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Dead Alive (Unrated) (Sp) (1993)

A horror film directed by Peter Jackson

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Peter Jackson's GORE-RIFFIC, Wickedly Funny "From ZERO TO HERO" Zombie Film!!

  • Dec 1, 2009

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 love story at its core. (I cannot believe I just said that) This is the cheeky, rough side of Peter Jackson and his low-budget sensibilities.
Sometime in the 1950's Wellington, New Zealand, Lionel (Timothy Balme) is a mild-mannered, delivery boy who lives under the roof of his mother’s (played by Elizabeth Moody) house. Lionel is under the influential rule of his mother since he somewhat carries guilt over his father’s death. His mother, Vera is more than happy to have her son under her thrall. One day, Lionel comes across a comely young woman named Paquita (Diana Penalver) and is almost immediately smitten by each other. Vera isn’t at all pleased at Lionel’s fondness for Paquita and she threatens to end their relationship. However, after being bitten by an infected Sumatran rat monkey, Lionel’s mother begins to change into something ghoulishly inhuman. Whoever has the misfortune of running across the changed Vera is turned to something like her. Poor kind-hearted Lionel doesn’t have the guts or the heart to destroy the undead creatures and keeps them sedated in his basement with the use of animal tranquilizers. But things go from bad to worst as his uncle Les (Ian Watkin) invites himself to his property and accidentally unleashes what is in Lionel’s basement to prey on his party guests.
Peter Jackson’s “DEAD ALIVE” is unmatched when it comes to pure zaniness and mayhem. The film may well be one of the goriest horror movies ever made, and Jackson is pretty successful in balancing out its elements of horror and comedy. The film is definitely wicked, insane and fun. Jackson does manage to put in a decent story for a film of this kind, albeit it does have its flaws as it does become a tad too silly at times. The characters and effects are undoubtedly very cartoonish and quite frankly the style of the film is very comical; but I just cannot deny that the film becomes quite charming in this manner. 

     Dead Alive (Braindead)

                 Dead Alive (Braindead)
The gore and blood effects have that familiar “spray” effect made popular by Japanese filmmaking. The use of prosthetics are the film’s main bread and butter combined with a lot of red ink. I do have my reservations whether the creatures in “Dead Alive” are indeed zombies; they feel and behave more like ghouls and demons as they are fast-moving, inhumanly strong and has a tendency to mutate into even more hideous creatures; they are still defined as zombies so I won‘t argue any further. What makes the film different is the manner in which the creature designs are executed; they are quite inventive and they are not sad, wimpy creatures. In “Dead Alive”, the creatures are met with resistance with the use of lawn mowers, toilets, blenders, garden gnomes, and even light bulbs. I rather liked the idea of Jackson sidestepping the usual use of a firearm to dispatch a zombie. The practice of restraint isn’t observed by Jackson in the film; his goal is to create as much mayhem and comedic violence as possible, the more outrageous and the more bombastic it is the better.
The film has some key moments of humor in the film as those scenes seem to be subtly channeling the “Three Stooges” and “Looney Tunes”. We see Lionel attempting to flee and he realizes he couldn’t since the floor is slippery because of the loads of blood. The scene in the park with the zombie baby (yes, there is a zombie baby!) is just so funny although I thought that there was no sense for Lionel to take the monstrous infant to the park except as an attempt to simulate a relaxed moment?. You see the “zombified” infant running and snickering around while taunting Lionel. It is just so funny to see Lionel bashing a baby’s head against a swing set. Ok, you might not find a grown man punching a baby on the face, but Jackson does pitch this idea in. The entrails of a zombie also have a life of its own and can even beg for its life. Oh, there is also zombie sex and impregnation obviously. Yes, the answer to Jackson’s approach is to add more gore when the film has enough gore. 

    Dead Alive (Braindead)

                   Dead Alive (Braindead)

               Dead Alive (Braindead)
The development of Lionel as a meek, kind momma’s boy into a zombie killer is partly inspired by Paquita’s loyalty and love. I guess even geeks can find love after all. The devotion between the two is just so cute and adorable (did I just say that?!). Timothy Balme is endearing as the lead but not too endearing to the point of annoyance (well maybe a little). He embodies a good portrayal of a “zero to hero” kind of deal. Elizabeth Moody’s portrayal of Vera is the one that embodies class, yet so despicable and unlikable. She is just so obsessed in keeping Lionel under her finger that her monstrous form even makes a final effort in the film’s final act. Let us not forget the one who is arguably the coolest priest of all cinema, Father McGruder (played by Stuart Devenie) is a kung fu fighting man of the cloth who just delivers one of the greatest lines in horror films! Peter Jackson himself also plays a cameo as an undertaker’s assistant.
“DEAD ALIVE” (I actually prefer its title “Braindead”) is wacky, goofy, silly, dark, wicked, grim and very mischievous. Strangely enough, despite all the bombastic mayhem and carnage we witnessed, the song in the end credits is very mellow (a song called “Stars and Moon”). The film delivers more carnage and mayhem than any other horror film ever made. Jackson definitely deserves praise and recognition for his efforts on “Lord of the Rings” and even “King Kong”; but this is Jackson just having a lot of fun with this low-budget horror comedy, and his talent as a filmmaker still shines through, no matter which project he is involved in. “Dead Alive” is wild, crazy, insane and delivers a lot of gore and a bloody good time!
Highly Recommended! [4+ Stars]

    Dead Alive (Braindead)


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August 11, 2010
This is with out a doubt one of the best movies of all time, one of my favorites.
December 08, 2009
DEAD ALIVE is the better title because it avoids confusion with another film called BRAIN DEAD that you ought to check out sometime, it's really worth seeing. I really love SHAUN OF THE DEAD but it sort of irked me that when people reviewed ZOMBIELAND that kept referencing SHAUN as if DEAD ALIVE never existed. That's why I decided to review it. We can't let masterpieces like this one go unnoticed just because they weren't released within the last couple of years! People forget so quickly sometimes.
December 09, 2009
exactly! I almost forgot about this movie and was so glad you reminded me of it! how's the Christmas tree going? I hope everything is going better now....
December 12, 2009
It fought me every inch of the way, but I got the sucker up. It's a tiny tree and I can't believe how much stuff I manage to get on it every year--plus I buy new ornaments, like I need 'em!
December 03, 2009
Oh yeah, it just don't get any goofier or gorier than this. Well, perhaps it does but these are some pretty big shoes to fill. Yippie! Thnks for the write-up on this one Woo!!! Great job!
December 04, 2009
"I kick ass in the Lord's name..." classic line! This was really nice...but I thought TOKYO GORE POLICE was even better than sliced head LOL!
December 04, 2009
Like Orlok said, this one is right up there with Evil Dead or Biozombie in my book as being one of the coolest, if not goofiest horror films ever. This was one of my favorite Peter Jackson films of all time. I still need to see Tokyo Gore Police though. What could possibly be better than sliced head? LOFL
December 09, 2009
sliced...never mind. I don't wana get nixed. LOL
December 02, 2009
Never has the art of flesh stretching and arterial spray been better than in this film... and the Evil Dead movies, of course. Literally, a killer review, Woo. Love those images. You should sneak a few of them into your Christmas review and see what happens. Mwa-ha-haha-ha-hah-ha! >=D
December 03, 2009
LOL! You are so evil...maybe I will just do that.
December 03, 2009
Evil, me? Never! I'm just a little deviant, that's all.
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 . October 21, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
The Goriest Zombie Comedy Ever Made?
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 …
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 …
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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
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