Just before he made a name for himself with 1994's Oscar-nominated Heavenly Creatures (the movie that made stars out of Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynsky) and long before he made the greatest fantasy trilogy of all time, director Peter Jackson made what remains the goriest (and most hysterically funny) zombie movie ever. And probably my favorite horror comedy of all time.
Released in the U.S. as Dead Alive, Braindead is the story of Lionel (Timothy Balme), a young man with an overbearing Mum (Elizabeth Moody) in 1950's New Zealand. Paquita (Diana Penalver) is the daughter of a local grocer whose grandmother predicts she will find true love, but not before facing difficulties. When Lionel enters the shop for his grocery order, the signs line up and Paquita knows that he is 'the one.'
Paquita invites herself to a date and Lionel agrees to take her to the zoo. Unhappy with the thought of losing her boy to some Latin tramp, Mum secretly follows them on their date, only to be bitten on the arm by a vicious Sumatran Rat-Monkey. According to the zookeeper, sailors brought vicious rats with them to Sumatra, where they took over and raped the island's native monkeys, producing the stop-motion hellspawn.
Soon, an infection ravages Mum, but she refuses to miss an important lunch date and forces Lopnel to help her get ready. After using mucilage to repair a tear in her cheek, Lionel helps her downstairs to greet her guests, where a custard dessert turns into an ear-eating debacle. Not long after, she succumbs and Nurse McTavish pronounces her dead. Of course, this just after Paquita utters what may the greatest single line in horror history. It isn't long before Mum returns to life (sort of) and offs Nurse McTavish. Panicked, Lionel shoves them both in his basement, and thereby starts a zombie plague.
Featuring a former Nazi veterinarian; an ass-kicking vicar; a zombie sex scene; a hilariously horrible zombie baby; a prostate-challenged perverted Uncle; a vicious set of farting intestines; a deep, dark family secret; hundreds of gallons of movie blood and the most creative anti-zombie weapon ever, Braindead/Dead Alive is not for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach. Here are a few brief examples of just how insane this movie is (Warning - Extreme violence and gore, probably NSFW):
Still, none of that can compare to the movie's climax when (Spoiler Alert) Mum, infused with enough horse tranquilizer to actually mutate her, emerges as a gigantic monster zombie, climbs to the roof and literally shoves Lionel back into her womb! Jackson and his team use a combination of stop-motion animation, puppets and physical make-up effects to create the most outrageous visuals you're likely to see in any movie.
Commenting on family; love; desperation; Oedipus (yes, Oedipus); Post-WWII Suburbia; fate and the horrors that can invade anyone's life without warning, Braindead is one of those movies you'll want to see more than once, because you'll see something new with every viewing. I wore out my VHS copy long before the advent of the DVD and have since replaced it. And whenever I share it with someone who has never seen it, I take as much delight in their reactions to it, as I do in the movie itself.
If you've never seen Braindead/Dead Alive, I recommend you seek out the unrated version to experience its full effect. Gross, creepy and bizarrely hilarious ("Hyperactive!"), it's the kind of movie Uncle P would make, given the money.