It’s that time again, where I watch the entire filmography of the director of the film I’ve been assigned for Cinema 52. Unlike Tony Scott or Robert Zemeckis, however, the director of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring can’t seem to ever release just one cut of his films. So, not only am I cramming twelve movies into one exhausting weekend, but specifically the longest available version of each film. That’s right, it’s not just the complete Peter Jackson… it’s COMPLETER JACKSON. Let’s do this.
IS THIS A PAINFULLY LONG PETER? The longest version you can get in the States is the unrated 97-minute cut, which, yes, let’s talk about it, is titled Dead Alive. The true, proper Braindead is 104 minutes, and good luck finding a DVD of it on Amazon. Seriously, where’s our Region 1 Braindead Blu-ray, New Zealand? This is the guy that made Lord of the Rings. Anyway, I’ve got the unrated 97.
Lionel Cosgrove’s (Timothy Balme) overbearing mother (Elizabeth Moody) follows him on a date to the zoo and is bitten by a Sumatran Rat-Monkey. Thankfully, the side effects aren’t so b–
Agh, zombie mom! Mombie!
Lionel, wimp that he is, keeps delaying the inevitable as the undead problem just gets worse and worse. You could complain that the movie deprives us of quality zombie kills for far too long, but it’s perfectly in character for Lionel, so curb your bloodlust, dammit.
Now watch these insatiable killing machines eat custard.
“Keeping your zombies a secret” gags ensue, but a man can only take so much before he snaps.
And what a glorious snapping it is.
I would not be surprised to learn that the pitch for this movie was “Buster Keaton vs. Zombies.” Timothy Balme’s performance seems to be a deliberate throwback to silent era physical comedy, especially in an early stunt where he absentmindedly walks backwards into the street and a trolley misses him by a millimeter, which he pretends is intentional by spastically leaping onto the back of it.
There’s a sad alternate universe where his IMDb page stops at Shortland Street.
Much like in Bad Taste, you’re not supposed to think too hard about which guts go where or how any mangled corpse could possibly be moving at this point, though, frankly, isn’t that a problem with every zombie movie? If you’re gonna make no sense, have fun with it.
For another Peter Jackson ultraviolent live-action cartoon, it’s actually got a bit more structure and psychology behind it than his previous efforts. This is clearly a story about facing adulthood and becoming your own person independent of your family. It just tells it in the bloodiest, squishiest way possible.
They’re amazing, is what I’m saying. Everything you could think of doing to a zombie, it happens, and also five other things. This movie must have had one hell of a brainstorming session. Oh, ha, BRAAAAAINstorming. Heh.
Anyway, Peter Jackson lays the disgusting on thick.
In addition to all the oozing, there’s a fun bit of stop-motion animation on the Sumatran Rat-Monkey. Considering we’re right around the corner from Jurassic Park proving that audiences could accept computerized creatures, this may have been the last gasp of the technique, which Peter Jackson is delightfully smitten with.
A brief moment of silence for Ray Harryhausen.
Another technique up Jackson’s sleeve is forced perspective, which we all know he eventually goes on to use in some dumb movie about wizards and short guys.
While not a perfect movie, this takes the bloody fun of Bad Taste and adds some polish to the story and characters. It’s still got a lot of wackiness for the sake of wackiness, but it’s so well-executed and cacklingly batshit insane that you can forgive the little gaps of logic here and there. It lacks some of the no-budget home movie grit and charm of Bad Taste, but pair the two together (and leave Meet the Feebles behind) and you’ve got yourself quite an enjoyable Early Peter Jackson double feature.
UP NEXT: Heavenly Creatures (1994)
Spoiler-y side note: This is now the third Peter Jackson movie where a character kills another character by entering their body and reemerging from it. What’s his obsession with rebirth imagery?