[review by JA Kerswell]
THE NEWLYDEADS wasn't made by Troma (as many people assume), but it certainly fits into their wheelhouse nicely. Despite a premise that might offend a reanimated cross-dresser kills couples at a wedding resort the film is really too silly to take seriously. Possibly inspired by the similarly plotted HONEYMOON HORROR (1982), it is often overlooked as a cheap zombie flick. But THE NEWLYDEADS is actually a slasher movie albeit a late addition to the closing years of the 1980s and one with a zany supernatural angle.
|The killer cowpat is loose in THE NEWLYDEADS!|
In the early 1970s, a blonde woman named Jackie (Scott Kaske) books into a hotel owned by a middle-aged Lothario named Lloyd (Jimmy Williams). Jackie and Lloyd take a shine to each other, but he takes violent offence once he realises that Jackie is a man dressed as a woman. A fight ensues, the wig comes off and Lloyd stabs Jackie to death with an icepick but not before she manages to bust a few Kung-fu moves of her own.
Flash forward 15 years and Lloyd owns and operates a fancy resort for newlywed couples. Unfortunately for him, his own nuptials to the buxom Lynda (Roxanna Michaels) seems to lead to the reanimation of Jackie as a cowpat-faced ghoul in a blond wig and flowing white dress. The thing is it seems that only Lloyd can see this apparition. That is until a passing psychic (!) named Kris (Jean Levine) and her husband Ron (John Henry Richardson) knock down Jackie as she wafts across the road from the wedding ceremony. Only there's no body and the twist is that only Kris and Lloyd can now see Jackie (well until other people can later on). Logic isn't this movie's strong point as we'll find out. Actually, I don't think this movie has a strong point. But I digress. Kris insists she and her husband stay at the wedding lodge after their spectral collision. Ron's misgivings are amplified when Kris predicts there will be a dead couple by morning and also warns Lloyd of the same thing. Probably best for Lloyd that Trip Advisor wasn't around back then.
Right on cue, Jackie begins stalking the wedding resort and kills one young couple with a pole to the back of the head for the guy (Doug Jones in his first acting credit) and his blonde wife who looks like a Playboy model (who gets knifed off screen). Actually, most of the young female cast look like Playboy models probably because most of them were.
As Jackie stabs and mutilates the newlyweds across the resort, Lloyd teams up with psychic Kris to try and end the killing spree in time to get to the buffet
You'd be hard-pushed to call THE NEWLYDEADS a good film as such, but it has a few goofy charms. Like many late 80s productions it has that certain knowing quality, with some of the cast camping it up for all their worth whilst others play it dead straight. Characterisation extends just about to what colour neon bikini is worn. You have the Country and Western couple, the old couple, the Punk Rock couple etc. You also have a drunk, old priest staggering around the resort bumming puffs on a spliff. And anyone who is left alive during the last 15 minutes spends it dodging Jackie in the woods behind the hotel like a lycra-fuelled Benny Hill sketch.
As I mentioned, logic doesn't really come into it. Kris (who has a voice like a Bronx cheer) seems very eager to help murderer and homophobe Lloyd even after finding him in his bedroom with his dead wife (who he just murdered thinking it was Jackie). Even after finding her husband knifed to death at a fancy outdoors restaurant (!), Kris takes all of two seconds to get over her bereavement to get back to chasing Jackie round the woods with a crucifix. Jackie, when she's not throwing her head back in a Freddy Krueger'esque maniacal laugh, can turn into a big-haired beauty in a teenie-bikini to fool people. She also flies through the air like a low rent Chinese hopping vampire and can even grow back limbs at will. Sadly I can't get back the 77 minutes I spent watching this. I jest.
|Although THE NEWLYDEADS might be dismissed as a low budget zombie movie, its roots lie very much in the slasher genre.|
There are a lot of questions left after viewing THE NEWLYDEADS. Why does the poster for the movie feature an alien-like Grey creature when nothing like that appears in the movie? Why does Kris sacrifice herself for a man who is not only a killer but who she only met the night before? In what world is Lloyd so hot that both the living and the dead lust after him? Why are there couples still wandering the woods unharmed and unaware at the end of the movie? Why did I watch THE NEWLYDEADS?!
I guess something could be said about fear of homosexuality or the queer villain. Or transphobia for that matter. This had been a trope in the slasher movie and thriller at large for a good few years. Many films could be argued have played upon that fear and prejudice in audiences (some probably intentionally). Everything from PSYCHO (1960) to CRUISING and WINDOWS (both 1980). To TERROR TRAIN to DRESSED TO KILL (also 1980) to HIDE AND GO SHRIEK (1987). It is easy to be outraged, but the easily offended might be better off not watching 80s slasher movies in the first place. Whilst it can be good to question our reaction to them now and have a modern take it's important to also view them in context of when they were made. And, as I've already said, it's all far too silly to be taken seriously. THE NEWLYDEADS maybe many things (and most of them not particularly good), but it isn't especially mean-spirited. It's certainly no statement piece and doesn't seem to have an agenda.
Scott Kraske plays Jackie as a kick-ass villain (well as much as the cowpat make-up and budget will allow). Kraske was certainly no stranger to female impersonation. He went onto similar appearances in films such as THE BIRDCAGE (1996) and still appears on stage under the drag alter-ego Dolly Levi. The aforementioned Doug Jones debuted in a small role as a not-long-to-live honeymooner. Jones went on to work (often under many prosthetics) with the likes of Guillermo del Toro. John Henry Richardson, as the long suffering Ron, has chalked up over 170 actor credits to date (mostly in low budget horror, action and exploitation titles). Roxanna Michaels, as Lloyd's unfeasibly glamorous young bride, later made ANGEL III: THE FINAL CHAPTER (1988) and CAGED FURY (1990). Michelle Mania, as Sabina, also appeared in slasher HOLLOW GATE the same year (a film Merhi also produced). Her punk rock fiance is played by Ron Preston sporting one of the least convincing British accents since Dick Van Dyke last swept a chimney. The actor also had a blink-and-you'll-miss-it role in 10 TO MIDNIGHT (1983).
Syrian-born director Joseph Merhi had made fellow slasher MOMMY'S EPITATH in 1987 (also later released by Troma). Given how cheesy some of his films were, it might not come as a surprise that he made his money with a chain of pizzerias. In 1986, Merhi founded the film production company City Lights together with producer Ronald L. Gilchrist to specifically make content for the burgeoning video market. As usual, these type of direct-to-video releases didn't see much critical scrutiny. THE NEWLYDEADS was no different. However, it did attract a rather suspiciously positive review in the Jordan Valley Sentinel (December 17 1987). Critic Mark Cartwright enthused: Make no mistake, this is not the usual run-of-the-mill slice and dice chop and slash film. Newlydeads is an extremely stylish film of horror and terror and Merhi's best directorial effort to date which is really saying something. Marvelling at the cowpat-face he trilled: [the] special make-up can't be beat. He ended: The Newlydeads will scare the hell out of you. Yeah, right.
All said, THE NEWLYDEADS is ripe for rediscovery, but don't expect a happily-ever-after.
female: 5 / male: 4
1) Male stabbed in stomach and head with ice pick
2) Male stabbed through back of the head with pipe
3) Female killed with knife (off screen)
4) Female stabbed to death
5) Male found with knife in his throat
6) Female decapitated with saw
7) Male shot dead
8) Female impaled on tree
9) Female stabbed with crucifix
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