“I Was a Teenage Zombie”
Stars: Michael Rubin, Ignacio F. Iquino (as Steve McCoy), George Seminara, Cassie Madden
Writer: James Aviles Martin, Steve McCoy, George Seminara
Dir: John Elias Michalakis
“Hewn head-halves and ripped faces make for a rollicking comedy. Not for the faint of heart.”
I remember reading those words printed in the “Video Unlimited” flyer we received from the “mom and pop” type retailer my family frequented in old Rockville, Md. Someone in that store wrote up tiny, encapsulated reviews, and, almost always, they were positive. Ah, my first experiences in a capitalistic society almost always come back to my video store experiences.
It happens, folks. Most of what you will read from your humble reviewer harkens back to those archaic days before Netflix, or even Cockblocker Video (or, as my counterpart, Andrew, calls them Lackluster Video).
So, having read that snippet as a young impressionable boy, I saw, “hewn head-halves” and “not for the faint of heart” and I pushed my chips all in. I had to see this UNRATED flick.
My poor mother did not know what unrated meant. And, as we sat in the family room after having rented this sucker, my father, surprisingly in toe, she regretted not knowing almost immediately. Not for the mature content (which, later, she may have), but for the lack of a polished production that beset us.
I had yet to be old enough to view “The Toxic Avenger” on my own. I had not seen a single low-budgeted film and had nothing with which to compare “Teenage Zombie.” So, my palette was clean.
For better or worse, I gobbled this sucker up, and will, upon consecutive, more age-appropriate viewings, continue to do so.
It may not have the Troma Film stamp of approval, but it should. “I Was a Teenage Zombie” is a love letter to like-named films of the 1950s (“I Was a Teenage Werewolf,” “I Was a Teenage Frankenstein,” etc.). It even takes place mostly in a soda-jerk restaurant, one character is dressed as Steve McQueen on his worst day and the eyeglasses-wearing characters are not going to get the girl anytime soon (well, one almost does…prior to heavy-breathing zombie-rape).
Meet Dan Wake (Rubin), along with his best, and slightly-chubby pal, Gordy, and his pals Chuckie, Rosencrantz, and, (the rather chubby and overall comic relief) Lieberman.
The chums are looking forward to the “big dance” at their high school, and the only thing that is missing is … “marajahoobie.” And, all the time, Dan is trying to court the lovely and (almost) aptly named Cindy Faithful, the token blonde, buxom girl-next-door. And he has some success to some degree, and had just seemed to catch her interest until some zombie staggers onto the scene and ruins it all.
Gordy fatefully learns that Mussolini (“or as my friends call me ‘Moose’”), in debt to a big-time mob boss, is the only guy in a dry town to be carrying any weight. Gordy collects cash from his buddies and buys what turns out to be chemically-sprayed joints that are more worthless than Phillies Blunts sans weed. And when The Bird (a comically overacting, leather jacket-wearing, bouffant-sporting “bad ass” that reminds me more of a teen Christopher Walken rather than Steve McQueen) learns the boys have been ripped-off, he demands they find some way to get their money back. Gordy attempts to ask Moose for the money back, and gets his chubby arse kicked.
Oh, by the way, a nuclear power plant in nearby New Jersey has suffered a meltdown, and former plant worker, “Lloyd Kaufman,” is quoted in radio broadcasts as to the severity of the meltdown before he tragically falls into a vat of nuclear waste (wink, wink, nudge, nudge to Troma fans).
After Gordy shows up bloody and beaten, the teens, led by the tough-talking The Bird, plan to exact revenge and get their money back. They ambush Moose in a park and, in a series of scenes that “The Three Stooges” would have tipped their hats to, the kids corner Moose, and Dan Wake makes a home-run hit with a bat (complete with color commentary and uniform), knocking Moose unconscious, leaving them with a moral dilemma: the fucker might wake up. So, they dump him into the river…and, being Jersey, even without a nuclear meltdown, dumping a body into a river could never be a good idea.
They learn a few weeks later that Moose, having been reanimated as a result of the nuclear waste leaking into the river, is a walking, talking, strong-as-hell zombie who wants to destroy everything and everyone in his path. The teenagers set up a nearly identical ambush on Moose — this time failing, as Moose dodges Dan’s stellar swing, and winds up breaking Dan’s neck.
Dan Wake will later appear at his own wake…Bazinga.
Rosencrantz and Gordy realize Moose is not what he once was, connect the dots, and decide if a reanimated Moose is a bad ass, a reanimated Dan Wake, with all of his athletic abilities, must make for a perfect hero to take out Moose.
Naturally, they decide to raid Dan’s funeral, steal his body, and throw it into the river, reanimating a very confused Dan. Once he is told who he is, what he is, and what he is needed to do, Dan is forced to live in the soda-jerk stand’s basement and hide from everything he loved — or was at least trying to get a piece of (not in the zombie sense…ZING!), including Ms. Faithful.
Cue the sad violin music and the film’s attempt (although obviously an insincere attempt) at a tragic love story, which, thankfully, only gives slight motivation for Dan to do what he was reanimated to do and not to pursue zombie secks…
Which, um, does happen in this film. Moose does take a horny teenage girl, throw her on the hood of a car and proceed to zombie f*** her. And, friends, even though it was done for laughs, the “wishbone” climax is still disturbing to this day.
Overall, “I Was a Teenage Zombie” is more of an homage to the 1950s “teen” subgenre rather than an ode to zombie film lore. So….
Romero Rules Followed: No biting, no flesh eating (other than a single tongue gorging) and all the “zombies” talk. 2.0 on the scale, admitting they were at least dead once and killing the brain kills them.
Gore factor: Plenty and well done considering the budget, although some gore scenes were obviously done for gags rather than gross-out.
Zombies or Wannabees? Teeter-totter, but wannabe.
Classic, fine, or waste of time: Fine
Additional comments: This is simply a fun, goofy, have a few beers or tokes type of film. All involved obviously had a great time doing it, and, give it to them, they created a film in the 1980s that could be confused easily with a 1950s schlock-fest.