Dead Alive [a.k.a. Braindead] (1992)

Peter Jackson

Tim Balme - Lionel Cosgrove
Diana Penalver - Paquita
Elizabeth Moody - Vera Cosgrove
Ian Watkin - Uncle Les
Stuart Devenie - Father McGruder
Brenda Kendall - Nurse McTavish

Genre - Horror/Comedy/Romance/Zombie

Running Time - 97 Minutes

Score - 4 Howls Outta 4

I don't think there's a day that goes by where I don't think of death. Not about how or why - but what will happen after death. Will I be reincarnated? Will I see Heaven or Hell, or will my soul be stuck in Limbo? Is there even anything after death? Those are questions that will probably never be answered.

After my grandma passed almost three years ago, my mom told me that she'd want to be cremated instead of having a burial. Thinking of the day when my mom will pass on to something else isn't exactly a pleasant thought. But after watching the fantastic New Zealand cult classic DEAD ALIVE, I realized that there's a possible third option: turn her into a flesh eating zombie and lock her away in my basement so she wouldn't be able to spread the disease. That way, my mom will always be around. But then again, I wouldn't want my mom to grow into some giant zombie and show me her large breasts and her bare ass. There are just some things I will not tolerate.

Lionel Cosgrove (Tim Balme), a shyfully innocent young man, lives with his widowed and snooty mother, Vera (Elizabeth Moody), in 1957 New Zealand. She sends him on errands, which causes Lionel to meet a store clerk named Paquita (Diana Penalver). The two, having an uncomfortable exchange at first, start to fall for each other [with some help from fortune telling of course]. Lionel invites Paquita to the local zoo for their date, which doesn't please Vera all that much. Vera follows them on their date, spying on them and thinking of ways to interrupt before things go any further. She doesn't have to think long as Vera leans against a monkey cage, where she is bitten by the rare Sumatran Rat Monkey. Infected, the monkey bite makes Vera fatally ill. She dies [skin falling off and all] and turns into a flesh eating zombie.

Lionel, not wanting to murder his mother, decides to keep her in the basement after she's buried six feet under. The problem is that Vera keeps getting out of the basement and biting people and infecting them. Lionel, not wanting the truth coming out, hides those zombies in his basement as well. But when Lionel's Uncle Les (Ian Watkin) wants his piece of the inheritance, he discovers Lionel's secret and blackmails him with him. Lionel gives in to Les' demands, which makes Les throw a big party at the estate to celebrate. Unfortunately, zombies love to party too...

is probably one of the best zombie films ever filmed. Directed by a pre-LORD OF THE RINGS Peter Jackson, DEAD ALIVE is not only disgustingly bloody and gory, but pretty funny as well. It never tries to scare the viewer but makes them join in on the fun by laughing at the off-color remarks and situations that Lionel is put through once the zombie invasion starts to grow. It's perverse genius, if that's even possible.

The story is pretty brilliant. This is really a romantic comedy disguised as a zombie flick. The love sub-plot between shy Lionel and the very forward Paquita drives the film from beginning to end. In fact, it's the reason for the whole zombie infestation to begin with. And while the romance between Lionel and Paquita is pretty sudden, it's extremely cute and you like the two together. Their interactions and the way they fight the zombies at the end to save each other is totally believable. You realize that those tarot cards that Paquita looked at which said that Lionel was her true love weren't far off. They balance each other really well and it helps the story alot.

The other characters in the film are great too. The mother is a snobby bitch who treated Lionel like crap. Then there's that Kung-Fu priest (Stuart Devenie) who kicks ass for the Lord and pretty much takes out a trio of zombies as if he channeled the spirit of Bruce Lee. I couldn't stop laughing at how ridiculous it was watching a man of the cloth dismantling zombies in a way that Jackie Chan and Jet Li are probably in awe of. Just a great moment in the film. And probably the best character in the film is the zombie baby. A truly demonic motherfucker that loved causing trouble, as if he were in some Looney Tunes episode. The scene where Lionel takes the baby to the park is probably the ultimate highlight of the entire film, as the slapstick doesn't end for a straight five minutes. Watching this evil baby fly in the air due to a see-saw and get punched by Lionel in the face by onlookers is a sight to behold. It's not cool to laugh at child abuse like that, but in this situation, laughing is the only option. Even his appearance during the conclusion is funny as hell. If I had a Top 3 for Zombie characters, Zombie Baby would be right there with Bub from DAY OF THE DEAD and Tar Man from THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD.

