Death Warmed Up (1984)

New Zealand was ready to represent when it came to the slasher boom, thanks to this bonkers entry into the canon. It’s so violent that it was banned in Australia, a country that was originally made up of convicts.

Director David Blyth’s film predates Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste, seem as perhaps the first homegrown Kiwi horror film. Blyth has been called “New Zealand’s master of transgression” by Fangoria and “one of the great mavericks of New Zealand film” by NZ Listener. He also created the movies Angel MineWoundTransfigured Nights and Moonrise, which is also known as Grampire and stars “Grandpa” Al Lewis.

Years ago, Dr. Howell — a mad scientist trying to prolong human life past death — dealt with his harshest critic by mind-controlling that man’s son into shotgun blasting his parents.

Now, Michael Tucker (Michael Hurst, Iolaus from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys) has emerged from seven years in a mental ward. He somehow has acquired a loving girlfriend named Sandy and has taken her on a holiday along with their friends Jeannie and Lucas. However, that sojourn is really a front to get him to the remote island where Dr. Howell’s clinic is located and gain bloody revenge.

What follows is a descent into the caves of the island, where the doctor’s horrible creations live. That’s when the film turns into a strange mix of The Hills Have Eyes and Mad Max packed with an equal mix of nihilism and gore.

I really have no category that easily fits this film. It’s kind of a slasher. It’s somewhat a punk rock biker post-apocalyptic film. And it’s also science fiction. It’s a glorious mess, all over the place and unafraid to have its hero completely fall apart by the end.

If you want to check this out, Severin has recently re-released it in the best quality ever available for home video. It’s packed with trailers, commentaries with Blyth and writer Michael Heath, and an interview with David Letch.

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