Teenage Zombies (1959)

Teenage Zombies (1959)

Teenage Zombies (1959)

Teenage Zombies is a low-budget horror film (with B-movie sci-fi themes) written and directed by Jerry Warren.

For as much of a mess as it is, Teenage Zombies has one thing going for it: No other zombie movie is more obsessed with water skiing is this one is.

Straight out of the one man schlock factory that is Jerry Warren comes Teenage Zombies, a tale of teenagers, zombies, water-skiing, and the dangers of communism.

The movie begins in some kind of drug store with a group of four teens telling an overly friendly soda jerk that they plan to go water skiing out on the local body of water – it is never really made clear if this body of water is a lake or an ocean or a very wide river – but through the magic of editing the teens end up on a mysterious island that apparently no one knew existed. Oh yeah, and the the boat they arrived on is missing, though no one seems to be too concerned about the missing water-skiing equipment.

Then, suddenly, they see that the island is overrun by, like, three zombies and an evil, sexy female scientist!

Teenage Zombies (1959)

‘Zombie Gorilla’

We learn that the scientist is a communist agent working on some kind of gas that will zombify half of the American public, enabling the commies to take over the US in one fell swoop. And even though we see her test this gas on a gorilla, thus making a ZOMBIE GORILLA, and we see she has a zombie slave of her own, what her gas really does is just make the subjects super susceptible to suggestion.

Even though the word zombie is in the title and I keep referring to the subjects as zombies in this piece, I am hard pressed to think of a single instance in which the word “zombie” is actually spoken on screen.

But the relative flexibility of the word zombie aside, this movie has a whole other host of issues. The island appears to be just two sets of exterior shots that look more like they where shot in some hills in LA than a island; the majority of the plot focuses not on the four main teens trapped on the island but their two friends back on the mainland who are trying to convince the adults that its weird how they have been missing for like six hours; the movie, shot on black and white film, is shot at such high contrast that the film appears to be mostly white and very little black, blindingly so; no one actually looks at the people they are addressing their lines to; the acting is so wooden that there is literally no difference in performance from certain actors before and after they become a zombie. And so on…..

Teenage Zombies (1959)

I feel bad about lobbing shots at such an easy target, but a zombie movie that practically never shows the zombies, is 30% shots of people walking to places with no dialogue and waiting for people to walk into frame, and has so much god-damn dialogue about water skiing and NEVER SHOWS ANYONE EVER WATER SKIING – heck, there is never even a shot of what water-skis look like – does not deserve anyone’s pity.

I’ve never felt such contempt for, or so actively rooted against a film before, but Teenage Zombies pulls out the darkness in man’s heart, to scuh an extent that it chooses to turn the audience into monsters rather than any of its characters.

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Written by: JJ Perkins