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WEIRDO FLICKS: 'Forbidden Zone'

by Eli Kroes

You might not be familiar with the term 'Z-Movie,' but if you grew up in the 90's, chances are you've seen one. They're the beyond-low-budget monstrosities that teased you from the walls of the mom-and-pop video store. Usually, the films themselves could never live up to the pictures on the videotape boxes (because this was way before your fancy 'Digital Video Discs' and 'Blu-Rays') but occasionally you'd find something truly unique. 'WEIRDO FLICKS' will clue you into some movies which 'unique' doesn't even begin to describe...  

'Forbidden Zone' - 1982, Directed by Richard Elfman

Speaking of Johnny Depp (as the last post on this blog was,) if you're a fan, you are probably familiar with the work of Danny Elfman who has scored basically all of Tim Burton's films. He also wrote the theme song for 'The Simpsons,' and a loonnnnggg time ago, he was in a band called Oingo Boingo. BEFORE that, he was in a theatre troupe with other future Oingo Boingo members called 'The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo.' Now that we're all caught up....

'Forbidden Zone' is a recreation of the Mystic Knights' stage show, directed by Elfman's brother, Richard. Suffice to say, the movie is pretty demented.

The plot is minimal, but not very important. There's a family whose house somehow has a gateway to the 8th dimension in the basement. The king of the 8th dimension (played by Herve Villechaize - aka Tattoo from 'Fantasy Island') takes a liking to the daughter of the family and kidnaps her. Then, her brother and his friend make a deal with the devil (played by Danny Elfman channeling Cab Calloway quite literally) to get her back. It's pretty silly, and it's obviously designed with fans of 'Rocky Horror Picture Show' in mind, but this gem is wayyyy beyond that.

First of all, the soundtrack features very early Oingo Boingo tracks, and a handpicked selection of musical oddities that Elfman and company warp beyond belief. Old mariachi records played on broken turntables turn into children's songs with overdubbed cursing.

Then, there are the sets and costumes, all a continuation of the troupe's stage show. It's like a zany 1920's musical put on by the cast of 'Eraserhead,' Mix that up with some Monty Python-styled cutout animation, parodies of 1800's minstrel shows and some homemade film editing techniques, and you've got one of the fastest-paced pieces of 80's dementia ever committed to celluloid. It's pretty available as well.

This pretty much sums it up:


VHS photo by Toby Hudson.