Dead Alive (1992)

PETER JACKSON

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5

Original Title: Braindead

, 1992. , , . Story by , Screenplay by Stephen Sinclair, , Peter Jackson. Cinematography by . Produced by . Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by . Film Editing by .

This early Peter Jackson film , the first to set him up on the international stage, is a darkly funny comedy that also provides some of the most disgusting imagery you will ever see, and does so without stop for almost 90 hilarious minutes. Set in the late 1950s, it gets underway when a sweet bachelor named Lionel takes his domineering, elderly mother Vera on a visit to the zoo, during which she is bitten by the recently acquired Sumatran rat-monkey (a creature presented by delightfully creative stop-motion animation) who reaches through his cage and feasts on her arm. The bandaging on the wound seems to do the trick until it becomes clear that Vera has an infection of sorts from the injury, which quickly turns her into a pus and gore spewing zombie who goes on to infect just about everyone she comes into contact with. Lionel is thankfully spared, but Vera hasn’t lost her Oedipally-tinged dominance over him and the romance he has just sparked with Paquita, who runs the grocery store across the street, is in that much more trouble considering the outsized opposition it’s going to receive. Before long the old Victorian mansion that the main characters live in turns into a monster’s ball with endless bodies shooting out geysers of blood, faces being bashed in, throats slit, limbs distorted, any combination of horrific perversion you can imagine being done to a human body is on display…and for some reason, the sweetness at its core, of both the romance and the plight of this lonely young fellow to free himself from being under the thumb of his relentless matriarch, is something the director never loses touch with. Jackson’s mastery over the technical aspects of this technically overwhelming film are particularly impressive given that he and his team, most of whom would continue on with him to the glories of the Lord of the Rings films, are working with a very limited budget, but as would remain constant in most of his future work, he also keeps a handle on the tone of the piece and keeps adequate focus on the characters’ personalities.

Toronto International Film Festival: 1992

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