Dead Heat is one of those little gems that seem to regularly come right out of the 1980s. It is a genre-blending mix of action, comedy, and horror featuring cops and zombies. They just don’t make movies like this anymore, that fit right in with other classics like Re-Animator, although it is a step down from that in quality.
Treat Williams and Joe Piscopo are LAPD cops. They stumble into a case that involves zombies being used to commit robberies, seriously. On the trail of the resurrected felons, they find the lab that contains the resurrecting machine. At this point, Williams’ character is killed. However his name is Roger Mortis (get it?) and he is first on the poster, so it’s clearly not the end for him.
His partner and his ex-girlfriend, the coroner, bring him back to life. Of course, there is a catch. The downside is that Roger only has about twelve hours before his body starts to rot in an accelerated manner, and he dies for good this time.
As we follow the leads solving the mystery of who is behind this, we get to see some excellent practical effects that are impressive for such a small film. There are high gore scenes of the zombies getting all shot up. We see a woman completely rot in the space of about a minute, and there is a sequence where everything in a butcher’s shop becomes reanimated. It’s pretty great.
In the end, they solve the case via a huge body count and one of the most entertaining zombie gunfights ever put to film… or possibly the only zombie gunfight ever put to film, now that I think about it.
Besides Williams and Piscopo, Dead Heat also features Darren McGavin and Vincent Price in a pretty impressive supporting cast.
Dead Heat is a lot of fun and has a short runtime of only 88 minutes, which was characteristic of the time. The story moves fast, even if it doesn’t make a lot of sense. But honestly, no one watches a movie like this for its perfect plotting?
While the gunfights are great, Joe Piscopo’s jokes are about as funny as getting your stomach pumped. It’s hard to believe that guy was ever considered a comedian.
It’s a fun, horror-action-comedy that you should give a try. Vinegar Syndrome recently released a 4k Blu-ray, which beats my old rip of the VHS version. I recommend buying it if you are a collector of the genre.