Tuesday, June 15, 2010

#29-Dead Alive (1992)

Dead Alive

Before he went all crazy, making those silly Academy Award Winning Lord Of The Rings movies, Australian director Peter Jackson had a fairly nice career making crowd-pleasing horror film. His most famous of which are Bad Taste and Dead Alive. While these two films didn’t make much of a splash stateside during their theatrical release, they did soon become cult classics, and made a killing on DVD.

Dead Alive is known to most by a different title. One that is a little more catchy, being Braindead. It was put out under Braindead in most regions of the world, nearly all in fact except America where it was changed to Dead Alive, which makes it sound more cheesy than it should. Even though this movie has enough cheese to make Kraft jealous.

The plot that the film follows can be easily claimed by almost any zombie flick. On a trip to a remote jungle, a zoologist uncovers a strange breed of monkey, which at that point attacks both him and his crew. Somehow the monkey catches a ride on a boat and makes it way to land, where it is promptly caught and placed in a zoo. Enter a young man with an over protective Mom, a crush on the girl next door, a heart full of gold, and a body full of clumsy. Lionel decides to take his girlfriend on a date, and go to the zoo of course, but his always knifing mother is there to put a stop to things, and subsequently gets bitten by a Sumatran Rat-Monkey. She gets ill, passes on, and then comes back, only to bite and infect more people with this strange disease from a distant land.

"I've got some Cure-All in the Jeep."

Obviously, Dead Alive isn’t one of the most original films to grace the screen. In fact, its plot has been done several times, near to death, but it just keeps coming (he-he). The screenplay, weak as it may be, is always fun. Now fun doesn’t mean good. It’s full of inconsistencies, impossibilities, voice-overs, terrible dialogue, and to many deux ex machinia’s to count. Our hero begins as a bumbling idiot, and somehow becomes a leading class strong-man in the course of about three days. He also has the keen ability to get the girl, end his mom, and save the day. Like I said, fun doesn’t mean good. But in the life of a film critic, sometimes its nice to just sit back and watch some stupid without a care in the world.

That being said, for what it is, Dead Alive is an excellent film. It obviously knows what it wants to do and does that perfectly. It has a certain vulnerability at its heart that entrances the audience into rooting for the characters, and hoping for the survival of their favorites. It may be one of the best zombie films made. It’s intentionally funny and self-referential, the humor doesn’t always hit, but when it does, it hits spot on. The film is also unrelentingly grueling, gory and violent. Peter Jackson knows how to direct violence, he puts things at the perfect angle, sets up just the right shot, gets the gore, and doesn’t let up. He isn’t afraid to cover the screen in gooey red, or green, or even white. (yes white, one of the more disgusting scenes in the film)

Not a whole lot else matters in a zombie film like this. The film sets it sites, and hits its mark. It knows what it does, does it perfectly and nothing else. You cannot hate a zombie movie for being a zombie movie, especially a good one. It is wholesome, mindless, brain-bashing, gut-munching, side-killing fun, that never lets up and never holds back. Peter Jackson can have his cake and eat it too, as he knows how to direct fun, entertaining horror films, and win some Academy Awards too.

I Give Dead Alive A:


  1. I agree with this. I'm always suprised upon revisting this film just how funny and weird it is. It would be nice to see Peter Jackson return to a smaller horror/comedy like this as Sam Raimi did with Drag Me to Hell. It might be just what his career needs after the failure of The Lovely Bones.

  2. I hope he does! The comparison to Raimi is great, I was surprised by how much I liked Drag Me To Hell, I still can't say it matches up to Evil Dead, but it was an excellent come back to the comedy-horror genre he helped create.