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Night Life Reviews

In a severe case of misdirected career ambitions, the filmmakers apparently intended NIGHT LIFE as an affectionate tribute to zombie-gore cinema. The entertainment begins with an eerie black-and-white title sequence during which a young man sorts, bags and disposes of various human body parts. He's not a serial killer, he's Archie Melville (Scott Grimes), a typical teenager stuck working at the funeral home run by his tyrannical Uncle Verlin (John Astin). Archie's high school peers unjustly scorn him as a weirdo, and a couple of boorish jocks and their trampy girlfriends repeatedly harass him. Fortune seems to smile, though, when all four get killed in a car crash and Archie gets the satisfaction of embalming them. But in a hackneyed plot twist lightening strikes the corpses and revives them as evil zombies, who stalk Archie and his girlfriend Charly (Cheryl Pollak) throughout the funeral grounds. The terror only ends once Archie has chopped, mulched, blasted and burned the living dead into the smallest possible bits. Directed by David Acomba from a screenplay by Keith Critchlow (the filmmaker responsible for CALIFORNIA REICH, the acclaimed 1975 documentary on American nazis) NIGHT LIFE is slickly fashioned and boasts a fine cast, with Astin giving Uncle Verlin more human shadings than the one-note characterization was designed to bear. The tale even acquires some emotional resonance as Archie wanders through the smoking traffic wreckage where his juvenile tormentors perished; moody point-of-view camerawork and ominous music capture Archie's mixed emotions now that his direst revenge fantasies have been fulfilled. Nonetheless, attempts to bring real meaning to this film are futile because the material's raison d'etre is to be a charnel-house zombie rampage--and nothing more. It doesn't help that they're roughneck teen zombies, whose afterlife antics just continue their mindless classroom mischief, one of the dead girls even resuming her persona as a sexual tease. These are also quicker and nimbler zombies than the shambling cadavers found in other walking-corpse flicks, although unlike the George Romero breed these ghouls evince little interest in cannibalism. Morbid makeup buffs will no doubt be transfixed by the efforts of effects specialist Craig Reardon, who takes his creations through successive stages of decay and mutilation. NIGHT LIFE was completed in 1989 but was buried until its resurrection on home video in early 1991. (Violence, substance abuse, profanity, sexual situations.)