By YASMINA KETITA
There comes a time when a horror movie from the ‘80s creeps up on you and you wonder, how have I not seen this before? At least that’s how I felt while watching David Acomba’s 1989 film, Night Life. Who would’ve thought the original director of the Star Wars Holiday Special directed this thoroughly amusing zombie ‘80s flick. Certainly not I!
Night Life centres on Archie, a nerdy high school teen that gets bullied by four popular jocks and cheerleaders, Allen, Rog, Roberta and Joanie. Archie, played by Scott Grimes who we all know from Critters and Critters 2, works part-time in his uncle Verlin’s funeral home. Archie’s only friend is Charly, a mechanic working at a garage that vows to one day leave their stinkin’ town and Verlin is played by mothafuckin’ John Astin, the OG Gomez Addams!
The jocks and cheerleaders are drinking beers and making out in Rog’s car at night behind the mortuary building when Archie interrupts them while disposing of some limbs. Blood gets spilled, threats are made, and more bullying occurs at school the next day. The jocks and cheerleaders conjure a ploy to screw with Archie, which involves Joanie hitching a ride with Archie to the mortuary and pretending to be sexually attracted to him so that the jocks can sneak in to wreak havoc. Unfortunately, uncle Verlin comes back early and halts the ploy and Archie’s boner.
Late at night, Archie gets a call from uncle Verlin telling him to meet him at the scene of a terrible car accident so they can bring the bodies to the mortuary and yup, you guessed it, the bodies belong to the jocks and cheerleaders. Pro tip: don’t be a beer-guzzling bully or else you’ll end up dead…or undead! While Verlin and Archie are stapling Joanie’s mouth shut, Archie swears he sees her eyes open briefly. To prove she’s not alive, Verlin rotates her head completely backwards. This scene is a taste of what’s to come from special effects department. I also love any movie or series that shows an ominous wood shredder because you know it’s obviously going to be used in a gruesome death later on.
Archie is upset to learn that Charly is running away to South Carolina for a job working on race cars and later that evening back at the funeral home, lightning strikes the mortuary, bringing the bodies back to life, back to nightlife, and now the fun begins! All four ghouls are after Archie and anyone that they come into contact with. Archie manages to run down the street to the garage and finds Charly still there, opting out of South Carolina, when the ghouls show up with a captured Verlin. This part is incredible and it involves an air hose and expanded blown-up guts.
Back in the mortuary basement, Archie and Charly attempt to trap the ghouls in the boiler. I do appreciate some burning zombies in movies! I also like that they run, swim, and drive cars. Two of the remaining zombies, surviving fire and a train, drag Archie to a foggy and spooky cemetery where the wood shredder reappears. It’s quite delicious!
Night Life slipped under my radar and I’m very grateful to have found a VHS copy for sale online. I’m not even sure if it was ever released on DVD or Blu-ray but it’s also known as Grave Misdemeanors and you can find the full movie on YouTube. I highly recommend it for your next slumber party plus, Darcy DeMoss from Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives and Return to Horror High plays Roberta.