And the dialogue is absolutely great. One-liners here and there and everything is over the top. The film never takes itself seriously at all and it's definitely for the best. It actually reminded me alot of EVIL DEAD 2 in how the humor was presented with the horror. And when a film is compared to EVIL DEAD 2 in a good way, you got something special here.

The FX by Richard Taylor are awesome. No CGI here. Just puppets, claymation, and good ol' fashioned fake blood spurting all over the place. The zombies look very cartoonish in nature, which helps reflect the cartoonish situation Lionel is stuck to deal with. I loved the way the body parts were chopped off. Decapitations and severing limbs never looked cooler. Plus you get a lot of blood. I mean, buckets of it. Especially during the conclusion which lasts close to 30 minutes. Just blood everywhere and it's a thing of absolute beauty. I honestly wish more horror films were still being made like this. CGI just ruins everything and makes things faker than what they should be. Give me puppets and claymation any day.

Peter Jackson, who's made some great films, probably hasn't made one as good as DEAD ALIVE. BAD TASTE, THE FRIGHTENERS, all three LORD OF THE RINGS films, and the KING KONG remake all had great direction. But DEAD ALIVE, in my opinion, is the top of the mountain. There's just so much heart and soul being put in this film. From the crazy angles, to the look and feel of the film that makes you believe this could be taking place in 1957, to the last minutes of the film where Jackson just goes all out and throws everything he can grab a hold of into the film is a work of genius. It's like a celebration of blood and guts with comedy mixed in between. Sam Raimi has this ability, and so does Peter Jackson. Everything just clicks here.

The acting is also excellent here. Tim Balme is believable as the shy and nervous Lionel. He looks like a guy you could easily push around, but ends up being a bad ass when it comes to his lawn mower. Grass fears this man, lemme tell ya! Diana Penalver is very cute as Paquita as I liked the spunk she injected into the character. She wasn't the stupid token girlfriend. She had a purpose here and was used perfectly in the film as Lionel's love interest. Elizabeth Moody was a blast as Vera. She's probably what Paris Hilton will turn into when she's older. I wanted to slap this woman silly, but I was laughing too much to bother. Ian Watkin as Uncle Les had some good scenes as well when it came to fighting zombies with cleavers and chasing the Zombie Baby around the house. He played a creep really well too. And he got kicked in the balls three times. What a trooper. And Stuart Devenie was hilarious as Father McGruder. He should be the Pope. I'd buy into his religion.


- Some tribal dudes wanted a dangerous monkey set free from its cage. I agree. Having your monkey in a tight, confined area is very uncomfortable. That's why I wear boxers over briefs and spank it when it's bad.

- Some white dude got his hand, arm, and head chopped off after the monkey bit him. I'm going off on a limb here...but that whole situation probably sucks.

- A fortune teller told Paquita that she's going to meet the man of her dreams and be with him forever. I was told the same thing years ago and the "woman of my dreams" ended up being a drag queen. Fuckin' con artist. That's the last time I ever trust Miss Cleo!

- Don't ever eavesdrop on your son's date. The consequences will bite you in the ass. Or in the arm. Whichever comes first.

- Just a reminder: When your skin starts to fall apart, it means you're turning into a zombie. When your skin starts losing pigment, it means you have vitiligo. When your skin starts to fall apart and lose pigment, it means you're Michael Jackson. I just wanted to make that clear.

- Don't urinate on someone's grave. The corpse will be pissed in more ways than one.

- Don't ever mess with a priest. Remember the Eleventh Commandment: The power of the Lord thou kicketh your ass!

- Some blonde zombie chick got pushed into a light bulb, lighting up her entire body. If she were alive, I'm sure she would have appreciated being seen as "bright" for a change.

- The best way to take out an army of zombies is by using the blade from a lawn mower. You'll be a true Slayer when it starts "Raining Blood".

- A child is supposed to come out of their mother, not go back inside and force their way out again. That isn't the reincarnation I had in mind.

is a must-see for anybody who loves horror-comedies involving zombies and a lot of gore. It's also interesting to see how far Peter Jackson has come since this film. Who knew he would be an Oscar-winning director making big budget films? If you want to see a zombie film not directed by George A. Romero, you can't go wrong with DEAD ALIVE. It'll make you laugh and hurl at the same time. If you can't handle that, go watch some PG-13 remake of a much better film, you wuss! As a matter of fact, it's playing in my basement. It'll be bloody fun...trust me...


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  2. this is the second greatest horror film of all time, only george a. romero`s 1985 masterwork "day of the dead" is a better film.


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