Thursday, June 6, 2019

DEATH WARMED UP (1984) Blu-ray Review

Death Warmed Up (1984) d. David Blyth (New Zealand) (80 min)

Using experimental mind-controlling drugs, Dr. Archer Howell (Gary Day) diabolically murders his partner (David Weatherly) and his wife (Tina Grenville) by turning their son Michael (Michael Hurst) into a homicidal, shotgun-packing zombie. Arrested and institutionalized for seven years, Michael is finally released back into society, and he’s not the happiest camper on the block. With his unwitting girlfriend Sandy (Margaret Umbers) and pals Lucas and Jeannie (William Upjohn, Norelle Scott) in tow, he plans a weekend getaway as an excuse to track down Howell on Trans Cranial Applications' secluded island hideaway and exact a long-overdue revenge….

Released three years before Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste, there’s a similar sense of abandon in this zany Kiwi flick in terms of monster mayhem and gory goofiness, although it lacks some of the style and polish, and, most importantly, its successor’s sense of fun. The muddled plot about Howell’s gene testing a la Dr. Moreau (complete with power-drilling patients’ skulls) to create unstoppable killing machines is really just an excuse for lots of running around, limbs being chopped off, mutated beasts attacking young nubiles, and so on. None of which is a bad thing, but it’s an interesting dichotomy to find such a dark undercurrent of anger, discontent, and nihilism raging through a cartoony splatter film.

That said, director/co-writer Blyth conveys an undeniable sense of energy and flourish, aided by dazzling floating camerawork from James Bartle (The Quiet Earth) and composer Mark Nicholas’ buzzy, driving score, and he pushes his performers to their physical and emotional limits (with special note to David Letch’s showcase turn as disgruntled employee-turned-indestructible murder machine “Spider”).

While it might initially feel a bit complicated and convoluted, the script co-written by Michael Heath (Next of Kin) is actually pretty straightforward in terms of plot, i.e. “wrongly accused innocent seeks vengeance,” with a multitude of bizarre character touches blurring the clean lines.

It’s nice to see Blyth’s breakthrough feature (which captured the top honors at Sitges that year) finally getting a solid high-def release after being relegated to bargain-bin box-set status for decades. Hats off to David Gregory and Severin Films for inviting this messy and influential punk explosion to the party (with special snaps for the snazzy black-rimmed Blu-ray packaging)!


Original New Zealand 4×3 VHS cut

Audio Commentary with director David Blyth and writer Michael Heath

Interview with David Blyth and Michael Heath (40 min)

“I’ll Get You All” with actor David Letch (27 min)

Deleted Scenes with optional audio commentary

Theatrical trailer

VHS trailers

TV Spot

Death Warmed Up is available now on Blu-ray and DVD from Severin Films and can be ordered HERE:


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