. Sherilynn Fenn is underused but fun to look at and actually quite good in her supporting role while Richard Cox as the older man who woos our heroine does fine work as well. They play their parts straight, never winking at the camera, while Kay Kuter steals a few scenes as the school’s suspicious Dean Eisner. The film’s main problem is that it’s slow and that it’s inconsistent. There’s enough here that works that you won’t hate yourself for watching it but Link doesn’t seem sure if he wants to make a comedy, a horror picture or something else entirely and instead bops back and forth fairly randomly. The message behind this one is solid, however, and just as appropriate now as it was when the movie was released almost thirty years ago.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Shout! Factory offers up Zombie High on Blu-ray framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer that looks about as good as the source material will probably allow for. There are a lot of shots in this movie that are filtered and these shots are, understandably, a bit on the soft side. When the filters aren’t being used, detail is decent enough. Colors look fine and black levels are good, if never reference quality. There aren’t any compression artifacts nor is there any evidence of obvious noise reduction. This looks pretty much true to source, fans of the film should be pleased with the transfer.

    The audio is handled perfectly well by an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track. Dialogue is clean and properly balanced against the score and the sound effects. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion, everything sounds fine.

    Extras are slim, limited to a theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection. This is a combo pack release, however, so a DVD version of the movie is also included along with the Blu-ray disc.

    The Final Word:

    Zombie High has its moments and it does feature some pretty fun cast members, but it’s slow and uneven even if it does contain some interesting ideas and a reasonable amount of style. Regardless, the movie has its fans and they’ll appreciate the fact that the movie is now back in print and in high definition no less.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!