Monday, November 9, 2009

Dead Alive or Braindead (Review)

     I'm always looking for new, or new to me, zombie movies, so my Netflix queue is ripe with potentially disappointing, less than B-movie grade, suck fests.  I had slightly higher hopes, however, for one of Peter 'Nerd of the Rings' Jackson's early works, "Braindead" or "Dead Alive," as it is known in the US, and I was actually surprised at how bad a lot of this movie wasn't, and very surprised at how bad other parts were.

     Written and directed by Peter Jackson, "Dead Alive" is a lot of plot and the goriest, bloodiest, and sickest ending I have ever seen.  After watching this movie, I sincerely hope that Peter Jackson has since gotten some serious, psychiatric help. 

     "Dead Alive" is about a timid man, living with his (s)mother.  The mother gets bitten by the worst special effect in the entire movie, a stop motion, cursed, Sumatran rat-monkey, and she slowly degraded into an undead, zombie like creature.  She then kills her nurse and turns her into a zombie as well, and we are halfway through the movie with very little action and almost no zombies.  Another quarter of the way in, and we have three more zombies and an hint of the twisted depravity to come in the form of a newly born zombie baby, which is the product of zombie 'love.'  (Really Mr. Jackson, really?)  The last quarter is a non stop blood bath with unspeakable atrocities being committed upon zombie and human alike.

     Now, don't get me wrong.  I'm not opposed to a good blood bath, and I understand that we are not supposed to be taking this movie seriously.  Any time that a zombie's intestinal tract spills out on the bathroom floor, and then begins to pursue the main character, taking on a distinct, zombie persona of its own, I realize that this is not a serious horror movie.  The problem that I had with "Dead Alive," however, was that it seemed like every single kill, of any type, had to be unique.  The entire last quarter of this movie was almost like a neglected child, crying out for attention, and when he does not get any, he commits ever increasingly, disturbing acts in the hope that, surely, they won't be able to ignore this or, even worse, like there is no one there to control Peter Jackson's imagination and he is feeding on himself, trying to outdo every kill with the next kill, with no limit to just how depraved it might become.  There is no one to say, "Hey, maybe we shouldn't have the zombie explode and liquefy as it hits the ground" or "Hey, maybe they shouldn't keep kicking the upper half of that guy's head around" or even, "Hey, maybe we don't need to shred zombies in a lawnmower."  Once again, normally, I wouldn't have a problem with any one, or even some of what happens in the last quarter of "Dead Alive," however, with each zombie kill more gruesome and bloody than the previous ones, it rapidly reached a point where I had had enough, and Peter Jackson, it seems, was just getting warmed up.

     On a more positive note, I do have to give Mr. Jackson credit where credit is due.  For an extremely low budget, campy, gore-fest, the story is better than it should be, the characters are better than they should be, and the special effects, while completely disgusting, are better and more realistic than B-movies with much larger budgets.  Peter Jackson is a talented movie maker, and it shows in this early work.  (He's also one sick puppy.)

     Fans of disgusting splatter-fests and gore will want to see "Dead Alive" again and again.  Everyone else, I'd suggest you just skip it, or self medicate first.  (Don't do drugs, kids, and don't watch "Dead Alive.")

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