Buddy Cop movies have been the cornerstone of the law enforcement fiction for some time, and even in its early days, the genre had cops partner with children, dogs, and even dinosaurs. In 1988 a relatively small budgeted movie supposed the concept of what would happen if undead cops were brought back to take care of undead criminals, no I am not talking R.I.P.D, I’m talking about Dead Heat.
After foiling a robbery, two plain-clothes detectives, Mortis and Bigalow, discover that the suspect’s body is more banged up and full of autopsy scars than it should be. They eventually discover a leading Biotech firm specialising in body reanimation, Detective Mortis is killed at the facility and is thusly reanimated, Now Detective Bigalow must deal with a living impaired partner, and a criminal conspiracy that goes beyond the grave.
Joe Piscopo’s patented stick provides comic relief and a lot more entertainment value than it should, but kudos should also rest on Trent Williams shoulders, for when his character, Detective Roger Mortis (get it?) comes back feels more liberated, and it is darn enjoyable to watch. These two are joined by a legendary old hand at horror, Vincent Price, a coup that the film managed to get such a prolific actor who is still as amusing as he was during his early roles. These actors feel at home in such a fun, kooky concept, and the film takes this concept of reanimation to some fun locations, one example is when the characters find themselves in a butcher’s shop, let me tell you that butcher shops and reanimation don’t mix. (it does allow some cool effects though.)
Being a by-product of the late 80s, the aesthetic of Dead Heat is really interesting, from red convertibles to Snazzy apartments and office buildings. It’s like Miami Vice meets the Return of the Living Dead. The zombie make-up and effects are also entertaining. Watching one character going explode in the classically overly gratuitous gory style is a blast here as it is anywhere else (no pun intended). Another scene shows “victim” of reanimation has the damages of natural decay come at them in quick succession, much like the iconic death scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, only this was a year earlier, and this scene was both tragic and has a dark comedic touch.
Dead Heat wears its B-Movie foundations on its sleeve and manages to make a strong case for more supernatural procedurals. But overall it’s funny, feels novel, and it’s a damn fine film to watch. It is this combination along with its colourful concept, colourful characters, and colourful chemistry could be the start of a beautiful relationship.
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