Back in 1992 a little known writer director by the name of Peter Jackson released his third feature length film entitled ‘Dead Alive‘ (or Brain Dead in the UK).
It started with Bad Taste in 1987. A super low budget sci-horror-comedy that was full of cheese, nonsensical characters and over the top violence which included all manner of horrible, head exploding, entrail pulling, brain eating action.
Bad Taste followed in the footsteps of the popular Troma films and although it came from New Zealand and was made with a budget of only $30,000 it fast became a cult hit.
Dead Alive built on the success of Bad Taste and armed with a bigger budget and a somewhat better cast and crew Jackson left behind aliens with a taste for human flesh in favour of zombies with a taste for human flesh.
Dead Alive’s story follows Lionel Cosgrove, a man who lives with his domineering mother, Vera. They reside in a small New Zealand town and Vera is very proper, caring little for her son but caring a lot about her reputation in the community. When Lionel falls in love with Paquita – an immigrant and fellow store worker – Vera is enraged and it’s when she follows the pair on a date to the zoo that’s she’s bitten by a hideous Sumatran Rat-Monkey.
Sadly for Vera, the rat-monkey is carrying a virus that transforms her into a ravanous, decaying zombie hell-bent on killing and eating any human in her vicinity. And as she does so, infecting other respectable members of the community, poor Lionel is left trying to cover up the mess and keep his mother sedated (he can’t bring himself to kill her).
Things soon get out of control and downtrodden Lionel must step up to save his love and human kind from the bloody menace that has taken residence in his home.
The film is an unrelenting splatterfest, from zombie babies being booted from pillar to post to intestines that have a murderous mind of their own. And the final act involving a lawn mower is something to marvel at.
Dead Alive is right up there in the gore stakes, a film that sits atop a mountain of body parts gazing down upon those other, lesser films that try and fail to deliver a film that both fun and filled with explosive carnage.
It’s one of those bat shit crazy, low budget films that somehow just works.
The acting is bad, the storyline is random and surreal and the gore and violence is insane and extreme. But once you’re desensitised to the copious amounts of puss, puke and oozing blood it’s possible to see beyond the dark tale with its bleak consequences and enjoy the lighter aspects… It’s a love story with Lionel running around in what is essentially a farcical, slapstick adventure where death and dismemberment are used to amuse rather than disturb the audience.
Dead Alive has many similarities to Jackson’s premiere outing into film, with plenty of feverish action and odd personalities. And it’s interesting to note that Jackson obviously had a penchant for bolidy fluids (thankfully not so much with his interpretation of Middle Earth).
But what is interesting is just how much of a leap forward he made between the two films. It’s obvious that he was able to identify the successes of Bad Taste and fine tune them for the bigger budget venture. The end result is a film that is far more polished, enthralling and enjoyable. Let’s face it, as gore movies go, this is pretty much flawless.
This is essential viewing for every horror fan. And even if you have a weak stomach, you’ll undoubtedly still enjoy every minute.