Braindead (A.K.A. Dead-Alive)

Let's start this review off with two words that are perfectly suited to letting you know what kind of movie this is. No, I'm not going to use gory or funny, though those words also apply beautifully. No, the words I'm going to use are Rat Monkey. That's right: Rat. Monkey.

In 28 Days Later, the rage-virus comes from human beings "coming in contact with a chimpanzee" (read: being beaten like they owed him money) in a lab. Here, all the bloodletting stems from the afore-mentioned Rat Monkey. This leads us to our first lesson of the day: Simians = Bad Juju.

I first ran into Peter Jackson's Dead Alive in 1995, when I stumbled across it while I was working at the video store. I had just seen this oddly captivating movie called Heavenly Creatures a few weeks before, and lo, there was another movie from the same guy, and a horror movie no less. I might as well check it out. Man, was I ever unprepared for what I saw.

The film establishes its tone right away. Opening on the island of Sumarta, where the Rat Monkey makes its home. The dangers of the creature are made readily apparent when an explorer returns from an expidition with a bite mark on his right hand, which is quickly amputated by his guides. Then his left arm, as that had another mark. Finally, they notice scratches on his forehead... This whole sequence had the feel of a Warner Brother's cartoon hopped up on PCP.

Which, frankly, describes the rest of the movie pretty well.

The bulk of the movie takes place in Wellington, New Zealand, where the dangerous Rat Monkey was sent for exhibition in a zoo. Now, I fear that up until this point, I may have portrayed this film as a greusome excursion down Goryville Lane. But it's at this point in the story that the film's true heart reveals itself. The fact that it is, indeed, a romantic family comedy.

Our hero, Lionel Cosgrove, lives at home with his overbearing mother, who rules over him with a cast-iron fist in order to keep him close to "mummy". Much to her consternation, Lionel falls in love with a girl in town named Paquita Maria Sanchez. Enter into this formula tale of true love... The Sumartan RAT MONKEY, who takes a nibble of dear ol' "mum", and puts a bit of a spin on the rest of the picture.

Boy meets girl. Boy loves girl. Mom expresses her displeasure... by eating girl's dog. Later mom eats others. Then the others eat still more others. A zombie baby shows up for some crazy hijinks, and everything is resolved with gardening equipment. Wholesome family entertainment. Seriously, there's a sitcom in here somewhere.

A word to the wise: This move is filled to the brim with pus, ooze, ick, splatterifica, disembowelemnts, decapitations, meat smoothie blending, ass-kicking for the lord, vicera, dismemberments, parliaments (ok, I may have made that one up), and all sorts of gorific stuff. While it's so completely over the top to move into screwball territory, it may bother some.

But if it does, they shouldn't be watching a zombie marathon at all anyway, so you can just ask them to get sick in the appropriate porcelin recepticle.