07th Dec2021

‘Zombie High’ Blu-ray Review (88 Films)

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Virginia Madsen, Sherilyn Fenn, Richard Cox, Kay E. Kuter, James Wilder, Paul Feig, Scott Coffey, Walter Addison, Dan Garrity, John Cook | Written by Tim Doyle, Aziz Ghazal, Elizabeth Passarelli | Directed by Ron Link

When I was a growing up, a teenager who lived at the local video store renting anything and everything that caught my eye (thanks to my mother giving the shop permission to rent me 18-rated titles), there was one film whose trailer seemed to be appear on nearly all the films I rented… Zombie High. Now, at the time, Zombie High was the ONE film I wanted to see that my local video shop never had available to rent. But all was not lost, thanks to the local Co-op bizarrely getting in a spinner rack of horror films for Halloween (and the following Christmas) I finally tracked down a copy all of my own!

Skip forward to 2021 and, almost out of the blue, 88 Films announce that they were set to release the film on Blu-ray! Which I knew I had to purchase!

For those unaware of the film, Zombie High is a 1987 teen horror film that sees Andrea Miller (Virginia Madsen) arrive at Ettinger, a prestigious boarding college that has just opened it doors to female students. Right off the bat Andrea is creeped out by one of the students, who seems to take an unhealthy interest in her – only later to find out he’s one of the college’s professors! But the creepiness doesn’t stop there… After a while Andrea begins to notice changes in the behaviour of her friends, the girl across the hall stops partying with Andrea and her roommate Suzi (Sherilyn Fenn) and then the rebellious son of a Senator, an alumni of the college, suddenly drops the punk/rebel persona and becomes extra-studious. Can you see what’s happening here? Yes, Zombie High is essentially a redux of The Stepford Wives in a college setting; with the title less about traditional “zombies” (though they do appear at ONE point in the film, sort of) and more about the school students, post-operation, losing their individuality and spirit and becoming well-behaved, rule-abiding, zombie-like students.

Mixing teen melodrama with horror tropes is nothing new in the genre, however Zombie High is the kind of movie that sets expectations from the get-go, from its very title and – unfortunately – never lives up to this expectations, Not that there’s anything wrong with the film in the slightest, it is ultimately a great mystery horror/thriller with a satirical, sometimes comedic, edge… it’s just that goddamn misnomer. In fact if you’re a fan of 80s horror cinema then Zombie High will slot into the oeuvre with ease.

Led by a plucky Virginia Madsen who, at the time had already appeared in the likes of Electric Dreams and Dune, and was somewhat on-form in terms of her acting performances – balancing strong female archetypes with and air of vulnerability; Zombie High also features a great performance from Richard Cox as Professor Philo, the teacher with an odd fascination with Andrea, who himself is beholden to the colleges nefarious deeds; and Paul Feig, yes THAT Paul Feig, director of Bridesmaids, Spy and 2016’s Ghostbusters... as the campus clown and hopeless romantic Emerson. Despite feeling like a familiar face in 80s movies, I honestly had no idea Feig played Emerson in this film AND was Stanley in 1990s Ski Patrol until quite recently! In fact it’s the performances that make Zombie High; the time spent on the characters in the early part of the film really gets you invested in what happens to them later in the movie.

In terms of picture quality, this UK Blu-ray of Zombie High looks very similar to the previous US disc; with a soft image, undoubtedly present in the source material, and vibrant colours. There is however plenty of grain in the print, especially in the blacks, which is much more welcome than the film being overly DNR’d and having crushed blacks! However where this release stands out is in the special features – which outnumber those on the aforementioned 2016 Scream Factory release, adding an audio commentary, a fantastic and very frank 25-minute interview with Tim Doyle, the ACTUAL writer of the the film, even though he’s one of three writers credited on the film (and who also produced one of the best sitcoms of the late 2000s, Better Off Ted); and a second interview – this one with make-up effects artist on the film, Christopher Biggs – a legend in the effects community who never seems to have gained the same mainstream recognition as his counterparts at the time; and who designed the wolf effects on one of my favourite films of all time, Teen Wolf!

If, like me, you’re a fan of 80s horror then Zombie High is a worthy addition to your collection, especially in this new Blu-ray release from 88 Films, which is available to buy now.


Comments are closed.