Movie: "Dead Alive (aka: 'Braindead')"
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Writing credits: Stephen Sinclair, Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson
Plot: A sweet mama's boy must fight hordes of the evil undead to survive and protect his new love interest. To do this, he's forced to navigate seemingly oceans of blood, guts and gore to a final showdown with the greatest flesh-eater of all - his mother!
Review: Let me begin this review with a confession. I love horror and monster movies. Yet, when it comes to especially gory movies, I'm a total wimp. Have I ever watched any of the Friday the 13th films? Nope. Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Forget it. The "Saw" franchise? No way. Fulci's Zombi 2? Can't stomach it. That being said...
"Dead Alive" is one of the finest and most creative horror films I've ever had the pleasure to watch. Hailed as one of the goriest films ever made, "Dead Alive" is famed director Peter Jackson's third movie. As a follow-up to his equally quirky and strange "Bad Taste" and "Meet the Feebles", "Dead Alive" doesn't just try to be a good horror film - it punches the genre right in the teeth!
Our film opens with a story about raped monkeys. No, seriously. We learn of the murderous Sumatran Rat-Monkey and its origin on the fabled Skull Island. A crew has courageously ventured deep into the island to obtain a specimen of the creature. After finding one and attempting to leave, the team is confronted by island natives. A scuffle ensues, resulting in one of the team members being unknowingly bit by the monkey and left behind. As the survivors are about to escape, the lone straggler manages to catch up with the rest of the party. Realizing that the hapless fellow has been munched on by the monkey, they hold him down and chop off the afflicted hand. Oops, looks like he was bit twice! Off comes the other arm. Oh gosh... he seems to have been bit on the forehead. Off with his head!
Jump ahead to New Zealand, 1957. We meet Lionel. To say he is a "mama's boy" is an understatement. Seeing to his domineering mother Vera's every need and whim, Lionel has supported her all his life. As with any great romance though, love sneaks up on our loveable Lionel when he meets the perky Paquita. Falling madly in love with her, he manages to score a date with Paquita to the local zoo. Vera demands to come along, of course. During the date, the aforementioned Sumatran Rat-Monkey is revealed to have found a home at the zoo. Managing to attack Vera, she gets a nasty wound on her arm. She crushes the cretin under her heal and gets bandaged up. All seems well, right? Wrong. Mum now has a strong taste for human flesh that our lad Lionel has little luck in controlling. She starts making meals out of numerous townsfolk, but is eventually struck by a rail tram and thought dead by her neighbors. A riotous funeral ensues, with Lionel learning that horse tranquilizers really can keep a good zombie down (at least temporarily)!
The film's plot snowballs into the goriest zombie-fest I've ever seen. Spiraling out of control from a single undead mother into a horde of undying creatures of splatter-filled death, "Dead Alive" builds to a tension-packed final act that is not for the squeamish. Or for people with pacemakers. Or for anyone that can't stomach dump truck loads of body parts and an oil-tanker worth of blood and viscera. Along the way, we encounter a punk-hating priest with a powerful kung-fu grip. His demise is memorable, but his afterlife is even more exceptional. We also meet a sneaky little zombie baby that loves strolls in the park. Remember the final scene in "Aliens" where Ripley hops into an exosuit? Well, this zombie baby does the same thing to one of the supporting characters. I'll take "Fleshy Mecha" for $1000, Alex!
Our climax throws a disgusting battle in your face, where trapped party guests become the main course for a growing zombie horde inside a mansion. Things look bleak for our champion Lionel and his blossoming love life. His friends and family are being eaten alive. The lovely Paquita is on the verge of being consumed for dessert. Guts, intestines and slimy entrails cover every corner of the scenery - literally! You can see the actors sliding around on the greasy innards like fish out of water. The zombies are so dedicated to their hunger, even their disemboweled internal organs continue to attack and consume living flesh. After watching "Dead Alive", you'll never look at your own esophagus the same way again! Or a lawnmower. Yes... the trusty lawnmower. If you love the grim justice of Ash's chainsaw from the "Evil Dead" series, then you'll crap your pants for Lionel and his whirling lawnmower zombie blender-o-death! Literally mowing through the competition, our hero makes a zombie puree the likes of which I haven't seen since. And this isn't even the ending! Lionel still has to face his now goliath-sized demonic mother in a final battle that redefines the Oedipus complex. I'll give you a hint: giant man-eating vagina.
Let that ring in your ears for a moment... "giant man-eating vagina"
I've never seen so much blood on film in all my life. Nothing tops it. You're probably asking yourself how a gore-wimp like me was able to watch this movie, right? Well, the answer is simple. Peter Jackson somehow has the ability to finely craft horror and comedy together. While guts and gore are splattered everywhere, they're smartly interwoven with slapstick comedy that keeps the gross-out factor at bay. If the Three Stooges had starred in horror shorts instead of comedy, they'd have looked a lot like "Dead Alive". The special effects are detailed and creative, but not so much so that it looks "too" real. This gives you the opportunity to appreciate the finely-crafted special effects features without closing your eyes from fear. You want to look at each gruesome aspect of "Dead Alive" because they're so just damn interesting to watch and mentally digest.
Jackson's horror masterpiece proves how classic special effects, makeup, puppetry and prosthetics look much more impressive than any CGI used in modern horror films. I don't even have to think about my final pickle score for "Dead Alive". Five pickles - all day, every day. Do yourself a favor and watch it. If a gore-wimp like me can stomach it, so can you.
NOTE: If you want to learn more about Dead Alive, be sure to check out I-Mockery's in-depth feature on it, filled with more bloody animated GIFs than you can shake a Sumatran Rat-Monkey at!
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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