A young man's mother dies and comes back to life as a
flesh-eating zombie after she's bitten by an exotic monkey.
Dead Alive (1992)
Directed by Peter Jackson
Written by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Stephen Sinclair
Starring Timothy Balme, Diana Peñalver, Elizabeth Moody,
Ian Watkin, Brenda Kendall, Stuart Devenie
Turns out when you give the director of Bad Taste a decent budget, you end up with the goriest film of all time. Before Peter Jackson lifted Middle-Earth off the page and into moviegoers' hearts forever, he was the guy who had a horde of zombies get massacred with a push mower, and a baby zombie climb into a woman's head. I honestly don't know where to start with this insane, over-the-top, putrid gorefest. Unforgettable isn't a strong enough word. This cult classic is the epitome of gross-out horror, and I mean that with the utmost respect. Dead Alive (or Braindead as it's known across the pond) is not your mother's zombie movie. It's 100% balls to the wall insane.
Lionel (Balme) is a soft-spoken, lonely man whose entire life is beholden to his overbearing nightmare of a mother Vera (Moody). When Lionel meets the charming and beautiful Paquita (Peñalver), things start looking up. Until his mother is bitten by the highly dangerous Sumatran rat-monkey, turning her into a bloodthirsty zombie. Lionel tries to hide it, but only succeeds in making things worse. Soon, Lionel and Paquita must face a horde of the undead in the bloodiest scene in horror history. You've got zombies getting ripped to shreds by the mower, arms popping out the backs of mouths, a baby zombie wreaking havoc, creepy Uncle Les (Watkin) getting hit in the balls at least five times and then ending up as a walking fucking spine. I could go on.
Dead Alive is not for the faint of heart. If you're not a bona fide gorehound, you'll probably vomit a few times. Otherwise, you'll likely laugh your ass off at the sheer absurdity of this cult classic. Peter Jackson is truly a jack of all trades. To make something like this just nine years before Fellowship of the Ring is astonishing. This film truly kicks ass for the Lord.
Way before he was using the picturesque scenery of New Zealand as the backdrop for the Lord of the Rings films, Peter Jackson was honing his filmmaking skills with gross-out horror movies that he fondly refers to as his "Naughty Films". The first was his debut Bad Taste then came the hilariously lewd puppet flick Meet the Feebles and then came Dead Alive. These movies are so different from what Peter Jackson is known for in Hollywood that most folks are shocked to get this information. My first Peter Jackson movie was The Frighteners before I saw his hobbit flicks. Then I was shown his early works and I was blown away.
We open on Skull Island, yes THAT Skull Island, where a scientist is taking a Sumatran rat-monkey amidst heavy protest from the local tribe. In the hustle of his retreat, he is bitten by the disgusting critter and immediately dismembered by his guides because they know that the bite is bad news. The rat-monkey makes it onto a plane bound for New Zealand and that is where our story takes place. Lionel (Balme) lives with his overbearing, bitch of a mother, Vera, (Moody) who controls every aspect of his life with equal parts guilt and manipulation. This movie, at its core, is a love story about Lionel and Paquita (Penalver) triumphing amidst a steadily growing horde of zombies that Lionel is trying to keep in his basement.
This movie slowly spirals out of control from the moment Lionel's mother is bitten by the rat-monkey after spying on Lionel and Paquita on a date at the zoo. Even as his mother is slowly falling apart, he glues her face flap on at one point and tries to hide her from the local nurse until it's too late. Lionel tries his best to keep things contained in his basement but it's bound to fail and it does in spectacularly gory fashion. There are rumors that the end of this movie used somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 GALLONS of fake blood for the finale and I believe them.
If you ever wondered what a kung-fu priest looked like fighting zombies, this movie has you covered. Ever pondered how zombie mating works? Again, Peter Jackson answers your question! To say this movie is over-the-top is stating the obvious but where this flick really shines is the actual story. Lionel's relationship with his mother reminds you of Norman Bates and his mother but instead of turning into a psycho, Lionel becomes rather heroic by the end and stands up for himself and Paquita even after his mother turns into a literal monster. And while this movie is super gory, it is fun and never takes itself seriously which is its strongest attribute. After watching his early films, it's crazy to think this guy has helmed a remake of King Kong (which he nods to this movie in with a crate labeled "Sumatran Rat-monkey") and created six epic films that made him a household name in Hollywood. Any horror fan worth their salt knows where Peter Jackson's roots are and you owe it to yourself to sit back and get naughty with him, you won't be disappointed.