Follow TV Tropes


Film / Dead Heat

Go To
You canít keep a good cop dead.

Dead Heat is a 1988 Black Comedy film. It stars Treat Williams, Joe Piscopo, Vincent Price, and Darren McGavin.

After a violent bank robbery showdown, detectives Roger Mortis (Williams) and Doug Bigelow (Piscopo) discover at the morgue that the criminals corpses had previously been brought in on a separate shooting occasion. When they discover a chemical substance in both bodies, they investigate a corporation which produces the material. As they investigate, Doug finds a hidden room with a strange device, and a zombie comes out and fights both of them. The incident ends up getting Roger killed, but Doug is interested in the strange machine he saw and uses it on Roger.

Roger is successfully brought back to life, but they discover some bad news; He will only live for less than a day before his body falls apart. As they investigate the secret behind this machine, the undead Roger is able to withstand bullets, submerge in water without breathing, and take heavy amounts of damage, all while hoping to solve the case before it's too late.

Has the examples of:

  • Agent Mulder: Rebecca, Roger's girlfriend, and an employee at the morgue, who is Properly Paranoid about the reanimation device and uses it to save Roger's life. Doubles as The Smart Girl.
  • Agent Scully: Dr. McNab scoffs at the notion that Roger has been brought back to life, until it's revealed that he's been faking it the whole time.
  • Ambiguously Evil: The rich people who Laudermilk markets the reanimation device too, as we never actually see if they would have taken him up on his offer, and they don't seem too unpleasant or bothered by the idea of eventually dying before he makes his pitch.
  • Anyone Can Die:Suprisingly, this is in effect, to the point that the entire cast winds up dead by the end, in some cases several times over.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The police captain's rant.
    Captain: Unauthorized use of a city vehicle, reckless endangerment of property and lives, use of a non-regulation firearm ...
    Roger: That was me, not Bigelow, sir.
    Captain: Disrespectful conduct, flippant, and tasteless verbal remarks ...
    Doug: That was me.
    Captain: And EIGHTEEN PARKING TICKETS so far this month!
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: McNab would rather eat his gun than be arrested. Subverted when the heroes decide to run him through the resurrection machine, twice.
  • Big Bad: Arthur P. Laudermilk is the mastermind the resurrection scheme.
  • Bloody Hilarious: The notorious Chinese deli scene. Or the final fate of McNab.
  • Body Horror: Roger's increasingly-decaying body and Randi James' all-of-a-sudden conversion into a rotten body and then a skeleton. There's also the dead biker that ends up being part of the situation that ends with Roger's death, that looks like it has three faces crudely sewed together.
  • Book Dumb: Doug is definitely not the smartest cop on the force.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Bigelow, after being resurrected by McNab.
  • Buddy Cop Show: Two buddy cops kick ass. One's a zombie, the other a neanderthal!
  • Came Back Wrong: Bigelow is resurrected as a mindless, lurching zombie loyal to the bad guys. Fortunately, Mortis is able to snap him out of it.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The decompression room.
  • Conspicuous Consumption: In hindsight Dr. McNab drives a pretty fancy car for someone with his job.
  • Cowboy Cop: Both Roger and Doug.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: Roger's answer to Randi when she asks him about his makeup.
  • Da Chief: Captain Mayberry.
  • Dead Weight: The biker zombie that Doug and Roger fight against in the research facility.
  • Dragon-in-Chief: Dr. McNab. Laudermilk is the one who funded the research and eventually tries to sell an immortality scheme to other rich people. The bad doctor is the one who created the zombies that have gone on a crime spree throughout all of Los Angeles and has killed several rich people all for the sake of lining his pockets more.
  • Electrified Bathtub: Roger kills one of the zombies sent after Randi by getting it into a hot tub and throwing a stereo after it.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: The climax involves an ambulance hitting several cars and the whole lot exploding like they were loaded with explosives.
  • Exploding Fish Tanks: A fish tank gets destroyed in one of the shootouts much to the dismay of the owner.
  • Explosive Overclocking: McNab gets run through the resurrection machine twice in instant succession after blowing his brains out and as a result he inflates and explodes from the already-reanimated flesh's adverse reaction to the energies. It also damages the machine in a small amount... and then Roger and Doug wreck it with machine-gun fire for good measure.
  • Facial Horror: Many of the zombies, especially Roger after the Ambulance explodes and the Biker zombie.
  • Fan Disservice: Starts out as Fanservice when Roger finds Randi in the bathroom wearing nothing but a towel... until she quickly starts to decompse. Once enough of her rots away she falls over, her towel falls off and her rotted decomposed breasts are visible plain as day for one second.
  • Faux Affably Evil: McNab, who goes about doing completely monstrous things with all the usual charm and likeability of Darren McGavinís usual, heroic characters.
  • Go into the Light: Roger was going into the light before he was resurrected.
    • Also implied in the ending.
  • The Hero Dies: Mortis and Bigelow destroy the machine keeping them alive, condemning themselves to decay.
  • Immune to Bullets:
    • The zombies.
    Doug: Remember the good old days when bullets killed people?
    Roger: You're just jealous, that's all!
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Doug kills a zombie by driving a metal pole through it.
  • Incongruously-Dressed Zombie: The big ugly biker.
  • Ironic Echo: "Kill that guy, won't you?"
  • It's a Long Story: Roger's answer when asked about his undeath.
  • Living on Borrowed Time: McNab's machine can bring a person back to "life" for 12 hours. Once the twelve hours are up, their body will literally melt.
  • Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard: Instead of killing Roger, Dr. McNab locks him into an ambulance while handcuffed to the vehicle. Roger escapes by releasing the parking brake on the ambulance and letting it roll down the hill until it crashes and explodes.
  • Meaningful Name: Roger Mortis turns undead.
  • Nightmare Face: Again, Roger Mortis after the Ambulance explodes and some of the other zombies.
  • Mirror Scare: Roger gets one when he tries to fix himself up after a police shoot-out at a local residence he and his partner were investigating, imagining himself as a skeleton.
  • Oh, Crap!: Lieutenant Herzog when he realizes Roger is about to use his car in a destructive case of Car Fu.
  • Pun-Based Title: The title qualifies, once you remember that "heat" is also slang for "the police."
  • Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh...: Happens when Doug tries incapacitate one of the zombies with a Groin Attack.
  • Punny Name: Roger Mortis (rigor mortis).
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: After a cop is killed by a zombie and resurrected, he and his partner bust up the organization that killed him.
  • Raising the Steaks: Thule resurrects a bunch of animals in his restaurant to attack Doug and Roger.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: Roger shoots his way into the cemetery where Loudermilk is supposedly buried.
  • The Sociopath: Arthur P. Laudermilk and Dr. Ernest McNab. The former wants to make immortality for rich people because he believes they're better than the poor, and the latter is willing to experiment on people and bury them alive so he can get big bucks from this scheme.
  • Two-Faced: Half of Roger's face ends burned in an explosion during the climax. The biker that Roger and Doug fight that ends up with Roger's death has a seriously screwed-up face that looks like three faces crudely seen together.
  • Undeathly Pallor: The zombies. When Roger sees that he's paling, he buys some cosmetics to fix it.
  • Vanity License Plate: Dr. McNab's BODY DOC.
  • Whodunnit to Me?: Roger needs to find out who killed him before he decomposes.
  • You're Just Jealous: How Roger snarks about how, being undead, he's effectively Immune to Bullets.