‘Zombie High‘ is a US comedy-horror that was directed by Ron Link and was released in 1987. It has also been released under the alternative title ‘The School That Ate My Brain‘.
Although generally listed as a comedy, Zombie High is not the gag-filled Teen Wolf crossed with The Walking Dead you might expect from the title. In fact if it’s a comedy at all then it is only an ironic one, with most of the laughs coming from the film’s bludgeoningly unsubtle approach.
The film follows Virginia Madsen’s ‘Andrea’, one of the first female students at an exclusive school for the privileged and well-connected. At first there is the usual elitism, the usual stereotypes and the usual stuffy atmosphere waiting to be punctured by people who wear leather jackets, ride motor bikes and listen to wicked rock and roll music. And in a way that is what happens, but in a very unusual fashion.
Andrea soon notices that students behave oddly, like bland, Stepford stereotypes of what public school students should be. This becomes even more obvious when the personalities of two of her friends, who were previously fun-loving and rebellious, change radically so that they too fit into this conformist mould.
She discovers the truth of what’s happening via a teacher who has a crush on her. Pupils are being taken away to the infirmary by night where part of their brain is removed and replaced with a crystal. This crystal allows the faculty to control students (even after they leave) by playing classical music over a transmitter which the crystal receives. But this isn’t just to create good students and well-adjusted members of society. The faculty are over a hundred years old and use the part of the brain removed from their students to create a serum that keeps them eternally young.
I like the fact that there are two types of zombie in this movie, the figurative zombie students, sleepwalking through their daily tasks, and the faculty who are effectively living dead. I also like the medical approach to the traditional zombie brain-eating. What I don’t like, I have to admit, is virtually everything else….I don’t like the stereotypical characters or the subtle as a sledgehammer divide between good and evil; good guys ride motorbikes and play football; bad people wear ties and listen to classical music. Basically ‘well-bred’ equals bad. In the end the zombies are destroyed by rock music, fulfilling the movie’s black and white attitude towards cultural norms. As long we’re on that subject, I don’t like the fact that when Andrea and her boyfriend do destroy the zombies, they celebrate. These aren’t walking corpse zombies to be taken out with a shotgun to the head, these people (including Andrea’s friends) seem perfectly normal (if a little stiff) they’ve gone on to normal lives after leaving the school, they have jobs, relatives and families of their own. It’s an issue that the movie never addresses. Another thing I really don’t like is the fact that I am supposed to sympathise with the teacher who helps Andrea despite the creepy teacher/student relationship and the fact that he has spent much of the past century killing people to extend his own life! I don’t like the dialogue (‘You can’t replace human emotions with a crystal!’). Above all I really feel that if a school had been radically changing teenagers’ personalities for this length of time, someone would have noticed!
That the film doesn’t make any sense and is pretty poorly executed isn’t necessarily fatal. There are plenty of dumber, more badly made films which succeed in being entertaining despite, in fact usually because of their stupidity. What ruins Zombie High is that it takes itself unbelievably seriously, refusing to acknowledge the massive plotholes, plodding on in dull, po-faced fashion to its deeply flawed conclusion. Unlike many bad zombie films I don’t think this can even be enjoyed as a fun curiosity, as it commits the cardinal sin of film-making, and especially of genre film-making; it’s boring.
Watch the trailer for Zombie High:
Watch the full movie below:
Written by: Robin Bailes