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On a quiet street, in a small town, pure evil has tome to stay. Lionel, an innocent young man, is forced to care for his domineering mother and finds the task a whole lot more demanding after she's bitten by the curses Sumatran rat monkey. Passing the point of death, Lionel's mother sucks friends and family into her gruesome existence among the living dead and Lionel is sent spiraling into a ghoulish nightmare. Now a crazed zombie, she soon infects enough people to make it difficult for Lionel, still the faithful son, to keep the neighbors from suspecting that something is terribly wrong. Dead Alive is dripping with state-of-the-art special effects that feature mutilations, rock 'n' roll dismemberments and household appliances, combining into the most bizarre ending ever filmed.
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But that's not what this is about, blu ray presentation. Before I received this in the mail, i read somewhere that the picture isn't great and only looks to be about twice the resolution of a dvd. Now if Dead Alive had a good picture on dvd that might be true, but IMO had one of the worst pictures I've ever seen on dvd. So any bit of upgrade beats the dvd. When I was watching blu with 120hz picture resolution, during the first half I kept thinking over and over again "this is what the dvd should have looked like" which means by blu standards the first half is not great, its clear and at times vivid but there is never ending freckles and pops in the picture. By the time the carnage begins it seems the picture really cleans itself up and looks great. The final 45 min of this movie look like blu ray should. Crystal clear, no flecks, great. Period. To any fans of this, the blu is must own because in the United States at least, your not gonna get a better looking version of this movie anywhere. I'm happy with it.
Sound is in DTS-HD MA 2.0. Nothing too great but it does the job. No bonus features other than a (fullscreen standard) trailer for the film and other lionsgates films you have already seen 5 years ago.
If you like, or love this movie, again the bluray is must own for the picture upgrade. For new fans don't waste time on terrible dvd, this is all you need.
Anyone familiar with the "Theater of the Absurd" from the late 60's-early 70's would readily identify "Dead Alive" as an heir to that theatrical genre. The very idea of the movie's hero desperately seeking a way to keep four undead people tastefully hidden away from public view is about as absurd as anything the "Theater of the Absurd" every envisioned. Which of course makes the humor here something like Deadpan on Steroids. The lead actor, Timothy Balme, is absolutely enchanting as the hapless soul whose mother turns zombie. And not far behind him is Ian Watkin as his greedy, sleazy uncle.
All in all, this is a charming little comedy-horror concoction with just the right amount of gore.
Regarding the blu-ray of Dead Alive that was released by Lionsgate on 10/4/11, I would first like to mention that despite a lot of grumbling around the internet that the picture quality on the blu-ray is supposedly terrible, that is actually not the case at all. I have owned the old anamorphic Trimark DVD of the unrated version for years and did direct comparisons to the blu-ray.
The blu-ray is a big step up in overall picture quality from the old Trimark DVD. In fact, the blu-ray shows how blurry in a lot of places the DVD was. Color, textures and especially flesh tones are much improved on the blu-ray release and I find it to easily be the best that the film has ever looked to date. Don't listen to reviews that state that the blu-ray looks worse than the DVD. They either don't actually have the old Trimark DVD for direct comparison or are expecting a low budget horror film from the early 90's to look like The Dark Knight or something on the blu-ray. Could Lionsgate possibly have restored the movie further than was done for this blu-ray release? Perhaps, but since the blu-ray represents such a leap in picture quality over the DVD, I'm very happy as a hardcore Dead Alive fan.
One other thing that is important to mention is that the framing of the film is much closer to the original 1.66:1 intented aspect ratio that Peter Jackson shot and intented the film to be shown at. The Trimark DVD was overmatted, specifically at the bottom of the frame. The scene near the third act for instance when the poison bottle rolls over to show the words "animal stimulant" on the back of the bottle completely cut off the S at the bottom of the frame. The top of the picture was also a little overmatted too. Lionsgate has opened up the matting to where most of the S is visible and there is a little more picture information at the top of the frame too so the blu-ray doesn't feel as cramped as the DVD did. If your TV has a "screen fit" mode that you can watch in instead of the usual slightly cropped "16:9" mode like my HDTV does, I recommend watching it in screen fit mode as it still fills up your HDTV. This way no picture information is cut off at all when watching the blu-ray.
The other thing that people are complaining about is that the blu-ray like the unrated DVD features the 97 minute cut of the movie instead of the 104 minute international cut. Peter Jackson has multiple times stated that the 97 minute version is his preferred cut of the film and is what he considers his director's cut. There was a delay in the North American release of Dead Alive as there was another horror film out at the time that had the rights to its original title of Brain Dead. While Trimark was working out the legal problems of trying to work out a deal with the title, Peter Jackson decided to revisit his initial 104 minute New Zealand cut and tighten it up further. Mostly what was removed were some character moments that slowed down the pacing of the film. Yes, a little gore mainly during the infamous lawn mower sequence was removed but all of the cuts that he did were purely for pacing reasons. I have seen both verions and prefer the tighter pacing of the 97 minute cut.
Would it have been nice to have a choice of what version to watch on the blu-ray? Yes, it would have been. Also, the blu-ray is bare bones with the exception of the theatrical trailer. I would have loved to seen at least a Peter Jackson commentary track or some kind of featurettes on the film's legacy and importance in Peter's career at that point & time. But, most places are selling this for only 10 bucks and if you love Dead Alive as much as I do, it is well worth shelling out a bit more money to get the film in the much superior picture quality on the blu-ray.
So as I stated earlier in this review, don't pay attention to reviews stating that the blu-ray looks horrible. It is a huge improvement over the Trimark DVD released over a decade ago and worth every penny in my opinion!