From New Zealand, a no-budget gorefest of a type that has become fairly common
in recent years but wasnít back in 1983. This explains why DEATH WARMED UP was
warmly received back then but has since fallen into neglect.
DEATH WARMED UP was a product of the burgeoning New Zealand film
industry, which underwent a shift in the eighties from respectful fare like
SLEEPING DOGS and SMASH PALACE to wild and bizarre efforts like this film and
Peter Jacksonís debut BAD TASTE. The comparison does this film no favors, as
BAD TASTE is a classic of sorts, while DEATH WARMED UP most certainly isnít.
FYI, I understand the version of the film released on
video in the US was shorn of much gore footage, but I havenít seen the original
On a secluded island a mad doctor is attempting to perfect a serum
that can bring people back from the dead. He tests the substance on young
Michael, but succeeds only in turning the guy into a homicidal maniac who
promptly heads back to his home and shoots both his parents.
Years later the mad doctor is still at it, and the unfortunate Michael
is aboard a boat heading back to his island. Heís looking to get revenge. Also
onboard are Mikeís airhead friends, who are unaware of the true reason for his
Once disembarked, Michael decides to infiltrate the doctorís
laboratory through an underground tunnel. There he and his buddies end up
chased by motorcycle riding lab workers; Michael and friends manage to escape,
however, and in the process impale one of their pursuers.
Now on the run, they head for a tavern, but the doctor manages to
track them down and drag them back to his lab. Unfortunately the place is
overrun with homicidal mutants created by the doctorís serum. As you might
guess, splatter ensues!
If nothing else, DEATH WARMED UP has a stylish and pleasing look.
Every scene is color coded, and some of the setpieces are good enough that they
could easily be inserted into a better film. The underground motorcycle chase,
for instance, is worthy of a Hollywood action movie in its flash and bravura.
Of course the filmmakers didnít bother paying the story
and characters nearly as much attention. None of the protagonists ever register
as individuals, making it difficult if not impossible to care when one or more
of them are killed. The script is a confused hodge-podge, with an over
complicated setup that jumps back forth over several years only to settle into a
clichťd story of young twerps in over their empty heads.
The bloodletting of the final scenes is also a
disappointment. Itís the reason for what little notoriety the film has amassed,
and yet thereís very little of it, and what gore there is pretty standard stuff:
stabbings, shootings and a guy burned to death. Once again, back in 1983 this
may have seemed passable, but these days itís just not.
DEATH WARMED UP
IFM World Releasing
Director: David Blyth
Producer: Murray Newey
Screenplay: David Blyth, Michael Heath
Cinematography: James Bartle
Editing: David Huggett
Cast: Michael Hurst, Margaret Umbers, William Upjohn, Norelle Scott, David
Letch, Geoff Snell, Gary Day, Bruno Lawrence, Ian Watkin, David Weatherley, Tina
Grenville, Nathaniel Lees, Karam Hau, Jonathan Hardy