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Dead Alive (Unrated) (Sp) (1993)

A horror film directed by Peter Jackson

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The Goriest Zombie Comedy Ever Made?

  • Oct 21, 2009

The recent release of ZOMBIELAND has fans of the unique subgenre known as the "zomedy" falling all over themselves either to praise that  flick or to condemn it. In either case they usually for better or worse compare it to SHAUN OF THE DEAD, the popular British flick starring Simon Pegg, and I can see that, really I can. But the comparisons have been so consistent and so exclusive of all other zomedies that I feel it incumbent upon myself to say, doesn't ANYBODY remember Peter Jackson's 1992 flick DEAD-ALIVE? Am I really the only person on the face of the earth (or Lunch at least) who looks back fondly on that 97 minutes of  loopy humor that culminates in what I am almost certain is still the most outrageously gory denouement ever to grace any zombie flick, comedy or otherwise? 
                           Dead Alive
The film opens on Skull island (located south of Sumatra) where an explorer has suceeded in capturing a rare Sumatran Rat Monkey and is headed for a jeep that will help take him and his rare prize back to New Zealand and the Wellington Zoo. Local natives try to stop him, warning him that the animal is not only dangerous but also sacred to them and that there is no way that monkey is leaving their island. Well, long story short, monkey leaves explorer doesn't. In the ensuing chase the guy is bitten and scratched by the beastie. His local guides cut off his arms and then his head. Roll opening credits. (You get a double dismemberment AND a decapitation before the credits?! Well, the decapitation is implied.) The guides grab the caged animal and take off.  Eventually it's  shoved on a plane for new Zealand. There we meet out hapless hero Lionel (Timothy Balme) when he drops into a grocery store to leave off the weekly order. His timing is impecable because our heroine Pacquita (Diana Penalier) has just had her future told by her grandmother, to wit: she will very soon meet the one man she will love for the rest of her life and there will be a sign. Lionel knocks over some pens. Presto, there's the sign.

Love ain't going to be easy for Lionel and Pacquita though because he's got the Queen of All Bitchy, Domineering Mothers, and he's a spinless dweeb in the bargain. Nonetheless Pacquita tricks him into asking her out on a date to the zoo. Zoo? Uh Oh. Double uh oh because Mum overhears and follows to spy on them. Here's where we get our first, last, and only look at the Sumatran Rat Monkey which is rendered via good old fashioned stop motion animation. He's adorably nasty and he promptly takes a chunk out of Mum when she gets too close to his cage, but he obviously didn't know who he was dealing with because she smushes him into Sumatran jelly. Date over. Lionel has to take Mum home and tend to her injuries.

From here things go down hill pretty rapidly --although not quite as rapidly as you might expect and definitely not as fast as most fans would hope. As I said Lionel's a bit of a milquetoast and after Mum becomes an official member of the undead, he just can't bring himself to dispatch her (or the nurse practioner she chowed down on) so he decides to keep them both in the cellar and hope no one will noice they're not around. He sedates them with tranquillizers procured from a local veterinarian who's personal history is hilariously suspect (look for the swastica under his lab coat) and tries to keep his horrible secret. Mum escapes though and gets hit by a streetcar in front of witnesses making a funeral necessary, but Lionel's frantic about how to keep her quiet while she's supposedly "dead".  It doesn't go smoothly, but Mum does get planted.  She doesn't stay down long though causing Lionel's undead problems to increase, leading to more sedated undead bodies in the cellar. And what's worse the funeral dredged up a money hungry  uncle who tries to blackmail Lionel, thinking he's a murderer.  And then there's that Big Finale I alluded to earlier  which defies description--besides why would I want to ruin the best part for you?

DEAD-ALIVE (called BRAINDEAD in New Zealand) can be found in many versions. Before I go further I must warn against the R-rated 90 American minute version. It has been heavily edited, contains little of the real gore, and makes very little sense as a result of the editing. The unrated 97 minute American version is more watchable but I'm told still suffers greatly when compared to the original 107 minute version that the rest of the world enjoys under its original title. There are also versions out at 100 and 103 minutes. Peter Jackson himself has been quoted as saying that he prefers the 97 minute version because it gave him more time to polish the film.

