Dead Alive AKA Braindead
Dead Alive AKA Braindead
1992. Directed by Peter Jackson.
Disgusting. Repulsive. Legendary.
One of the goriest films ever made, Dead Alive is a hysterically violent zombie story that combines Jackson's trademark bad taste antics with stomach obliterating practical effects.
Lionel is a shy guy who lives with his oppressive mother, Vera. Destiny draws Lionel to Paquita, a beautiful storekeeper. On their first date at the local zoo, the snooping Vera is bitten by a foul Sumatran Rat-Monkey. Soon after she becomes a flesh eating zombie. Lionel's attachment to his mother forces him to keep her "alive", and leads to the infection spreading quickly out of control, forcing him to face the legions of the undead with nothing but a lawnmower in order to save the woman he loves.
Forget the story and forego your sanity. This film is about two things: Marjorie Hamlin's wonderfully putrid makeup effects and Steve Ingram's genius special effects work. Hamlin uses some nasty tricks to present the zombies as slowly disintegrating locomotives who leave pieces of themselves wherever they shamble. Pus, and slime coat every surface of Ed Mulholand's sets, presenting the entire ordeal as a fluid drenched carnival of flesh. Ingram's considerable effects play in tandem with Jackson's miniature puppetry to deliver awfully hilarious kill scenes along with the absolutely brilliant finale. Lionel's lawnmower annihilation goes beyond over the top and into out of the atmosphere territory with gross dismemberments and a virtually endless ocean of blood and guts.
Jackson, Stephen Sinclair, and Fran Walsh's script is packed with endless allegories about a son's love for his mother and it's transformation when the child finds love in another. Vera's gargantuan final form, a bastardized Venus of Willendorf blatantly drives the already obvious point through the pavement. Keeping with Dead Alive's nothing is too much theme, the film then throws in a womb-centric finale as a rotting cherry on top for anyone in the cheap seats.
Stuart Devenie delivers one of the most memorable cameos as a Kung Fu wielding priest that any die hard fan will instantly cheer for when he enters the fray, delivering Dead Alive's most iconic line. Ian Watkin supports as Lionel's greedy uncle Les whose arrival swings the sparse narrative towards the crescendo of violence that suffocates the entire final act. Timothy Balme does an excellent job with Lionel. It's obvious from his first appearance that he is in on the joke and never shies away from the viscous slapstick that ultimately ends with Lionel covered in one bodily humor or another.
Sadly out of print, a dvd or blu ray copy of this cult diamond will cost a pretty penny. Dead Alive is not a film for the casual horror fan or anyone repulsed by nonstop gross-out gags that continue to up the ante until the very last frame. Jackson made this film for fans who understand that horror can be many things, even when the terror is completely supplanted by the absurd. A perfect departure from the torture porn and yet another haunting affairs that dominate the box office, Dead Alive is a smart and offensive film whose extreme visuals are impossible to forget.