Although many genre filmmakers have managed to blend horror and humor with great success, movies employing this formula often run the risk of both elements canceling each other out, resulting in a horror comedy that is neither scary nor funny. Alas, Dead Heat is a textbook example of this kind of failure.
It details the weird misadventures of a pair of mismatched L.A. cops -- the straitlaced and by-the-book Roger Mortis (Treat Williams) and wisecracking loose cannon Doug Bigelow (muscle-headed Saturday Night Live alum Joe Piscopo). Their quest is to reach the heart of a sinister crime ring that employs indestructible undead henchmen.
In a strange twist, their inept handling of the case results in both cops -- first Williams, then Piscopo -- being killed in action and subsequently reanimated in a secret laboratory managed by the barely seen Vincent Price (whose walk-on role is more entertaining than the combined performances of the two leads).
The potential for splatstick comedy in the mode of Evil Dead 2 or Peter Jackson's Bad Taste is defeated by two major obstacles: first, the painfully unfunny mugging of Piscopo, who was unwisely allowed to ad-lib much of his performance; and second, the MPAA's trimming of several minutes from Steve Johnson's sensational makeup effects in order to avoid the dreaded X rating -- including a clever scene involving a zombie go-go girl played by Linnea Quigley.