Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.
Horror comedy is its own thing. While it’s not always the case, many a horror comedy is also filled with gross out material. Much of that may stem from the seminal Dead Alive (also called Braindead. Dead Alive is the bloodiest movie ever made, at least for its time. It’s entirely possible that something has taken over that title, but it would require a staggering amount of stage blood to overcome the amount of blood and body parts on display here.
What makes this more entertaining is that this was done by Peter Jackson, who would go on to do the Lord of the Rings movies with such class. Jackson is obviously capable of creating films that are serious and meant to be taken seriously. But Dead Alive is not that film in any way, shape, or form. This is a complete bloodbath, something that needs to be seen to be believed. This is Evil Dead ramped up to an astonishing degree. We don’t get an arm with a chainsaw attachment here—we literally get…well, I don’t want to say if you haven’t seen it. If you have, you know the balletic bloody ending. If you haven’t, I don’t want to spoil it.
We open with an explorer capturing a Sumatran rat monkey, a horrible creature capable of infecting anything it bites. Our explorer gets bitten, and his crew cuts off the bitten hand, sees another bite and cuts off his arm, then sees a bite on his head and removes that as well. Flash forward to the present. Lionel Cosgrove (Timothy Balme) lives with his mother (Elizabeth Moody), who is a classic overbearing mother, doing everything she can to keep her son under her thumb.
Meanwhile young Paquita (Diana Penalver) is told by her grandmother via tarot cards that she will have one great love in her life and he will become known to her by the symbol on the taro card. As it happens Lionel walks into the family shop, and through a strange coincidence, causes that sign to appear with some spilled items. Paquita is immediately smitten despite being told that her one romance will be fraught with danger.
That danger naturally comes from Lionel’s mother. When he and Paquita go to the zoo together, she follows them and spies on them. And, because we need a zombie apocalypse here, she is bitten by the Sumatran rat monkey that was nonetheless sent to this zoo in New Zealand despite the death of the explorer at the beginning. Naturally, mom dies a slow death as she becomes infected by the rat monkey’s bite, and because this is a zombie film, she also reanimates.
Jackson’s zombies are considerably different from those we may be used to in films. They are a lot more…frangible. Essentially, they fall apart very easily as if completely rotten despite being animated. Additionally, their various body parts remain animated even if detached. Once his mother reanimates, Lionel does what he can to keep the problem under control by feeding her tranquilizers to at least get him through the funeral and burial. But, of course, she’s not really all the way dead, and soon there’s something like a zombie outbreak, which Lionel keeps contained in his house by keeping all of the zombies tranquilized as best he can.
Things, of course, get out of hand. That’s exactly what we expect to have happen, and that’s what does happen, with unbelievably bloody and insane consequences. Much of the problem ends up coming from Lionel’s uncle Les (Ian Watkin), who discovers the zombie problem and uses this to extort the house and the inheritance from Lionel. Then Les throws a party in the house, and since there are zombies in the basement, it’s not long before the party goers are all going to be turned into rotting zombies with detached body parts.
Dead Alive is gross. There’s no other way to put it. This is a movie that is designed to be as bloody and nasty as possible. We’ve got animated heads, arms, and intestines attacking our heroes throughout the closing scenes. There’s a good deal of claymation going on here as well, something that obviously looks fake, but adds to the fun.
What’s most fun, though, is the amount of creative violence that happens in the closing scenes. Everything really builds up to the almost literal blood bath in the film’s penultimate scenes. This is truly gonzo filmmaking, attempting to either completely gross out the audience with just how nasty this gets or to set the audience roaring with laughter for the same reason. I can see either reaction.
There’s nothing nice or friendly about Dead Alive. It’s sick and twisted and nasty, and it’s great for exactly that reason. It’s a true classic. I don’t want to go into specifics. It’s too much fun to have any of that spoiled if you haven’t seen it. If you have, you already know what I’m talking about.
Why to watch Dead Alive: This is what gonzo horror looks like.
Why not to watch: If you have a weak stomach, avoid!