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Timothy Balme, Diana Penalver. When his demanding mother becomes a blood-hungry zombie looking for victims, a devoted son tries to keep her actions a secret from the neighbors. Considered one of the most violent, gory horror films of all time! 1992/color/97 min/unrated/widescreen.
If you're not a connoisseur of graphic horror and gruesome gore, you'd better steer clear of this wicked 1992 horror-comedy from the demented mind and delirious camera of New Zealand-born writer-director Peter Jackson. However, if nonstop mayhem and extreme violence are your idea of great entertainment, you're sure to appreciate Jackson's gleefully inventive approach to a story that can judiciously be described as sick, twisted, and totally outrageous. The movie's central character is a poor schmuck named Lionel who's practically enslaved to his domineering mother. But when ol' Mum gets bitten by a rare and poisonous rat monkey from Skull Island and is turned into a flesh-eating zombie, Lionel has the unfortunate task of keeping Mama happy while fending off all the other zombies that result from her voracious feeding frenzies. If you've read this far, you'll either be crying out for censorship or eagerly awaiting your first viewing (or second, or third...) of this wildly clever and audaciously uninhibited movie. And while director Jackson would later achieve critical success with his fact-based drama Heavenly Creatures, his talent is readily evident in this earlier effort. If you find this kind of thing even remotely appealing, consider Dead Alive a must-see movie. --Jeff Shannon
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Favorite scene, Lionel taking the baby zombie to the park to play. That, and poor Lionel trying to glue Mum's face in time for dinner guests. What's a meal without pudding?
Forget everything else Peter Jackson's done, this is his masterpiece.
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!
Dead Alive has a permanent spot in my Horror Top 10. If you have a problem with dismemberment, fake blood, or albino primate/rodent hybrids from Skull Island, well you should still watch this movie. Hilarious, disgusting, with tons of how'd they do that shots. Jackson is a twisted, deranged madman and here's the proof.
Dead Alive redefined over the top gore and has yet to be matched. Whether it's punching through a lady's face, mowing down party going zombies, or returning at last to a mother's womb, this movie will have you laughing non-stop and then doing double takes because of all the insane sight gags. A classic that needs better dvd treatment.
The Funniest Gorefest Ever.
The Sanctity of Motherhood!