Dead Alive: Or, Peter Jackson's Obsession with Bodily Fluids
I've been watching some of Peter Jackson's earlier films lately, and I have decided that Mr. Jackson had an unhealthy obsession with bodily fluids, going on this film and "Meet The Feebles." While that film had a pus-covered rabbit, this one has probably the most fake blood of any movie ever. According to a piece of trivia I heard, there is a scene in this movie where blood was being pumped into the scene at a rate of 5 gallons a second.
Which is to say, if you're squeamish, do not watch this movie. And if you are a gore hound, you probably already have. If you're neither, but you're a fan of Peter Jackson's later works (such as "Heavenly Creatures" or "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy) , and you're in the mood for an incredibly silly horror comedy film, this might be the film for you.
The film opens with a Sumatran Rat Monkey being stolen from Skull Island, with the Wellington Zoo official trying to acquire it being chased by angry natives who insist that a curse will follow if the monkey is removed. When the official is bitten, his assistants butcher him in terror.
The film then shifts to Wellington, where a young man named Lionel Cosgrove (Timothy Balme) live with his overbearing mother (Elizabeth Moody). A Spanish shopgirl named Paquita (Diana Penavalver) is told by her mother that Lionel is her true love, and, intrigued, she pursues him, convincing him to take her out on a date to the zoo.
Lionel's mother, being super-controlling, snoops on them and is bitten by the rat monkey. Her condition worsens until she dies, only to be revived as a zombie. Although Lionel tries to keep her from biting anyone else by constantly shooting her up with tranquilizers, the body count begins to rise. Can Lionel, Paquita, and Lionel's jerk of an uncle Les (Ian Watkin) stop the zombie horde?
First of all, besides the gore this film has a few other problems. For one thing, Lionel is kind of an idiot, not destroying the zombies but constantly trying to keep them sedated, whilst simultaneously keeping the zombies a secret in ways that make him look like an insane jerk. I spent the first two thirds of the movie frustrated that he wasn't chopping the zombies up, instead just prolonging his problem.
But Timothy Balme makes up for it by being a charming fellow. You get why Paquita might be intrigued by this gawky, awkward fellow, as he has a certain geeky appeal. He is devoted to his mother, even though she is something of a controlling bitch, and once he finally sets about to destroying the zombies that have infested his house he proves quite effective with a lawnmower. As for the other characters, Paquita was my favorite, warm while also refusing to take any crap-- which comes up when Lionel boards himself into his house to conceal the zombies. She also proves herself quite resourceful in the film's bloody third act. Although he only has a brief role, the local Anglican priest (who bears an uncanny resemblance to Father Ted Crilly) is amazingly entertaining in all of his scenes. And Uncle Les is the kind of guy you love to hate: selfish, creepy, and all around unpleasant but in an oddly fascinating and fun way. He's a jerk, but an entertaining one.
As for the horror/comedy balance, this film tips very much towards the humor. Very little of this film is scary, except for a few isolated jump scares. The film mostly revels in the disgusting absurdity of zombie fighting, with one zombie being a zombie baby (conceived after its parents had been zombified), another being in essence a collection of organs, and another having her head shorn almost completely off. These zombies look gross, but also silly, so you laugh more than gag. PArts of this film resemble a Looney Toons cartoon, except with the gore turned up to 11. All around, it's a very silly but super-entertaing ride, if you can handle the gore.
If you can, and also can have patience with its rather stupid protagonist, this film is great bloody fun. It's nowhere near the level of skill Jackson displayed in "The Lord of the Rings" movies or in "Heavenly Creatures," but it's a silly good time. Check it out if you're looking for gore and giggles.
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