Blindspot: The Cult of 2013: Dead-Alive

dead_alive I’m doing my blindspot post early this month, since I’m going to be quite busy with the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, which begins tonight, and I wanted to ensure that I watch my film selection before the end of the month.  To go with the spirit of the Halloween season, I’ve decide to go with Peter Jackson’s 1992 “splatstick” horror/comedy Dead-Alive (known as Braindead outside of North America).  The film focuses on Lionel Cosgrove (Timothy Balme), who is a slave to his overbearing mother (Elizabeth Moody).  A relationship begins to bloom between Lionel and his Hispanic neighbour Paquita (Diana Peñalver), which is disapproved by Lionel’s mom.  She confronts the two of them on a date to the zoo and is subsequently bitten by a rare Sumatran rat-monkey.  This begins the transformation of Lionel’s mother into a blood-thirsty zombie and she begins to spread this affliction to others in the town.  Not wanting to be separated by his mother, Lionel opts to hide the zombies in his basement, which lead to some very bloody hijinks. Before he became well-known for directing the Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson was known for directing low-budget horror/comedies in his native New Zealand, with his previous films being 1987’s Bad Taste and 1989’s Meet the FeeblesDead-Alive is arguably the film that put Jackson onto map and this film is quite infamous for the literal buckets of gore during the film’s climax.  Plotwise, the film is nothing to run home about, and in many ways, everything that happens in the first hour of the film is merely just leading up the the bloodbath in the final act.  I would even argue that the film wanes a bit in the second act, which has Lionel trying to hide the zombies and deal with his greedy uncle, who wants his family’s house and money.  However, there are some notable moments early in the film, including a priest fighting zombies with kung-fu, who also says the film’s most memorable line: “I kick ass for the Lord!” Dead-Alive fully comes alive in the third act, when a house party thrown by Lionel’s uncle turns into a zombie swarm.  It is pretty unbelievable how extremely bloody the final 45 minutes or so of the film are.  In the world of the film, zombies stay alive no matter how many pieces they are in and there’s even a section where Lionel finds himself chased by entrails.  While much of the gore in the film is obviously fake, it is still quite gross.  Apparently an R-rated cut of this film exists, however I cannot imagine that it keeps much of the gore.  The big moment in the film comes when Lionel decides to dispatch of the zombies with a lawnmower (while Paquita simultaneously throws zombie parts into a food processor) and the result is probably one of the most bloody scenes you will ever see in a horror film.  I should also add that one of the highlights of the film is a zombie baby, who sort of reminded me of Gremlins in the way he behaves. Overall, I would say that I had a blast watching Dead-Alive and I might be interested in seeing some of Peter Jackson’s other early films.  In fact, part of me wishes that he’ll go back to making these types of horror/comedies, even though it’s quite unlikely.8 | LIKED IT

Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).