There is something about the mix of zombies and comedy that just works. How can zombies be so terrifying in one film but then manage to make us laugh in another? What is it about our undead brethren that is just so damn funny? Maybe it’s the fact that you can do any ludicrous thing you like a zombie and no-one will get mad.
For years, this film topped my “bit pissed, stick a film on” list. I have shown this film to many, many people and hopefully they too have shown it to many, many more as it truly has become a classic. It’s a loveable, funny film, not to mention one of the most unashamedly gory films ever made.
It’s Peter Jackson’s 1992 “splatstick” epic, Braindead (or Dead Alive to readers in the U.S.)
Yes sir, long before Peter Jackson directed the box-office behemoth that is the The Lord of The Rings trilogy, he was hard at work making splatter movies in his native New Zealand. Having already churned out the brilliant alien invasion gore-athon, Bad Taste and the adult puppet musical, Meet the Feebles, Jackson’s next venture would prove to be the one to put him on the map.
Braindead opens on the rocky vista of Skull Island (King Kong‘s home) where an intrepid explorer is attempting to transport a wooden crate containing a deadly Sumatran rat-monkey to a mainland New Zealand zoo. He falls foul of the monkey’s bite and is swiftly hacked to pieces by his terrified guides. Quick cut to the main story and we are introduced to Lionel Cosgrove, our “Norman Bates”-esque protagonist. Lionel lives with his mother, Vera, a cruel, domineering woman who is none too pleased when her son strikes up a relationship with shopkeeper’s daughter, Paquita.
She follows the young lovebirds while they share a day out together at the zoo, spying on them from the bushes before slipping and falling against a cage containing the rat-monkey which sinks it’s teeth into her arm. She crushes the hilarious puppet to death…and it all gets a little bit crazy from here…
Vera’s bite becomes infected and she slowly starts to rot, at one point losing an ear into a bowl of custard. Her condition worsens until she passes away. Lionel will get no chance to enjoy his first taste of freedom from her matriarchal tyranny, no sir. Vera, is now a zombie. A very angry, very hungry zombie. Lionel attempts to keep her sedated but the bodies start to pile up and run amok.
The final 30 minutes of Braindead are, gallon for gallon, the most blood-soaked 30 minutes ever committed to film and it’s truly incredible. Lionel’s “last stand” against the undead horde and his mother is nothing short of heroic as he wields an implement that simply devastating…
I think Peter Jackson would be surprised at the success of Braindead and by the truly enormous cult following that it has (rightly) gained. The cast are superb, despite the chaos. The effects are absolutely first class and it is just one of the most fun zombie films ever made. This would be my choice over Shaun of the Dead, any day of the week.
It’s impossible to watch Braindead and not be disgusted but at no point will you stop smiling. This is one of the film’s greatest strengths. It’s so over the top that it’s impossible to get offended. So charming that you can’t help but laugh. I watch Braindead now and am always finding little things that I had forgotten about the film. Gruesome things. Funny things.
Braindead is a true innovator. Ever wanted to see two zombies having sex? Look no further. Ever wondered what would happen if you put a zombie through a mangle? Well, that’s here too. Ever fancied seeing a kung-fu fighting priest locked in deadly combat with zombie punks? Then by god, check this film out.
This is a film that never gets old and it’s an absolute must for this time of year.