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Dead Alive AKA Braindead

This is a movie that is very close to my heart.  Not only is it widely known as the goriest movie of all time (at least it was in 1992), but the gore is so fake it’s funny, and it was one of Peter Jackson’s first films.  That always surprises people, that Peter Jackson used to do sick B movies.  In a way, I wish he would go back to the good old days when no one in the Northern Hemisphere knew who he was, just so he could make some other sick, twisted, tongue-in-cheek gore.  Say what you will about B movies, but damn it if they aren’t more fun.  It’s so easy to laugh at a movie like this, because you know that the filmmakers want you to enjoy it that way.  My sister and I still quote this movie, even though we haven’t actually watched it in years.  But it sticks in my memory more than a lot of more recent films do, because it knows how to make horror fun.  You sit there and kind of think to yourself, “This is depraved and disgusting, but it’s pretty hilarious watching a zombie walk around with a garden gnome in the place where his head used to be.?  I feel a little guilty sometimes that this movie sticks in my mind more than most Oscar winners or depressing period pieces.  But then I remember how funny it is to watch an old woman eat her own ear in a bowl of custard and spit out her earring almost as an afterthought.  And in the end, that’s what helps me sleep at night, knowing that I don’t take my favorite genre too seriously.

I know a lot of people don’t like excessive gore, but how can you not love a movie featuring a zombie woman with a lightbulb in her head or a priest who “kicks ass for the Lord??  That’s just good filmmaking.  Basically it’s Psycho-meets-Night of the Living Dead.  With great New Zealand accents.  And an old woman who eats a cocker spaniel whole.  And the dog’s name is (was?) Fernando.  You can’t make this stuff up.  Sure, you can watch newer movies that focus on realistic blood and guts, but where’s the fun in that?  I hate watching horror movies where the whole thing is death and blood and despair and there’s no way out.  I like my bloody gore to be lighthearted and fun.

But the most iconic thing about this film for me is the Lawnmower Scene.  And yes, this warrants capitalization, it’s proper MLA format.  When the main character Lionel discovers his house is teeming with zombies, he does what any sensible son would do: he pulls out the hand-push lawnmower and starts effing some stuff up.  Peter Jackson makes this scene, and this whole movie really, with this cute sense of glee, like a ten year old boy who has just discovered how to melt G.I. Joe on a stovetop.  He plays his small cameo in much the same way, with a toothy grin and a hyperactive giggle.  I’ve seen this movie maybe 20 times, and it never gets old.  I recommend this one mostly for people who love comedy/horror or anyone who likes to see buckets of blood spurting through each screen.  (And I really do mean buckets, read the trivia page at imdb.  I can’t do all the research for you.)

Another great thing about this film is that after watching it, you start to notice references to it in other Peter Jackson films.  For example, on the boat in King Kong there’s a crate in the background that reads “DANGER: Sumatran Rat Monkey,? which as any Dead Alive fan can tell you, is the cause of the zombie outbreak.  There are also several references in the Lord of the Rings series, certain angles and face shots are very reminiscent of Dead Alive.

So if you like B movie foreign zombie horror (and I know that’s such a large fanbase), this is the movie for you.  Just look for the box featuring the scared woman’s face with a skull coming out of her mouth.  You’ll know what I mean.

P.S. It’s recently come to my attention that it’s a lot more fun for me (and maybe for the hypothetical reader?) to write reviews of bad horror.  I know I tend to gush when it comes to movies I love, so I try to mix it up, good and bad, and not only say the good things.  But I won’t say anything bad about Dead Alive, because this movie is too close to my own personal taste.  Or lack of taste.


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