31 Days of Gore: Dead Heat (1988)

It’s October. Time to talk horror. This year I’m reviewing a different horror movie each day of the month.

Yeah, I know. Dead Heat probably doesn’t belong in 31 Days of Gore, but I felt like I hadn’t featured enough movies with Vincent Price. And honestly, how bad could it be?

Dead Heat, which stars Treat Williams and Joe Piscopo, opens like any other 80s action-comedy which attempted to cash in on the success of 48 Hrs. and Lethal Weapon. The problem with all the copycats is they could never quite strike the balance between action and well-written humor that the real deals had. Despite this, Dead Heat attempts to throw another genre into the mix: horror.

You’d look just as bored if you were sharing a car ride with Joe Piscopo.

As goofy and clichéd as it is, Dead Heat opens with a fun energy that immediately drew me in… to an arm’s distance, anyway. Williams and Piscopo are an odd couple of cops who can’t seem to get fired even though they’re constantly reprimanded for their “crazy stunts.” In the beginning of the film they have a shootout with a couple of jewel thieves who just won’t die until one steps on a grenade and Williams rams the other one with an unmarked car.

When Williams and Piscopo visit the bodies in an autopsy room, the medical examiner says the bodies have been on her table before. When the cops ask what she means by this, she replies, “They’ve already had autopsies.” Their investigation leads the duo to a chemical plant, which is hiding a three-faced troll. The troll proves just as hard to kill as the jewel thieves in the earlier part of the movie.

Dana Carvey is looking pretty bad these days.

You know what? The makeup effects aren’t bad. The movie itself is, and maybe this goes without saying, but it’s a good bad movie as long as you like dumb action and terrible one-liners. Just be warned the filmmakers seem to think Joe Piscopo is a decent substitute for Eddie Murphy, but he’s not… obviously.

Anyway, Treat Williams is gently killed and the medical examiner figures out how to resurrect him, Frankenstein-style. They soon discover Williams doesn’t have a heartbeat and can’t breathe although he appears to be in perfect health. Worse, Williams only has twelve hours to nail the bad guys, at which point he will decompose completely. Halfway through the movie a woman says, “You’re hurt!” To which Williams deadpans, “Lady, I’m dead.

Just when you thought the jokes couldn’t get any lower.

I don’t hate Piscopo, even though he’s not a very good actor, and I’ve always wondered why Treat Williams (playing a character named Roger Mortis… hardy-har-har) wasn’t a bigger star than he was. So I’m not going to mark off points for the miscast leads, even if they do have the chemistry of video game NPCs. Vincent Price isn’t in the film long, which is disappointing, but I suspect he was pretty unenthusiastic about horror movies considering this was his last one.

Dead Heat? More like Dead Meat!

So is Dead Heat worth a watch? Let’s assume you’re really hung over and you want to be entertained, but don’t want to do too much thinking… if so, then Dead Heat is the film for you.

Come back at midnight Central Time for the next movie.

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