Release Date: May 6th, 1988
Directed by: Mark Goldblatt
Written by: Terry Black
Music by: Ernest Troost
Cast: Treat Williams, Joe Piscopo, Darren McGavin, Lindsay Frost, Vincent Price, Keye Luke, Robert Picardo, Professor Toru Tanaka, Shane Black
Helpren/Meltzer, New World Pictures, 86 Minutes
“[He shuts the porno mag the clerk’s being reading] Sorry to interrupt your erection.” – Det. Doug Bigelow
Dead Heat is greatly underappreciated. That’s probably because it bombed in the theater and then got brushed aside and barely even made a blip on the cable TV radar in the ’90s. By then it probably seemed really outdated and so cheesy that even late night movie shows didn’t really touch it.
I actually saw this on VHS around 1990 or so and thought it was pretty cool but it just never reemerged anywhere else until it popped up on streaming services within the last couple of years.
I was glad that it was most recently featured on Joe Bob Brigg’s The Last Drive-In, as it needs to be discovered and showcased for a new generation and for the old generation that might’ve missed it.
The film is written by Terry Black, the older brother of Shane.
Shane Black had already made waves after writing Lethal Weapon and The Monster Squad while also working on Predator and Night of the Creeps. Older brother kind of followed little brother here, as the story for Dead Heat is like a mash up of some of those other movies in how it features an action heavy buddy cop story with elements of horror and a bit of slapstick comedy.
That being said, the script was really creative and it provided a movie with a lot of really cool scenes and monster encounters: most notably the zombie animals that came to life despite being halfway butchered.
These scenes worked so well though because the special effects were solid. I mean, this was made by New World and thus, the production operated under Roger Corman economics. Despite that, the practical effects of the monsters looked great.
Additionally, some of the other effects were impressive too, such as the scene where Lindsay Frost decays into nothingness.
The film stars Treat Williams and Joe Piscopo as the two buddy cops but it also stars a great villain duo that features Darren McGavin and legendary Vincent Price. Everyone played well off of each other and all the core actors looked like they were having fun hamming it up and making this bonkers movie.
This is such a weird and unique picture that more people really should check it out. It’s amusing, enjoyable and deserving of more recognition than it initially received.
Pairs well with: other goofy horror comedies of the ’80s like the first two Return of the Living Dead Movies, C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud, TerrorVision, etc.