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Dead Heat – 7

Director – Mark Goldblatt

Cast – Treat Williams, Joe Piscopo, Lindsay Frost, Darren McGavin, Vincent Price, Clare Kirkconnell

Release Year – 1988

Reviewed by John of the Dead

While discussing actor Treat Williams’ role in the recent slasher flick Mask Maker with a few lovely commenters I was made aware of this late 80s horror film starring the famed and under-appreciated horror actor. Going into this piece I expected some heavy cheese (see the poster?) and fun horror, and much to my surprise my expectations were exceeded. I had no idea that Dead Heat would be as brainless and maniacal that it was, leaving my thirst for horror cheese quenched and only wanting more of what Dead Heat had to offer.

Partners Roger Mortis (Treat Williams; Deep Rising) and Doug Bigelow(Joe Piscopo) are two hardened cops with little respect for civil rights when it comes to dealing with criminals, but they will have to really hone their ass-kicking skills if they wish to defeat a new wave of criminal plaguing their streets. They find themselves doing battle with criminals impervious to bullet wounds and eventually learn that the perps are pawns in an evil game in which the dead are resurrected to do someone’s evil bidding, making for the case of a lifetime that Mortis and Bigelow will die trying to solve.

You know what happens when you get a first-time feature-film director paired with a first-time writer? You get cheese beyond belief – and when you throw in two badass actors to lead the cheese you get an incredibly fun experience known as Dead Heat. The storyline is a simple yet effective one, and one that I have honestly never seen used in the genre. We get “cop” films every now and then, but I had never come across one in which the antagonists are the living dead ordered to create chaos for a higher entity. The living dead in this piece are not like the usual living dead we see in traditional zombie films – slow moving piles of flesh – but instead we get hardened criminals back to doing what they did best in their previous life. Following Mortis and Bigelow doing their thing was fun and came adorned with numerous silly one-liners from the smart-lipped Bigelow and the usual brooding from them both usually seen from Neanderthal-ish men with power. Writer Terry Black did a swell job providing numerous fun elements in this story, giving us positive characters that I found enjoyable and used fairly well for the most part. He threw in plenty of action sequences that came with equal amounts of horror as well, giving us good zombie and creature action that I did not expect to come across. He is also obviously at most to blame for the brainless nonsense going on throughout pretty much the entire film, some of which is pretty BAD. There are numerous sequences that will force anyone with a brain to think to themselves “What the HELL? How does that happen?”, and for me (and those who appreciate these films) it only made the experience even more fun. Much to my surprise this simple story contained more than what I expected as we eventually learn the reasoning behind the usage of the living dead and a creative way to even the playing field and help our protagonists beat the living dead and those behind them.

Director Mark Goldblatt, who despite a short career gave us the awesome The Punisher following this film, did a great job in his execution and is the biggest reason behind Terry Black’s ridiculous writing not sinking the film. There are certain ways to execute cheesy stories, and thankfully Goldblatt was on page with them and managed to only further the cheese provided by Black. Treat Williams and Joe Piscopo were great in their roles and carried themselves respectfully despite the zany antics and dialogue they were forced to produce, and much to my surprise we were also given horror legend Vincent Price in a role very much reminiscent of the classic roles he played decades prior. Goldblatt’s execution of the action and horror was exactly what I wanted to see, coming at me via live-action FX complimented with heavy amounts of gore and ridiculous scenes of our protagonists doing some pretty acrobatic feats not taught at the police academy.

Overall, Dead Heat is an awesome and uber-cheesy experience that despite complete nonsense going on throughout the piece we are given great horror thanks to a fun story and great direction from Mark Goldblatt. Tons of gore and action adorn the screen and make for one of the most fun horror films of the 1980s and one you should check out if you enjoy flicks like these.

Rating: 7/10

  1. December 3, 2011 at 5:50 am

    Cheesy like fondue, Gory like Tipper (sorry :-D) and then… crime, creature and collateral damage (Piscapo) to the max, whatmore can one want …hmmm, yes, 80s B-Movie style

    leaving you wanting more (and more) is exactly what it does to you.

    Once again I only can agree with you, an I’m glad you have finally joined the club, after we begged and begged you to free your mind and let your gory ass follow :-DDDD

    Now, go check SOCIETY (that’s an order!)
    Peace! Your (p)syco/elephant disciple

    • December 3, 2011 at 3:06 pm

      I’m and thankful for the recommendations, they gave me exactly what I wanted to see. Society looks like it will do that as well. Now I just need to track it down and watch the DVDs sitting next to my television that have been acquiring dust due to my passing them over for your recommendations, which I of course do not mind at all. teehee.

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