Movie Reviews 232 – Dead Alive (1992)

Dead Alive (Braindead)Long before director Peter Jackson became famous for filming hobbits, orcs, trolls and some fancy story about a ring (good Lord!) he put together a lowly special effects laden horror comedy called Dead Alive and the world hardly noticed… at least at first. But over the years the horror romantic comedy began to be noticed and finally get the recognition it deserves.

Set in 1957 in a picturesque New Zealand port city of Wellington, a mysterious ‘Sumatran rat-monkey’ is brought to the local zoo after being snatched from the Indonesian Island.

Paquita María Sánchez (Diana Peñalver) runs a local corner store and takes interest in timid Lionel (Timothy Balme), a young man under the thumb of his domineering, prim and proper mother Vera (Elizabeth Moody).  Wanting to scuttle the burgeoning relationship, Vera follows the couple on a date at the zoo and gets attacked by the rat-monkey just before it gets it’s skull crushed by the zookeeper. But the bite on Vera’s arm isn’t healing under the bandages, and overnight becomes a big gaping hole of oozing puss. As she vainly tries to maintain her composure entertaining members of a social society the next day, her appendages begin falling off at an alarming rate.

Hoping to hide his mother’s affliction from everyone, Lionel tries to end his relationship with Paquita, but once again mom (or what’s left of her) interferes, only to be run down in the streets. But Lionel brings his evidently living dead mom and hides her in the basement. She is soon joined by the house nurse that was helping Lionel and a few other mother-created zombies after hoodlums try to desecrate a hastily dug grave in which Lionel tries to dispose of her.

Lionel discovers that his zombie horde can be temporarily pacified with injections of anesthetics that he repeatedly pumps into them, but when the zombies start procreating and give birth to a giggling beastly baby, even he can barely contain his sordid situation.

With a sizable inheritance that includes the house, Lionel is visited by his garish uncle who turns the screws on him when he discovers Lionel’s throng of zombies locked below. The uncle decides to celebrate his fortunes by having a raucous party, which ends up with almost every one of his guests being turned into living dead in a slapstick comedy sequence of wild chases, screams and flaying body parts. The end to the party culminates with Lionel coming to the rescue, doing for lawn mowers what Evil Dead’s Ash did for chainsaws.

The real stars are the low brow caricature creatures including multiple versions of the ever degenerating Vera who eventually transforms into a behemoth of quivering flesh. The boastful buckets of blood makes the party scene memorable, but it’s the non-stop fun that make this entire kiwi delight unforgettable.

I should point out that the original movie title of Braindead had to be renamed for North American release due to another movie of the same name, so keep you eye out for both titles.

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