Zombies Invade Pittsburg (1988)

Originally published in Bleeding Skull! A 1980s Trash-Horror Odyssey.

You might as well forego formalities and just take off your pants. Because Zombies Invade Pittsburg will enter your home, make love to you for days on end, and leave you begging for more of its sweet, sweet beard. If you don’t beardlieve me, relax for a second. Breathe. And let’s talk beards.

Zombies Invade Pittsburg is a severely bankrupt, yet brilliantly flawed, SOV obscurity. This film runs 85 minutes. Approximately 30 of those 85 minutes are spent in the company of Police Captain Stefans. In his office. Talking into a phone, a CB, or towards other people. Big deal, right? Well, yes. It is a big deal. Because Stefans has a beard. Not his own beard, but the kind of beard that can be purchased at a mall during the Halloween season. Only this beard is a bit different — it’s a very large beard. And a dirty one. It was probably a urinal cake at a train station men’s room for a few weeks. Then, it may have been placed inside a cow’s ass for safekeeping. Two years later, someone else found the beard and tied it around Captain Stefans’ face (we can see the string). If you haven’t caught on yet, let me get more specific:

Zombies Invade Pittsburg is a gift. We should all be grateful.

Initially conceived as a local TV Halloween special, Zombies is little more than a home movie from director/caterer/whatever-else-you-can-think-up Jess Turner. So who’s Jess Turner? He is Captain Stefans. He is not Chester Turner’s more rational cousin. Unfortunately. But, let’s pretend that he is. Because Zombies is the only SOV film outside of Chester’s works that features a predominantly African-American cast. And it feels like a Chester Turner film, if a Chester Turner film were stripped of its life-enriching madness, but left with its bizarre cultural obeisance. Zombies is a repetitive, droning exercise in real people attempting to interact with other real people, and failing. There are also chemical-spill zombies who shuffle along to the VHS-ripped soundtrack from Just Before Dawn while attacking Sears shoppers in empty, pitch-black parking lots. That’s all fine. But really, the film is notable for two things: 1. It’s hysterical, and 2. It’s hysterical. Earnestly so.

“This shit’s seeping right into the delta! Damn, man. SHIT. Damn, man! DAMN! Jesus Christ, man! Damn, man! DAYMN!”

A maddeningly static camera. The constant, scene-slashing fades-to-black. The world’s greatest non-party. Shockingly awesome fake newscasts. If I made a laundry list of every wonderfully defective moment in Zombies, this review would be very long. No one wants that. In this case, it’s more fun to leave the discovery in your hands. This is a breezy, somewhat-draining form of lo-fi ecstasy on par with Blood Lake or The Hook Of Woodland Heights via David “The Rock” Nelson‘s dual-VCR attack. But it’s more cooperative and less transparent, falling even further away from our expectations of what a movie should feel like. Turner and friends were simply having fun. That much is clear. And, they all seem like nice people. It’s just that somewhere along the way, everything that happened during the shooting of this film was proactively left in. For the film’s beardefit. And for ours.

“Any of this shit get on y’all while y’alls was over there?”

“Nah, we cool. But the trails of blood are leading to nowhere.”

Thank you, Jess Turner.

From the Archives