Originally published in Bleeding Skull! A 1980s Trash-Horror Odyssey.
Chester Novell Turner, where in the world were you?
Here’s an infallible theory. Shot on video (SOV) horror films in the 1980s were busted out to get feet in doors, mess around, or make money. Sometimes it worked on all accounts (Blood Cult), but more often than not, nothing happened (Fatal Images). Every SOV spectacle from that golden era could be examined and rationalized along those lines. Until now.
Tales From The Quadead Zone, a three-story anthology, is Chester N. Turner’s second and final dig into self-released, SOV sludge. Following up the exhausting-yet-hilarious filth of Black Devil Doll From Hell (1984), Turner and friends are in a very distinctive place. They honed the skillz, cut the sex, and unwittingly churned out the greatest SOV trash film of all time. No exceptions. Logic, be it godly or mortal, has gone missing during Quadead’s 62 deranged minutes. Therefore, we must be prepared for anything. Don’t knock ‘em for the plastic Casiotone; take heed of the ceramic titty-mug. In the mind of Chester Turner, these things may be the substance of life.
A swirl of comic book credits and psychotic, ass-shaking beats usher us into the Quadead Zone. A woman (Shirley L. Jones, returning from Black Devil Doll) reads stories from the Quadead Zone book to her son, Bobby. Bobby is an invisible ghost. He communicates with Shirley by whispering “Sha-sh-sh-sh-sha!” and blowing in her hair (she seems to have wind-gasms when this happens). “Food For ?” tells the tale of eight white trash yokels and their quest for five sandwiches. And the unfortunate introduction of a shotgun. In “The Brothers,” Ted (Keefe L. Turner, brother of Chester) and Fred steal Ted’s brother’s dead body from the Brown-Rawls Funeral home. Fred says, “Fuck you want a dead body for, man?” Ted replies with something that sounds like “Bambtwow!” Ted’s brother does not enjoy being dressed as a clown. Finally, Shirley’s wraparound story becomes our third adventure, “Unseen Vision”. Daryl, Shirley’s husband, arrives home, then proceeds to beat the shit out of her with the Quadead book. He says, “Goddamn fool crazy muthafucka dirty bitch, shit!,” then gets stabbed. Cue the keyboard twee. Razor blade. Video ghosts. The credits say “Tales From The Quadead Zone Will Return”. I await forever.
Rules of language, structure, and general awareness have no business in the Quadead Zone. It’s a tight package of non-stop, fantasmo delirium. People speak in tongues that escape the radar of historical linguists. Chester Turner’s homemade score (some of which is recycled from Black Devil Doll, but re-recorded) drowns out everything at all times. Hilarity forces you to pause for breath (Ted and Fred’s chat sessions) before disturbing grit-gore pummels you into submission (Daryl Vs. Shirley). Surprises hide beneath every plastic covered couch and dirt floor basement.
The novelty of 1980s SOV trash films lies in their associative, regional-vérité qualities; real people making movies on their own terms and having fun. Simple. Admirable. Quadead looks real enough, and that’s the stinger. The structure and technical decisions in the film are so unbelievable that Turner and company had to be either “touched” or oblivious in their manic creativity. In other words, splash cold water on your face — this is really happening. When that mindset hits, the film is elevated above the expected SOV expectations; Tales From The Quadead Zone is incredibly effective with its bad decisions and equally defective. The original intent will baffle to no end, but one thing’s for sure: This is an experience that can never be replicated, repeated, or equaled. The theme song cinches it.