Zombie Cop (1991) poster

Zombie Cop (1991)


USA. 1991.


Director – Lance Randas [J.R. Bookwalter], Screenplay/Music – Matthew Jason Walsh, Story/Producer – J.R. Bookwalter, Photography – Brock N. Lenz, Makeup Effects – Bill Morrison. Production Company – The Suburban Tempe Company.


Michael Kemper (Robert Gill/Zombie Cop), Ken Jarosz (Stevens), James R. Black Jr. (Doctor Death), Bill Morrison (Buddy Van De Car), James L. Edwards (Sculley), Wade Jabul Kareem Ali-Baba Hafez Lamer Jabba Mohammed Lapsa De Quaylar (aka “Steve’) [Matthew Jason Walsh] (Himself), Christina M. Bookwalter (Little Girl Victim)


Police detectives Gill and Stevens head to a crime scene where they find they are up against the voodoo priest and crime kingpin known as Doctor Death. Doctor Death throws a ritual potion in Gill’s face before both of them end up shooting the other and are killed. Following the funeral, Gill claws his way out of the grave, now a zombie. He returns to a startled Stevens. He sets out to track down Doctor Death, who is also still alive and offers the only means Gill has to regain his humanity.

J.R. Bookwalter is an Ohio-based filmmaker who gained a name making independent films throughout the 1990s. He first appeared with the zombie film The Dead Next Door (1989) after being given funding by Sam Raimi. His films as director include the likes of Robot Ninja (1989), Kingdom of the Vampire (1991), Ozone (1995), The Sandman (1995) and others, while he has also produced a number of other genre films. (See below for J.R. Bookwalter’s other films).

Zombie Cop was Bookwalter’s second film although he subsequently disowned it. He takes a credit for story and producer under his own name, while the film is made through his Suburban Tempe production company. However, the director’s credit is for Lance Randas, which is Bookwalter hiding behind a pseudonym. (Apparently the film did initially go out with Bookwalter’s real name on it and Lance Randas was substituted in later releases after Zombie Cop became ridiculed by the bad movie crowd). Bookwalter also acts as editor under the name of Darryl Squatmpump. You also suspect that the name of the cinematographer Brock N. Lenz (ie. ‘broken lens’) is a pseudonym too – the only other credit Lenz has is on the Bookwalter directed snuff movie/action film Maximum Impact (1992). (Bookwalter confirms that this was due to simply not wanting to wanting to have his name all over the credits).

Zombie Cop is a Zombie Film, although does not have much in common with the prevailing zombie films of the day, which drew their influence from George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978). Zombie Cop bears more in common with the then recent Dead Heat (1988), a not very successful attempt to make a comedy about an undead cop. There was also the possible influence of the modest B movie hit of Maniac Cop (1988) about a disfigured former cop seeking revenge that came out around the same time. Certainly, the title, while it is not something that is ever played tongue-in-cheek, looks forward to the deliberately ridiculous titular conceptual mash-ups that zombie films began to conduct from the mid-2000s onwards. It should also be noted that this is one of very few modern post-Romero zombie films in which the zombie is actually created by Voodoo.

Michael Kemper as Zombie Cop (1991)
Michael Kemper as the Zombie Cop

The film looks amateurish – it has very cheap looking photography, while the editing is often the slapdash sort you get in non-professional films. The actors range between the passable and bad – with screenwriter Matthew John Walsh playing a very racially dubious caricature of Middle Eastern convenience store owner who keeps getting robbed.

That said, I can’t say I thought Zombie Cop was worthy of one of this site’s zero star ratings. It is cheap and amateurish but it is not entirely unwatchable. If the same film had been made with say the budget of Dead Heat, it could have been halfway okay. Equally you suspect if the film had planted its tongue in its cheek more akin to the zombie film of the 2000s and beyond, it might have emerged more enjoyable – as it is, some scenes almost beg a comedy treatment. Bookwalter even manages to get things together for a passably well edited and shot series of scenes involving the zombie cop Michael Kemper in a car chase against voodoo priest nemesis James R. Black Jr. and the climactic scenes pursuing Black through the woods.

J.R. Bookwalter has also directed The Dead Next Door (1989), Robot Ninja (1989), Kingdom of the Vampire (1991), Humanoids from Atlantis (1992), Ozone (1995), The Sandman (1995), Polymorph (1996), Witchouse II: Blood Coven (2000), Witchouse 3: Demon Fire (2001) and Deadly Stingers (2003). He has produced a great many other films, usually through his Suburban Tempe production company, with the likes of Skinned Alive (1990), Dominion (1992), Galaxy of the Dinosaurs (1992), Maximum Impact (1992), Midnight 2 (1993), Bloodletting (1997), The Vault (2000), Final Stab (2001), Horrorvision (2001), Stitches (2001), Bleed (2002), Dead and Rotting (2002), Groom Lake (2002), Hell Asylum (2002), Jigsaw (2002), Killjoy 2: Deliverance from Evil (2002), Deadly Stingers (2003), October Moon (2005), Possessed (2005), Poisoned Sweethearts (2008) and Platoon of the Dead (2009).

Trailer here

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