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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Day 358: Dead Alive

Dead Alive

“Horror movies are nothing but violence and blood.” Horror may be one of the most maligned genres in all of cinema. There are those who want to blame scary movies for all of society's failings and those who regard them as nothing more than filth. We know that this is not true. Horror movies can be beautiful, poetic pieces of entertainment that can make us laugh, cry, scream, and yell. The same can't be said for some other genres. The point is that despite the blood and gore horror movies are not just splatterfests, dumping gallons of blood and guts in front of the screen to the delight of weirdos and neerdowells. Unless of course, that's the entire point of the movie.

Dead Alive (also known as Braindead) is a 1992 New Zealand zombie movie written and directed by Peter Jackson (Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit). The film stars Timothy Balme (The Tattooist, Mercy Peak) as Lionel Cosgrove and Diana Penalver (El comisario, Mediterraneo) as Pauita Maria Sanchez. An explorer visits Skull Island and captures the legendary Sumatran Rat-Monkey, a hideous creature who, legend has it, came about when large rats infested the island and raped all the monkeys. Natives try to stop him from leaving with the monkey, but he evades them only to be bitten in the hand by the monkey. His assistants chop off his hand to prevent the effects from spreading, but upon seeing scratches on his head, they are forced to kill him. The rat-monkey is then shipped to the Wellington Zoo in New Zealand to be put on display. Lionel Cosgrove, a Wellington resident, lives with his domineering mother Vera (Elizabeth Moody, The Lord Of The Rings, The Scarecrow) and has very little in the way of a personal life. He meets Paquita at a local shop who quickly falls in love with him after he fulfills a prophecy given to her by her grandmother. They go on a date to the Wellington Zoo where Vera follows them. She gets too close to the Rat-Monkey and is bitten on the arm. Lionel takes her home to care for her, but her condition quickly deteriorates. He calls a nurse to check on her, but Vera, now a ravenous zombie, kills the nurse, turning her as well. He keeps them sedated in his basement, but Vera escapes into the general population. She is hit by a trolly and Lionel is forced to tranquilize her during the funeral. That night, he returns to the graveyard to tranquilize her again, only to be attacked by hoodlums. Vera rises from the grave and turns the gang into zombies. Father Jon McGruder (Stuart Devenie, The Frighteners, Jack Of All Traders) uses kung-fu to fight off the zombies, proclaiming, “I kick ass for the Lord!” Unfortunately, Father McGruder is also turned into a zombie and Lionel is forced to keep him in his basement. Lionel's uncle Les (Ian Watkin, Charlotte's Web, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys) pays him a visit and discovers the zombies. He blackmails Lionel into giving up the house and inheritance in exchange for keeping quite. Lionel poisons and buries the zombies while Les throws a party at the house. The zombies awaken and start attacking the partygoers. Will Lionel and Paquita be able to stop the zombies before they spread throughout the country?

At least his jacket is still in one piece

Dead Alive is possibly one of the goriest films ever made. When someone describes a movie as being too gory, just point to Dead Alive and say “Is it gorier than this?” The movie has gallons of spraying blood, dismemberment, slashing, and flesh-eating all in the name of fun. If that sounds too tame, there movie is famous for a scene where Lionel uses an upturned lawn mower to shred a horde of zombies in what can only be described as the blood version of Old Faithful. The film is loaded with obscene violence, but presented in such a way that you can't help but laugh. Whether is a priest using martial arts or Lionel trying to feed zombies, the movie is full of legitimately funny scenes. Granted, there are some things in the movie that don't work, like the pile of guts chasing after Lionel or just about anything involving the zombie baby the shows up later in the film. Things progress at a quick pace which helps keep the movie going since the plot is fairly simple. 

Red Skull, is that you?

To the fans of The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit, it may come as a shock that Peter Jackson was involved in such a crazy movie. If you can get past the shock of such intense violence, you can see Jackson's creativity and keen eye. He includes lots of odd angles and plenty of closeups to really capture the emotion and overall strangeness of the movie. The movie has a good balance of action, comedy, and horror which should appeal to fans from different genres. There is also a nice little romance between Lionel and Paquita. Towards the end of the movie, the story is pushed to the side for the extended zombie fighting. It's a fun culmination, but there is no real progression until Vera reappears at the end. The acting is good by everyone involved which is impressive considering the movie traverses various different genres. The special effects, makeup, and prosthetics used in the movie are truly impressive and far better than any computer could do. The film quality is a bit dated, making the movie appear to be from the early 80's rather than the 90's. 

He'll need a lot of club soda to get that out

Dead Alive is a wild, gore-filled horror movie that has almost as many laughs as it does horrible acts of violence. Squeamish types may want to stay away because the movie is filled with more blood and guts than some medical school text books. Throughout all of this, though, the movie retains it's sense of humor with a mixture of slapstick, physical comedy, and clever lines. Director Peter Jackson captures the horror as well as the laughs while including a bit of romance and action. The special effects look great and are the real star of the movie. Without that effort and skill, the movie wouldn't be as good as it is. If you can, seek out the original version of the film under the Braindead title as it has extended scenes and even more gory violence. Dead Alive is a fun horror movie with an absurd amount of violence and is highly recommended.