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Directed by John Saxon "Zombie Death House", with zombie shoddily superimposed to make this 1980's cliché filled flick appear more like "Return of the Living Dead" rather than a episode of "Hunter", focuses too much on exposition of the characters than on what this film was meant to be. A zombie infestation set inside a corrupt prison has all the elements to be a cult classic but this movie takes far too much time establishing the plot and offers little in violent mayhem.
Former Vietnam vet Derek Keillor (the late Dennis Cole) takes a job as a driver for local mob gangster Vic Moretti (the late Anthony Franciosa - did anyone survive this?) and promptly begins driving Moretti's girlfriend Genelle with his penis. When the affair is discovered Moretti kills Genelle and frames Derek for her murder. He's convicted of the crime (must of had a bad lawyer) and sentenced to death at a prison that conducts medical experiments on the prisoners through a covert government operation led by Col. Gordon Burgess (Saxon). This takes up the first 20 minutes of the movie which is way too long of a setup to introduce the "innocent hero" in a prison setting. The prison that I speak of has a corrupt head guard, Raker, that works for Moretti and answers to Moretti's homosexual inmate brother Franco and his boytoy Sean whom Raker gets "intimate" with during the film. Anyway, a new serum that's supposed to give ordinary men super strength is injected into one of the inmates about to be executed (does anybody think that super strong convicts might cause a problem?) when he turns into a zombie-like monster a begins killing his captors. Turns out that this infliction acts as a virus and the first signs of infection are persistent nosebleeds before succumbing to it. Derek manages to escape his cell during the attack which he then frees the other prisoners, who are more than cooperative for death-row inmates mind you, and organizes a hostage exchange with Col. Burgess who is watching the whole mess unfold just outside the prison. With the prison quarantined along with a few new guests, a former co-worker of Burgess turned newswoman Tanya Karrington (Tane! McClure) her cameraman and Vic Moretti himself looking to free his brother Franco minus his boyfriend. Will anyone survive? How will they get out? Will Tane! McClure show off her wonderful breasts? Does she ever fail to?
I don't know where to categorize this one. Clearly this was meant to be more of an action film under the original title of "Death House" rather than horror. When the zombies finally figure into the story it's only sparingly with too much emphasis on Derek's vendetta against Moretti. The gore is okay, not anything special and downright silly in one scene when someone loses an arm, and there are a couple of topless scenes including the absurd daydream that Derek has of Tanya. Speaking of the lovely Tane! this movie supposedly introduces us to Ms. McClure meaning that this was her first film. Not true! While "Death House" came out in 1987 McClure starred in the 1986 Klaus Kinski slasher "Crawlspace" in 1986 billed only as Tane!. You can find this in the bargain bin DVD section for about $1 which is all I would pay to see this nothing more. Disappointing.
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