Jackson had a 3 million dollar budget here and it was his biggest to that date. Most of it was spent on special effects of course and if there is a single moment here of CGI I certainly can't spot it. Everything seems to be done old school using puppetry, make up, prosthetics, and stop motion animation and fans of old school effects should be euphoric. I know I was. There are undead deaths by all sorts of amusing means--one zombie has her head smashed into a light bulb and for the next 5 minutes or so she just hangs there impaled on the wall with light shooting out of her entire body like some kind of grotesque nightlight. The zombies themselves may take a licking but they keep on ticking! These guys are really hard to discourage; cut 'em off at the waist and both halves keep coming after you, cut off their arms and body and arms alike have one goal in mind (?), eviscerate them and it's RE-ANIMATOR time! I defy any gorehound to see this flick and not come away totally satisfied by the sheer amount of carnage Jackson inflicts upon his audience--and we're not even talking about the imaginative, creative, and downright silly methods that are employed. I love it when film makers show me something I haven't see before or carry it to an extreme that I would never have thought possible, and Jackson won my heart with this flick. Whether or not the more subtle humor stacks up to SHAUN or not is a matter of personal preference I suppose, but for me it's close to a tie. Some of the characters in Kiwi flix can be priceless and a lot of the humor is character drawn. Yes Father McGruder I'm talking about you. I loved him in the graveyard but afterwards when he gets all hinky and kinky. Believe me folks, this movie will NEVER show on TV in its entireity

If you call yourself a horror fan and have not seen this flick then you are depriving yourself of a unique experience--this is a must see. Oh a few last things. Watch for the late Forry Ackerman as a camera toting tourist snapping a photo of Mum getting bitten by the rat monkey at the zoo. And the next time you watch Jackson's KING KONG look for the cage labled SUMATRAN RAT MONKEY in the hold of the ship. You see it the first time Adrian Brody goes down there. Jackson referencing himself.
HYPE Level:  Once Highly Touted and For Good Reason!

The Goriest Zombie Comedy Ever Made? The Goriest Zombie Comedy Ever Made? The Goriest Zombie Comedy Ever Made? The Goriest Zombie Comedy Ever Made? The Goriest Zombie Comedy Ever Made?

