director John Elias Michalakis
More than anything, I was wondering how John Elias Michalakis’ 1987 horror comedy I Was a Teenage Zombie got the Criterion treatment. But it seems that it didn’t exactly. It’s currently available on Hulu Plus via a Criterion package of “monster movies” but isn’t actually on disc through Criterion.
So that makes sense.
The other thing that I have to wonder is how Michalakis got such a sweet soundtrack for his movie. It features an awesome theme song by The Fleshtones and tracks by “The Del Fuegos, The dB’s, Dream Syndicate, the Violent Femmes, The Waitresses, The Smithereens, Los Lobos, Alex Chilton and the Ben Vaughn Group” (per Wikipedia). That’s pretty cool stuff.
What I Was a Teenage Zombie really is is an oddball low budget horror comedy shot in and around New York City in the mid-1980’s. Shot originally on 16mm and blown up to 35mm, it’s a weird semi-throwback to a 1950’s teen horror film, though these “teens” in their malt shop are pretty old for the parts and start all the trouble when they kill a drug dealer who ripped them off. Dumping his body into the East River, which has been polluted with nuclear runoff, reignites him as a green zombie.
The boys wind up getting killed off in part, leading them to resurrect their friend to fight the zombie. Thus: teenage zombie!
It veers in tone from light seriousness to light humor to some really nice gore effects. The final 1/2 hour kind of pulls the whole into redemptive fun. I had mixed feelings until the final portion. I ended up liking it.
It’s the kind of small-time project a bunch of friends probably worked on together, but got it played in the grindhouses of 1980’s NYC and the awesome soundtrack. And now the Criterion attention. I’m all for low-budget films and there is cool stuff to recommend it and make it more unusual than your average zombie flick. At the same time, there are a lot of very cool low-budget horror films out there, so why this one over others?