Director: Peter Jackson
Cast: Timothy Balme, Diana Peñalver, Elizabeth Moody
Review by Brian M. Sammons
Before the latest King Kong remake, before the massive Lord Of The Rings trilogy, even before the all but forgotten, but still pretty good, The Frighteners, Peter Jackson was known for very weird, usually very funny, and almost always very gory movies, like this one. Known as Braindead almost everywhere outside of the US, and Dead Alive here, this is one of the cultiest of cult movies, and for good reason. Gory, goofy, fun and funny, this has always been one of my favorite splatstick flicks, and now Lionsgate has released an unrated cut of this groovy movie in HD for the first time. Too bad that actually presentation is so lackluster, but before we get to that, on with the movie.
Lionel is a milk toast momma’s boy living with an overbearing, manipulative, royal witch of a mother in New Zealand. Lionel finally musters up the courage to go out on an honest to goodness date with a real girl and naturally his mother not only spies on them, but ruins it. How? By getting bitten by a Rat Monkey from Sumatra, of course. So she naturally plays the pity card and gets her dotting son to take care of her, if for no other reason than to keep Lionel away from the pretty shopkeeper,
Paquita. Little does mommy dearest know about the severity of her wound and before you know it, she’s dead. But that still doesn’t stop her from being a bitch.
Soon others are infected with a bad case of rat monkey zombification, including a hilarious zombie-baby (yes, really) and poor Lionel is trying his best to keep them all locked up in his now boarded up house, feeding and taking care of them, not to mention keeping them loaded on tranquilizers. He does this to not only keep them safe, but to keep the town safe from them. Yeah, how much you want to bet that things soon get out of hand?
Dead Alive has got so much cool going for it, I barely know where to begin. Besides the tons and tons of over-the-top goofy gore gags that give this film its signature splatstick style, there is a love triangle, a bit of fortune telling, a Nazi veterinarian, a kung-fu priest that “kicks ass for the Lord!”, a real killer party, the best use of a lawnmower since Night Of The Creeps, deadly and sentient (and farting) zombie guts, and the aforementioned zombie baby, the offspring of a zombie nurse and a zombie priest doing the (very) nasty. And again, I can’t stress the goopy gore enough in this movie. If you think you’ve seen it all when it comes to blood and guts, trust me, unless you’ve seen Dead Alive, you haven’t.
But as crazy cool as the film is, and it is that and more, this new release from Lionsgate is a big disappointment. It’s as barebones as discs get with the sole “special feature” being a trailer. Wow, way to put forth the extra effort, Lionsgate. Now the important thing is that the movie looks really good, it sounds ok (it’s only in 2.0 but it does sound crisp and clear), and it is unrated so it’s chock full of glorious gore. But still, not a single real extra feature? No one could be bothered to comment on it? No one could be interviewed about this? There weren’t any horror historians or Dead Alive fans that could say ANYTHING about this crazy movie? Yeah I call bull crap on that and this was just because Lionsgate wanted to put this out as cheap as possible, which never makes me a happy camper.
El cheapo Blu-ray release aside, Dead Alive is a great movie, a must have for gorehounds and fans of very black and far beyond sick comedies. For those that only know Peter Jackson from his later, much more family friendly films, this flick will be quite a shock, so take that as a bit of a warning. While I wish this BD had some more, or any, special features on it, at least this film is back out on disc and looking better than ever, so for that reason alone I give this new Blu-ray a very high recommendation.