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August 11, 2010
I remember this one with out a doubt, one of the best films ever. 3 mill at the time and goes and makes LOTR and Kong. LOVE this flick.
August 11, 2010
A lot of people complain that it's too slow, but I love it too. I have this sadistic streak in me. I want to take people who only know Jackson from LOTR and make them watch DEAD-ALIVE! =) They'd have heart attacks.
November 17, 2009
I have been watching this on videotape for years but never saw it on the big screen until the nite before Halloween. Wow! It really looks awesome when you see it in a theatre with beers & popcorn. God bless Lily St. Cyr! Stupendous write-up QueenB!!!
November 18, 2009
I was lucky enough to see it in its initial release, but without the beer. Anyway you see it, it's a winner as long as you don't see the sanitized version.
October 21, 2009
All Peter Jackson fans salute you and your excellent review, Queenie. =D
October 22, 2009
Really? Even those who only know him through LORD OF THE RINGS?
October 22, 2009
Well, okay, maybe not all Peter Jackson fans... but at least the ones who have seen his older films.
October 22, 2009
Right. Nice picture by the way.
October 22, 2009
It's my Hindu zombie look for the fall. It's all the rage I'm told. ; )
October 22, 2009
Again it's too dark for me to have notices the detailing until you pointed it out.
October 22, 2009
Follow this link and you'll get the full scary picture ...
October 22, 2009
October 22, 2009
So, do I get some points for being Lunch's first Hindu zombie?
October 21, 2009
nice one! I need to re-watch this and it will be sooner than expected. A review will be forthcoming...
October 21, 2009
Hope you like it. It may have a bit of a pacing problem but it pays off big time.
October 21, 2009
I did enjoy as I can remember the first time I saw it; I'm pretty sure my review would reflect just that initial reaction...
October 21, 2009
October 21, 2009
By the way, cool work with the photo...
October 21, 2009
Now if I could only figure out how to put them where I want them and to get more than one photo on a page and how to do trailers and film clips...
December 06, 2009
oh, Karen, I reviewed this movie myself a few days ago. How're you feeling?
December 08, 2009
I'll be there soon. Feeling much better but I always seem to be babysitting the boys lately--plus my daughter had a big health scare, and of course can't get health insurance so we were busy with that.
More Dead Alive reviews
review by . August 17, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
**** out of ****    I love blood. I love guts. I love gore. I love anything (artificial) that flows in large amounts, even if we aren't speaking of bodily fluids. But if we are, then movie blood is what I always crave. The more the merrier is my motto when it comes to such a thing. I'm not easily offended or shocked by movie violence; and in the case of features like "The Evil Dead" and its sequel, the grotesque becomes the darkly comic and absurd. Peter Jackson apparently loves …
review by . December 01, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
   DEAD ALIVE (a.k.a. “Braindead”) is directed by Peter Jackson; yes, the same dude who won Oscars for his terrific adaptations of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Jackson’s 1992 horror comedy has the elements that can attract the horror fan; loads of gore and buckets of blood. It also pitches in a nightmarish vision of childbirth all the while injecting the film with a dark, wicked sense of humor. Hey, the film also makes a great date movie since it does have a very heartwarming …
Quick Tip by . December 09, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Wow...Peter Jackson's New Zealand zombie gorefest just may be the goriest film ever made, and all the better for it!
Quick Tip by . May 01, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
A must for lovers of horror comedy--you may need a strong stomach!
review by . December 11, 2004
posted in Movie Hype
Look up the word "disgusting" in the unwritten Book Of The Cinema and you'll find that the definition is "Peter Jackson's 'Braindead'". I don't know how else to introduce the picture other than to say that it is believed to be the goriest film ever made, and that it is considered by many to be the best zombie (and even horror in general) film ever made.    The film revolves around Lionel (Timothy Balme), a kind-hearted and loyal young man forced to take care of his wicked old …
review by . May 23, 2003
posted in Movie Hype
In a film like DEAD ALIVE, the plot is basically pointless. The only reason it exists is to add some humor to the bloody gore-fest that erupts and since it's discussed so often, it isn't necessary to repeat again. Basically, there will be two reasons you would want to see DEAD ALIVE. The most obvious reason is if you're a fan of movies with a lot of blood, guts, and gore. DEAD ALIVE is the goriest film of all time (the lawnmower scene alone takes at least five minutes). For example, people are literally …
About the reviewer
karen ()
I am the poster child for inertia. Where ever I am is where I plan to stay FOREVER.   So much so in fact that it took me decades to understand the punchline about why   the chicken … more
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About this movie


The grossest movieevermade, this quintessential splatter film details the tender story of a henpecked boy, his overbearing mum, and a nasty little Sumerian rat-monkey that turns people into voracious zombies. In lesser hands, thisne plus ultraviscera-fest would be so disturbing as to be nigh-unwatchable, but the incredible energy and imagination of director Peter Jackson makes it a first-class guilty pleasure, with plentiful helpings of gallows humor (the scripture-quoting, kung-fu-dispensing priest is a highlight) and a taboo subtext that Sigmund Freud would have loved. Essential viewing for gorehounds and anyone else with a high tolerance for flying entrails. The director would later tone down the gore (but not the manic enthusiasm) for the sublimeHeavenly CreaturesandThe Frighteners.--Andrew Wright
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Director: Peter Jackson
Runtime: 104 minutes
Studio: Vidmark / Trimark
First to Review
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