I’m given to watching offbeat movies on a whim while at the same time putting off watching some “more important” movie yet again. The other night I had “Captain Philips” on hand, but I was scrolling through the genre sections looking for something else to watch when I saw the title “Zombie High” and a synopsis that says students start acting ‘zombie-like’.
That sounded funny, and then I noticed how the artwork looked more like it belongs to a grade Z noir movie from the 40’s than an 80’s horror movie. Obviously I had to watch it. I’m here to tell you that you should watch it too. You may not finish reading this thinking that I’ve tipped you off to a good movie, but I hope you’ll be convinced that it’s a fun movie.
Virginia Madsen stars as a new student at an elite prep academy that is accepting women for the first time (a detail of dubious necessity). She winds up stumbling upon a nefarious plot by the school’s staff that seems to result in the students suddenly dressing and speaking formally, and also lacking any energy. Likewise caught up in the intrigue are her classmates, who include Sherilyn Fenn of “Twin Peaks” and “Bridesmaids” director Paul Feig.
Though the film is slow in getting going, Madsen is notably compelling throughout, and makes the most of what she’s given. The film as a whole is economical, and while clearly made on a shoestring, it has that charming kind of cheapness that you might get from a Larry Cohen movie. Seldom is this more evident than in the closing credits, when a song that sounds strikingly like “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)” but is entitled “Kiss My Butt” plays. I listened to it on repeat all the next day.
It’s the third act where the movie really gets cooking, so stay tuned and you’ll get rewarded with some good insanity. I easily could have walked away from it feeling fine with having watched it, but not feeling any need to shout about it from the mountain top if it wasn’t for the ending. Without going into detail, one gets the impression that the decision to shoot it the way they did was summed up by someone with the words “Sure, the hell with it!”
Let’s agree to this: Just start the movie, and have an open mind. It’s hardly more than an hour and a half, and if you get to a point where you’re firm in the belief that you’ve given it a fair chance and it’s failed you, go ahead and turn it off. I’m sure of this much: If you get what I’m saying and stick it out, you’ll have a blast watching “Zombie High”.