The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: The Alien Dead (dir by Fred Olen Ray)


This 1978 film takes place in Florida.

No, not in Miami.  Not Jacksonville.  Not Ft. Lauderdale.  Certainly not Orlando.  No, this film takes place off the back roads of Florida, where people are honest country folk and some folks live in a houseboat and you should always be careful when walking around the bayous because there might be some alligators lurkin’ about.  Of course, in this part of Florida, they call them gators.  Anyone who says alligator obviously thinks they’re too good for downhome country living.

Anyway, it turns out that there’s more to worry about in Florida then just alligators.  There’s also the chance that your houseboat might get struck by a meteor.  And then, everyone on the houseboat might be transformed into a zombie and, after they’ve eaten all the alligators, they might start eating all the humans.

When a sudden zombie outbreak occurs, you have to hope that you’ll get a good law enforcement response.  Unfortunately, law enforcement in these parts means an elderly sheriff and a bearded deputy who is always trying to catch a peek of the local women skinny dipping.  The sheriff, by the way, is played by Buster Crabbe.  In the 20s and 30s, Crabbe was an champion swimmer who won Olympic medals and went on to play Tarzan, Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers.  At the height of his popularity, he was known as “the King of the Serials.”  In The Alien Dead, the 70-something Crabbe plays Sheriff Kowalski and, if nothing else, it seems like he was enjoying himself.  Really, that’s important thing when it comes to a movie like this.

The Alien Dead is an extremely-cheap looking film and, with the exception of Crabbe, none of the actors appear to have done much before or after appearing in The Alien Dead.  There are some scenes that are so dark that it’s next to impossible to actually tell what’s going on.  Despite being a rather short film, the pace is still slow and there are certain scenes that seem to drag on forever.  There’s a lot of perfectly valid criticisms that one can make about The Alien Dead.

But you know what?

I like the film.

Seriously, in a strange way, the film actually does work.  Yes, the acting is pretty bad and the dialogue is often rather clunky and the plot doesn’t make sense and blah blah blah.  Those are all true facts.  But, there are isolated moments where The Alien Dead achieves a dream-like intensity.  For instance, there’s a lengthy scene where the zombies attack and all of the action is shown in slow motion.  I realize that may have been done to pad the film’s running time but strangely enough, it works.  Even more oddly, the film’s cheap gore effects add to the movie’s already dream-like feel. Finally, if nothing else, the film captures the humid atmosphere of the Florida bayou.  Watching the film, you can feel the sweat and hear the buzzing of mosquitos.  At its best, The Alien Dead works as a piece of outsider art.

Finally, The Alien Dead is one of those films that had been released and re-released a few times on video.  As you can see below, one of those releases was apparently inspired by the success of Evil Dead.

One response to “The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: The Alien Dead (dir by Fred Olen Ray)

  1. Pingback: Lisa’s Week In Review: 10/26/20 — 11/1/20 | Through the Shattered Lens

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