June 9, 2011

The Zombie Episode of Valerie's Family (1987)

Ever have those vague memories from childhood that haunt you because you can never quite place them?

Since I was four, I've had vague memories of watching a TV sitcom in which the cast transformed into green-faced zombies. It must be one of my earliest zombie memories aside from seeing Thriller (which came out before I was born). Although I couldn't remember the name of the show, I did remember how scared it made me feel. Despite my best efforts, I've never been able to track down the name of the show or the episode I saw. I was beginning to think I had imagined it. Then, while channel surfing yesterday, I fell upon the very show I had been looking for

The show was The Hogan Family (aka. Valerie's Family: The Hogans). The episode: S03E09 "Nightmare on Oak Street" (air date: November 23, 1987). One dark and stormy night, the three Hogan boys watch a horror movie called Nightmare at Zombie High. After going to bed, each suffers a nightmare of his own. One of the boys dreams that his entire family spontaneously transforms into zombies during breakfast. See the whole bit embedded below.

From an adult's point of view, the whole thing is goofy, but when I was four this zombie dream sequence scared the crap out of me. Maybe it was the corpse-like details of the masks. Maybe it was the way they cornered that kid with no escape. Maybe it was because every person a young boy looks to for help (mother, father, sibling) suddenly and without warning turned into the evil dead. For whatever reason, this innocous episode of a sitcom most people don't remember made a significant impression on my young mind.

It's funny how the mind can jumble up memories and fail to make obvious connections. For example, in my recollection of this episode, I distinctly remember actress Edie McClurg as a zombie. While she does appears in the show, she doesn't appear in this exact episode. Also, I've seen Jason Bateman in so many memorable movies and TV shows during the course of my life, but I completely forgot he was in The Hogan Family. I never made the connection. Also, this zombie episode aired the day after my 4th birthday. You'd think I'd remember that connection. Perhaps, I never saw it when it originally aired after all. Then when did I see it?

Essentially, never trust the memories of a four year old. The mind is a complex thing. No wonder zombies find it so tasty.