Time: 104 Minutes
Timothy Balme as Lionel Cosgrove
Diana Peñalver as Paquita María Sánchez
Elizabeth Moody as Vera Cosgrove (Lionel’s mum)
Ian Watkin as Uncle Les (Lionel’s uncle)
Director: Peter Jackson
Overprotective mother Vera Cosgrove (Elizabeth Moody), spying on her grown son Lionel (Timothy Balme), as he visits the zoo with the lovely Paquita (Diana Penalver), is accidently bitten by the fearsome Sumatran rat-monkey. When the bite turns his beloved mother into a zombie, Lionel tries to keep her locked safely in the basement, but her repeated escapes turn most of the neighbours into the walking dead, who then crash a high-society party thrown by Lionel’s boorish Uncle Les (Ian Watkin).
I have been meaning to watch Braindead (also named Dead Alive) for some time. The fact that Peter Jackson directed it was really the main reason, but it’s also quite a standout when it comes to horror movies, especially when it comes those with levels of gore. I ended up having quite a blast with Braindead, a strange, quirky and highly entertaining movie.
Looking at the plot at first, it isn’t anything too special, but the script actually works really well for what it is. From the writing it is absolutely a kiwi movie (you can really tell if you’ve seen a lot of other movies from New Zealand), and is very quotable, with a rather funny script. It is a completely ridiculous movie and you cannot take any of it seriously, like at all. It’s got a dark comic feeling throughout, it’s satirical at point, and it is completely over the top and insane. The third act is where it all shines however, and somehow becomes even more insane than you are used to it being, even by most bloody and gory horror movie standards.
The leads in Timothy Balme and Elizabeth Moody weren’t anything special and especially seem boring when you compare them to pretty much every other character in the film, but they were serviceable on their parts. The supporting cast on the other hand features some wonderfully wacky and silly performances, especially from Elizabeth Moody, Ian Watkins, and Stuart Denvine, and they make the most of their screentime.
Peter Jackson directed Braindead, and with this being his third film, he’s still in his early experimental phase in this point of his career (in the line of his previous movies in Bad Taste and Meet the Feebles). He’s very creative in the way he decided to film many sequences (especially with the camera movements), and the use of practical effects are nothing short of amazing. This has often been called the goriest movie ever made, and at this point I don’t doubt it. The first two acts are pretty over the top and violent as they are (not to mention rather gross and disgusting at points). However, it is the third act where it really pays off, and is truly a blood soaked masterwork. Even having watched so many over the top violent movies, and having glimpsed a couple of brief moments from the climax, I wasn’t expecting the level of gore that this movie delivered. Decapitations, gushing blood, limbs flying everywhere, faces being ripped off, it has it all, and ramps all of it past the expected level.
Clearly, this movie isn’t for the squeamish or those easily grossed out, but for big fans of horror, it is definitely worth watching Braindead, especially if you are a fan of the zombie genre. Peter Jackson’s gorefest of a horror movie is hilariously dark and over the top, with a quirky and quotable script, and is directed creatively. Top that all off with a bloodbath of a climax, and it’s a must watch movie within the horror genre.
Dead Alive is my most favorite of horror films. To me it’s the last movie of the Bronze Age of horror. I just wish Peter Jackson would return to making horror.