Dead Alive (1992) – Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson’s wonderfully over the top gore fest horror comedy, Dead Alive aka Braindead is the next zombie title to stumble out of the catacombs of the zombie genre as featured in DK Canada’s Monsters in the Mocies book. By turns hilarious, and bloody, the film is so extreme in its kills, and it’s gore, in the vein of Evil Dead II, that all you can do is laugh and cheer along.

Set in New Zealand in 1957, the film first opens with an expedition to Skull Island, a nod to Jackson’s love of the King Kong story, to obtain a dangerous Sumatran Rat Monkey. And from there it all goes sideways, culminating in a fleshy bloodbath that puts a lawn mower to hilarious and horrific effect.

Lionel (Timothy Balme) is dominated by his mother, Vera (Elizabeth Moody), whom he loves, just as a beautiful woman, Paquita (Diana Penalver) comes into his life. Well that and a horde of zombies, created by the bite of the monkey.

Things are even more complicated when Lionel’s Uncle Les (Ian Watkin) turns up demanding part of the estate, when Lionel’s mother ‘dies.’

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For those who know the crew and effects people that have worked on Jackson’s previous films, there are a lot of recognizable names in the credits, and the work while not up to par with, say, Lord of the Rings, or even The Frighteners, you can see a lot of things that would pay off in later films, model work, makeup, creature effects, action storytelling. There’s a lot of that here.

The film never takes itself seriously, and everything is drenched in blood, and chunks of flesh as the zombies wreak havoc in Lionel’s personal life.

And I can definitely speak to the concept that this film isn’t for everyone, I remember when this first came out on video, and I took it home and watched it, and it just seemed so banal to me. Now some years on, rewatching it now, I got such a kick out of it, laughing, cheering, and just enjoying myself… this is the kind of film that rouses the Toronto After Dark crowd to their feet.

This is one to sit and watch with friends, crack a drink of the alcoholic variety and just enjoy. This was Jackson’s third feature film, and you could already see his sense of humor at work, as well as the way he begins to craft stories.

But even if you aren’t a Jackson fan, if you like zombie movies, this one is a but of a must, because it is so much damned fun! Check it out, or pick up a copy of DK Books’ Monsters in the Movies and find something bloody and macabre to watch tonight!

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