Last Christmas my family bought me three DVDs to contribute my zombie movie DVD collection. My goal was to collect only the very best zombie movies, and I usually screen any movie before I buy them, but gifts are an exception to this rule. I sat down the other night to watch the legendary Brain-dead aka Dead Alive (1992). I wanted this movie in my collection for a number of reasons. First it was directed by Peter Jackson, the man responsible for the Lord of the Rings movies. I had to see some of his work before he did LOTR. Second, I like foreign zombie films that are done in English, yes it is lazy of me to exclude movies with subtitles, but since there is so many zombie movies in English, I figured I have enough options left to avoid subtitles.
Filmed in New Zealand and staring relatively unknown actors this movie isn’t as good as I hoped. It’s not the fault of the actors, nor the quirkiness of the setting. Other zombie movies have succeeded outside of Hollywood, with unknown actors in the past. The spectacularly strange Undead (2002) is an excellent example how a low budget zombie movie can be made. I honestly do not know where this movie failed. It’s not because of the blood, which was used in astronomical amounts, nor the gore, nor anything else I can put my finger on. I think if failed because it was not fun. Most zombie movies provide some amount of blood, gore, frights, violence. Then they toss in some humor and a pinch of social commentary. This movie slowly changed from strange and tedious, to gross and disgusting, then leapfrogged into bizarre and stupid.
It starts out well enough and tries to involve the audience with a blossoming relationship between a young man who is dominated by his wicked narcissistic mother, and the beautiful, shy, and innocent shop girl. The star, Lionel played by Timothy Balme reminds me of a cross between Norman Bates and Barney Fife. And his mother looks and acts like Norman’s mother. After some missteps and wonderings the movie finally comes into focus about two thirds the ways through, then gets ugly. Quick. The humor was awkward and forced, there many times where I was thinking something was supposed to be funny, but fell flat. This is like the show Two and a Half Men, sometimes the audience laughs too hard, but the joke wasn’t that funny. Only with this movie there is blood and no audience. If that makes any sense, then again neither does the movie.
I would only recommend this movie to the real die hard splatter movie fan. Brain-dead has more blood and guts than any other zombie flick ever made. Planet Terror, Day of the Dead, and even Undead can not hold a candle to the ridicules amount of blood that was hosed out onto the screen. I have to give them credit for the use of a lawn mower for zombie defense; this is the one weapon that never would have occurred to me. Being as it may, it is still not worth the price to own. I don’t give movies stars or scores of any kind. I would, however, not pay any more that $2.00 to rent of buy. I don’t count this movie in the top fifty of my list of good zombie movies. It does not deserve to occupy space on the same shelf as better movies. I think I will move it down to mingle with my wife’s movies; it will look good right between Pride and Prejudice and her Pilates workout DVD.