Zombie High (1987)

Andrea (Virginia Madsen) receives a scholarship to go to the prestigious Ettinger Academy, an expensive boarding school that has produced a number of the country's most successful people.  Previously only for boys, the school has recently decided to become co-ed, and Andrea is one of a number of other girls that are attending for the first time.

Her boyfriend Barry (James Wilder) has misgivings, especially after he sees a mutual attraction develop between Andrea and Dr. Philo (Richard Cox) immediately on moving day.  After doing some research he finds that the academy's founder, Colonel Ettinger, was removed from his post for capturing and scalping Indians in the 19th century.

Unperturbed, Andrea continues her studies, even after she and her roommate Suzi (Sherilyn Fenn) notice that the other girl they are rooming with, Mary Beth (Clare Carey), has suddenly gone from being a boy-crazy southern debutante to a full-fledged preppy.  What really gets her suspicious, however, is the mysterious death of her friend Emerson (Paul Feig).

Her fears are answered with Philo, who tries to court her, reveals that he is in fact 102 years old and that he and the rest of the faculty have been removing parts of students' brains over the years to make a serum that can prolong life indefinitely as long as it is taken every day.  To keep the students alive he replaces the brain matter with a piece of crystal, with the added benefit of radio broadcasts from the school keeping everyone docile. 

Philo has to this point refused to operate on Andrea, much to the chagrin of Dean Eisner (Kay E. Kuter) who demands that all students go through the operation.  With the aid of Andrea and Barry, Philo decides it is time to put an end to Ettinger, and they endeavor to do so even as their friends succumb.

Less zombie, more Stepford students.  It has some good ideas, but so much was done to make this attractive to an '80s audience that it is hilariously trapped in that decade.  It does have its moments - all the students repeatedly dancing in lock-step even though an R&B band is going full-force, for instance - but the awful acting and contrivances prevent it from going very far.  The ending shows that maybe the film-makers were going for some social commentary, but by then it just feels tacked-on. The implications of the ending are never truly explored, either, and those would have been much more interesting than everything that came before it.

In the end I cannot see that this film would have even been entertaining to an '80s audience and, despite the presence of Virginia Madsen and Sherilyn Fenn, I can't really see this functioning as more than a trivia question when it comes to their careers.

Zombie High (1987)
Time: 93 minutes
Starring: Virginia Madsen, Richard Cox, James Wilder
Director: Ron Link


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