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Film / Dead Heat

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You can’t keep a good cop dead.

Randi James: Hey, you're hurt.
Det. Roger Mortis: Lady, I'm fucking 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 to, 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 of 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.
  • Bottomless Magazines: At one point, Roger and one of McNab's goons fire at each other with submachine guns for nearly half a minute without reloading.
  • 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.
  • Car Fu: Roger takes out one of the zombie bank robbers by ramming him with Lt. Herzog's car. Herzog is not happy about this.
  • 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.
  • Evil All Along: Friendly, lovable old Dr. McNab is revealed to be the Big Bad's depraved Dragon-in-Chief.
  • 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 McGavin’s usual, heroic characters.
  • Firing One-Handed: The zombie bank robbers in the film's into are able to fire Uzi submachine guns one-handed with surprising accuracy.
    • Mortis also fires an Uzi one-handed while fighting through McNab's lab and even has a duel with a henchman who fires an MP5 one-handed.
  • 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.
  • Kill the Poor: Inverted. Laudermklk's scheme is to make rich people immortal for a "modest" fee. Unknown to him, McNab is instead killing and looting his clients.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Nightmare Face: Again, Roger Mortis after the ambulance explodes and some of the other zombies.
  • Night of the Living Mooks: The bad guys are using zombies to carry out their crimes.
  • Oh, Crap!: Lieutenant Herzog when he realizes Roger is about to use his car in a destructive case of Car Fu.
    • One of the zombie bank robbers has this when he sees the grenade at his feet.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The zombies retain their intelligence as long as their brains aren't too decayed before their resurrection, and gain superhuman durability to boot. The downside is that they only last for twelve hours before rapidly decomposing.
  • 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.
  • Spiteful Suicide: Dr. Ernest McNab, when cornered by Roger and Doug and after shooting them repeatedly does jack because of their zombification, makes clear he refuses to be arrested after Doug makes a one-liner about it ("you won't get me alive!") and blows his brains out with his own machine pistol. Then his actions are immediately subverted when Doug and Roger put him in the revival machine and make it undergo Explosive Overclocking by reviving McNab twice. The Doctor revives then has just enough time to be horrified at what is happening to him before he swells up like a balloon and explodes.
  • 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.