Virginia Madsen (Candyman, Sideways) and Richard Cox (Cruising) star in this humorous thriller about the bizarre happenings that occur in a prestigious boarding school. It seems to Andrea Miller (Madsen) that the upperclassmen act like robots. They're the perfect students – dedicated, involved and loyal. Their clothes are perfectly pressed and their hair is perfectly styled. It seems that the teachers have something to do with this ingratiating behavior. And when Andrea, the new kid at school, sees her friends turning into clones, she starts to suspect the worst.
In the film, ZOMBIE HIGH, Andrea accepts a scholarship and transfers to the Ettinger Prep Academy. Since its inception, Ettinger has been an all-male academy, however recently they have began to allow females to attend. Initially, Andrea is excited, as she will be among the first female students to go to Ettinger, however, her boyfriend Barry has his worries. And it's with good reason. Shortly after arriving at Ettinger, it becomes clear to Andrea, that all is not "well" with a handful of students at the school, and that, by the day, that number seems to grow. When her Biology teacher Louis Philo takes a romantic interest in her, he spills the beans on a centuries old secret. As it turns out, the school's head, Dean Eisner in reality, is one Colonel Ettiger, the founder of the school, whom was expelled from the armed forces centuries ago, for the massacre of countless Native Americans. However, his vicious actions were not without reason, for he had discovered a youth serum, that results in infinite life. It's a way to live forever. However, the cocktail, which is a combination of human brain tissue, and blood, doesn't come easy - and to make things worse, once someone uses it - they crave it, and need it daily to stay young. All these years later, Ettinger, under the name "Eisner", is still among the living, and preying upon the students of his academy. Once a student is appended, a "surgery is performed to extract the needed brain tissue and blood in order to make the serum. After such so-called "surgery", a crystal is implanted in one's brain to replace what's now missing, thus making them controllable by droning sound waves. With most of her fellow student body now essentially zombies(including her roommates), Andrea, must find away out of this academic hell, before she too, becomes a member of the class of "Zombie High".
This 1987 film, Directed by Ron Link, happens to be one that I had seen prior to this - granted it was via a badly cared for VHS. I think that ever since I had seen it, I had wanted someone to see it, just so I could feel as though I had seen it all the way through. The quality of the VHS rip was so unpleasing, that it really took my attention out of it. So I could never really say if I liked it, or didn't. Well, someone finally did release it. That company is of course SHOUT! FACTORY/SCREAM! FACTORY and they have done a great job here releasing the film for the first time in windscreen, with a nice looking HD print.
So now in getting down to the film itself. Is it any good?", is likely the first question. In my opinion. It's a fair film. It definitely isn't a great one, yet it had a decent enough story at its core that could have possibly been more, had it been done differently. The idea is fun, yet the execution leaves a lot to be desired, as a good majority of the film drags a little, in terms of pacing, The film seems to really drag on, until we are finally given details about what is going on at Ettinger. And when we do get there, it is the type of revelation that should have had a result that is much more fun than what we get, however the aspect just isn't played upon enough. It wants to project the idea that most of Ettinger's students are made up of these mindless "zombies", after having their brain tissue extracted. They are emphasized more in that they are being controlled by the school's higher-ups, and act in a robotic manner. It's a cool plot aspect, and is supposed to be a key plot element, yet it isn't explored upon, or seen enough to have an effect. After awhile, it basically takes a backseat to those using the serum to stay young. Overall, the plot itself is pretty uneven, and slow moving. When it comes to the latter, the pace should have been quicker.
If you have yet to see ZOMBIE HIGH, but have seen DISTURBING BEHAVIOR, the 2 films are very similar in approach and overall tone. I would think that the former might have been a big inspiration for the latter film. While I am unsure on this, I could see it, if it were indeed true. There are definite similarities betweeb the two of them. Personally, I am actually a big fan of DISTURBING BEHAVIOR, and felt that it was a pretty good effort. In terms of delivering similar content that was similar, it did a good job, as much time was spent in crafting the darkness of the story. Here, however? Not so much. I would have enjoyed ZOMBIE HIGH more if more of the focus was put on the fact that all of the kids were essentially brain dead zombies.
As for the acting, it's decent. The film stars Virginia Madsen, as "Andrea", who I really like(My favorite film of her's is FIRE WITH FIRE(1986)). She does well as a new student, who is at first naive to the on-goings of her new school, yet wises up pretty quickly. She is supported by the likes of Richard Cox, Andrea's Biology teacher, "Louis Philo. Cox keeps it creepy and mysterious, until just the right moment. Also in supporting roles are Sherilyn Fenn(Andrea's roommate, "Suzi")(I think Sherilyn Fenn is one of the hottest women ever - ANY chance to see her, is great) and James Wilder as Andrea's boyfriend, "Barry". I must also mentioned that Paul Feig, the creator of one of my favorite shows ever, FREAKS AND GEEKS has a small, but "pivotal role in this as the class clown type - "Emmerson". So no fault to the acting, I just wish the story had given us more to chew on, so to speak.
So to sum things up on my end, I didn't think ZOMBIE HIGH, was a bad film. It is one that is simply under-executed, and maybe a little under-developed. It has the necessary elements to be an intriguing B-style movie, yet fails to capitalize on them, resulting in a pretty dry film, aside from its few glimmers of hope here and there.
IMPRESSION OF THE FILM
As said above, ZOMBIE HIGH has a cool B-Movie plot that had the potential to be a really fun one. And the truth is, it is still somewhat fun. It just moves at a snail's pace, and fails to make its subject anymore interesting than it already is, straight out of the box. I recommend it, because it's worth a look, but is mentioned, it leaves a lot to be desired when finished.
This film will be released in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack on December 15, 2015