Braindead / Dead Alive (1992)

Director:  Peter Jackson
Studios:  WingNut Films
Starring:  Timothy Balme, Diana Peñalver, Elizabeth Moody, Ian Watkin
Tagline:  Some Things Won't Stay Down... Even After they Die; You'll Laugh Yourself Sick
MPAA Rating:  Unrated
Genre:  foreign film, horror, thriller, action, zombie, comedy, gore
Scare score:  B
Rating: A-

Plot overview:  Set in New Zealand, the young, persevering Spaniard Paquita María Sánchez (Peñalver) is ready to do whatever she has to to meet her true love after her superstitious mother draws her tarot cards.  As the fates would have it, her true love is destined to be the clumsy and neurotic - but good-hearted - Lionel (Balme) who still lives with (and under the constant oppression of) his mother.  When a virus carried by the rare Sumatran rat-monkey turns Lionel's mum (Moody) into a flesh-craving zombie, the good son still tries his hardest to protect her, even by going to extreme (and ridiculous) measures.  As the virus spreads, however, the increasingly violent zombies become too much to handle, and Lionel and Paquita will have to fight an extremely gory battle for their own lives.

I have to admit I enjoyed this film.  Plain and simply, it was funny, and I found myself both laughing and cringing at its famous gore.  Yes, this film is obviously a cult classic due to its gore - and in my book, the charming New Zealand accents only helped.  Who would expect such a silly - and at times disturbing - movie from Peter Jackson?  That is, Sir Peter Jackson of The Lord of the Rings trilogy?  That is, a respected and honored, prize-winning director, the brains behind this film of silly costumes, bright colors, a corny script, and ridiculous blood and gore?  Wowsas.

The acting was very enjoyable.  I think constantly bracing myself for the gore helped the story itself somehow become a lot more real and the acting much more believable.  I was especially impressed by Balme who does a great job of playing the timid, frightened product of an overbearing (to say the least) mother, only to later switch to slightly crazed yet valiant and rather charming hero.  Peñalver was also a breath of fresh, foreign air with an extremely accurately written part, featuring a particularly enjoyable Spanish diss to the perverted Uncle Les (Watkin).  The zombies, though ultimately I thought they were a bit overkill (I really, really didn't mean that pun), were funny and I appreciated their individuality.

What I most want to know is what is was like to film this movie.  I am mainly referencing the final 'battle' scene when it is the several party guests - headed by Uncle Les, Lionel, and Paquita - against what seems like an endless barrage of bloody, variously dismembered zombies.  When at least 20 people are turned into puree, the entire set looks like the final result of la tomatina, a giant tomato fight. Our protagonists are physically covered in dripping something in various scenes, and Horror Buff just wishes he could speak to them to ask how uncomfortable that was.  I just read that 300 liters of fake blood was used in this final scene alone - that's about 80 gallons, possibly making this the bloodiest film of all time.

Luckily for squeamish viewers - well, I guess I'd still advise for you to stay away - but this isn't gore like we see in Hostel.  Instead, we are treated to a colorful array of '90s gore - like skulls with skin ripped off, entire rib cages removed, and even living intestines who care about their appearance in the mirror.  Once we get past the initial shock of all the gore, it really becomes a rather silly, enjoyable, and action-packed movie, almost reminiscent of Evil Dead from a decade before.  The cheesy script honestly had some great lines, and there was a sort of modest, true comedy lying beneath all the blood and guts.  You can tell Peter Jackson, among others, had fun doing this film, which is always a nice thing to watch.

Fun fact:  In Spanish, the movie title translates to "Your Mother Ate My Dog," which is a line delivered by Paquita after... well I won't spoil it.  Anywho, today someone said to me "Your Mother Ate My Dog," and after a moment of silent confusion we established that they were talking about a movie with a lot of gore.  I kid you not when I tell you my mind went immediately to Dead Alive, which I had only ever read about (the "rebirth" scene, specifically).  Hence why I went home and found it online pretty much immediately.

Final critique:  This film isn't for everyone.  If you can toughen up a bit, and maybe keep a paper bag handy (in case of accidents - the worst for me was probably the early stages of of Mum's sickness and seepage), you will be in for a funny, silly treat of a cult classic.  There is a funny, decent script here, and the final product gives us some acting which, considering the general plot and plausibility of the film, is not bad.  You won't look at pureed tomatoes, kitchen appliances, or lawn mowers the same way again.