I Was a Teenage Zombie
Overview: A Mexican-American-Japanese-Italian drug dealer falls into a river, which somehow makes him a zombie. Then said drug dealer battles for about twenty seconds with the titular teenage zombie.
Directed By: John Elias Michalakis, 1987.
The Case For: If you ever wanted to watch a "zombie" movie that contained exactly two zombies, you're a tremendous fag. What? Did you expect me to say this movie's for you? Well, it probably is because this movie's for fags.
The Case Against: BANANA PEEL
Shortly after receiving "I Was a Teenage Zombie" in the mail one of my readers informed me that they had played the movie quite a bit on the Independent Film Channel. This worried me, since the IFC is, of course, a bastion for anyone who doesn't have a lot of money but still wants to air a three-hour-long black and white film about his girlfriend staring at her reflection in an apple.
After watching the movie, though, I can honestly state that IFC has switched from "showing low-budget movies that show some promise" to "showing low-budget movies that look and sound like they were filmed in the rotting innards of a long-dead humpback whale." In fact, I'd say the one perk to IFC showing this movie is that it gives Al Franken some time off to work on his new book "Here's Something Inflammatory About Republicans (Please Sue Me Again Fox News I Need the Ratings)."
But hey, the movie was filmed in 1987, right? Nothing good came out of 1987, likely because scientists officially named it the most boring year in the history of time. Nobody knows what the fuck they were doing in 1987, even if they weren't snorting cocaine out of Whitney Houston's asshole while ironically wearing a novelty party hat.
But even that point can't lessen the fact that this movie left me with a lot of unanswered questions. For instance, I don't know if it was set in the 80s or the 50s. I don't know how, years after the fact, this movie is still around in DVD format. And I don't know if the DVD I was sent was actually a movie or a spinning disc of silver death I used to throw at my neighbor's cat when I caught it in my yard. Wait, I actually do know that last one - it's both.
The first thing that you notice about "I Was a Teenage Zombie" is that Director John Elias Michalakis has a great love of music. This is apparent because approximately 90 percent of the movie's dialogue is overlaid with some godawful saxophone-rock that was outlawed in the eighties after the government executed the three people who liked it. Because of this, every single bit of open air is filled with a noise that sounds a lot like the teacher on Peanuts. For instance, using a totally fresh and original gag, I will give you the first little snipped of dialogue the movie plays:
Fat kid: Hey, we should buy some pot for the big dance.
WADDA WE WOO WAH
Smart kid: Sounds like a plan. Let's find Gordy.
Gordy: WHERE THE FUCK IS THAT SAXOPHONIST I CAN'T SLEEP BECAUSE OF THIS SHIT I SWEAR TO CHRIST IF I FIND THAT MOTHERFUCKER I'M GOING TO BASH HIS SKULL IN
Reading that little exchange you may have (correctly) noticed that in the opening a group of friends is looking for some pot to take to the big dance with them. You may have also noticed that, besides Gordy, I called the characters "Fat kid" and "Smart kid." This is because the movie makes no real attempt to give its characters names, or if it did, I couldn't hear it.
Let me explain. Michalakis is a frugal guy. Boom mics were expensive, even in 1987, so he took a more cost effective route - namely, buying six or seven lapel microphones, wrapping them in cheesecloth, and forcing the actors to shove the mics up their assholes. This creates an interesting soundscape, where vibrations from the actors' mouths travel all the way down to their bowels, giving us both muddled dialogue and a great chance to play a game of "what did the actor eat for lunch."
But whatever is going on with the microphone situation, shortly after that dialogue we are introduced to Mussolini, who is the film's antagonist and an all-around confused guy. For instance, he is clearly Mexican even though he shares a name with the infamous Italian dictator. On top of that, he proudly bears a flag with a Japanese sun, as well as an American flag pin on the lapel of his armless faux-leather jacket.
The thing about Mussolini is that he really really really fucking sucks at faking an Italian accent. In fact, I can't be sure that it's really an Italian accent, per se, since he only uses it every now and then. When he is utilizing it, however, the results are hilarious - mostly because, to Mussolini, being Italian is all about having gigantic pauses in between each and every spoken syllable. I found myself stepping outside to smoke a cigarette, making a sandwich, and playing a full game of Risk when Mussolini spoke one scene, and I finished everything up before he ever spat out the entire word he was looking for.
But back to the story. Fat kid, Smart kid, Other smart kid, Baseball kid, and Gordy are in trouble. They have the money for a quarter-pound of "marijahoobie," which is apparently moon language for "pot," and the buyer is getting nervous. The money man, Bird, who looks a lot like Henry Winkler if Henry Winkler had fetal alcohol syndrome, threatens Gordy outside of a soda shop, and Mussolini steps in after the altercation.
"He&&.llo," he says. "I hear youse guys is loo&&.king for some mar&..uh&..juh&..hoo&&bie."
After this exchange, which takes approximately twice as long as the entirety of "Schindler's List," Gordy agrees. Soon he and his friends are all packed into a bathroom stall at the soda shop, smoking the stuff and coughing their lungs out. One of the main problems with this film is that Michalakis has absolutely no concept of transitory scenes. In "I Was a Teenage Zombie," much of the action is put together like this:
- One character says "hey, let's go to [place]"
- Camera abruptly cuts to said place without transition, even if several hours or even years have clearly passed between the two events
It is unfortunate that the makers of the movie didn't take this practice to the extreme. In fact, if I was editing the film I'd take a cue from them and drastically cut the piece, making it look something like this:
Baseball kid: Boy, it sure sucks being a teenage zombie!