Dead Alive (aka Brain Dead) is a 1992 horror/comedy written and directed by Peter Jackson and co-written by Stephen Sinclare. That’s right, before making the groundbreaking Lord of the Rings films and now The Hobbit film trilogy he was making low(er) budget horror films. Among which is this gem and one of my other favorite horror/comedy The Frighteners. But that’s a film for another day. Filmed in New Zeland for approximately 3 million dollars. Dead Alive is said to be the bloodiest movie ever made due the large amount used during production. With 300 liters being used during the final scene of the film.
The film follows Lionel Consgrove (Timothy Balme) trying to keep his overbearing Mum Vera Consgrove (Elizabeth Moody) who becomes a zombie after she’s bite by a Sumerian Rat Monkey. He first tries to simply keep her sedated with tranjilzers but that fan fails in a most spectacular fashion. He even tries feeding and taking care of the zombies his mother created. So even in death he’s trapped. During all of this he trys to keep his new girlfriend Paquita Maria Sanchez (Diana Penalver) from learning about it. While he also deals with his conniving uncle Les (Ian Watkin) who’s also attracted to Paquita. Things only get worse for Lionel after some of the zombies breed and have a zombie baby that he forced to take care of. Events reach the climax after the zombies escape the basement and attack the party going on upstairs leading to a blood soaked conclusion.
The film is surprisingly funny with a few memorable lines like “I kick ass for the lord.” and “Step right up you greebo bastard.”. Much of the comedy falls more into black comedy and slapstick than anything more high brow. But for this film that’s a very big plus. This is not the kind of film you watch to think and grow as a person. This is a movie about gory brain cell killing fun.
Another point I really like is the effects while on the campy, cheesy side they are all very well done. Like I said earlier, this is said to be the bloodiest film ever made and you know what I believe it. The sheer amount of gore in this film is boggling. But as more than 80% of is played up for laughs so it never pushes over the line into gore porn. The effects bare a striking resemblance to The Evil Dead franchise to me. As I watched I kept wondering if any of the members of the Super 8 were involved. As far as I currently know the answer is no.
I had low expectations going into this film in regards to the acting. I heard that the acting was terrible and it brought the whole film down. I’m glad to say I don’t see this as true. While the acting is never Oscar worthy the characters all come off as likable and memorable. Even the characters that I dislike I still very much enjoyed. As far as what the actors were given to work with they did a great job. The actors all hit the same surreal mood and mesh well all playing up both the camp and the horror when it would be easy to do just one or the other.
But what’s my final thoughts on Dead Alive? Well I really enjoyed it. In fact, I enjoyed it far more than I probably should have. I can easily say that this is now one of my guilty pleasure movies. With its low budget, charming actors, laughable story and amazing effects Dead Alive deserves more attention than it gets. I really like that Lionel who’s character archetype is more fitted to a Slasher antagonist (like Norman Bates) then to that of a hero. I have to give this film a solid 9/10. Its simply far too entertaining to give it less, but is far from perfect and that lack of perfection heavily adds to the films charm.