Dead Alive

Or Braindead.  Whichever.  I know it as Dead Alive, but my favorite poster is adorned with the Kiwi title.  Regardless of its colloquial handle, this is an amazing film.  It's a testament to the virtues of practical, in-camera effects.  Every time I watch it, I'm simply astounded by what Peter Jackson was able to accomplish on a relatively slender budget.  Having said that, I prefer Bad Taste.  I won't jockey back and forth between two reviews, but I will say that this zombie epic is trammeled by lovey-dovey bathos.  Maybe it's because PJ's tale of an intergalactic fast food conglomerate didn't leave enough space for maudlin romance, but it seemed to be liberated by its all-male cast.  The script didn't concern itself with sexual tension.

I'm digging a sexist hole.  Look, love angles can work.  It's just that the one in Dead Alive feels forced.  However, that's the last negative thing that I'm allowing myself to say about this splatter sestina.  Fuck, it's gory.  The goriest of all time?  Eh, it's proximately impossible to measure a movie's sanguinary units.  Of course, there aren't many genre flicks that you could call serious contenders.  I haven't seen the uncut version of Premutos.  It's certainly German enough (???).  The only shocker that springs to mind is Philosophy of a Knife, but its four-hour running time gives it an unfair advantage.  Who knows?  For that matter, who cares?  Quality supplants quantity, and Dead Alive rollicks in some of the best-looking bloodshed ever captured on celluloid.  Plus, the editing doesn't flinch.

Modern day plasma merchants ignore a basic rule in splatterology (consider that term coined) - we need to be able to see the carnage in scabrous, disagreeable detail.  Don't cloak your prosthetic limbs in extravagant cuts and muted lighting.  I'm preaching to the choir, but hey, this shit is worth overstating.  Does Dead Alive have anything to offer besides entrail-gashing velitation?  Surprisingly, yes.  PJ is well-versed in physical comedy, steady pacing and brisk action sequences.  His ingenuity was put to the test in later years, but die-hards already knew that he had a few summer blockbusters in him.  Even with Bad Taste, one sensed that the auteur in charge was a multi-tasker with serious leadership skills.

Feeble subplots notwithstanding, the chipper characters manage to glom onto your gray matter.  Lionel is a demure, self-effacing gent who you can't help but to like.  Elizabeth Moody is hilarious as Mum.  It's clear that she is having fun.  That also applies to the rest of the cast, especially Diana Penalver.  Her performance as Paquita is borderline grating, but she's cute as a button.  Hmm, what else is there to add?  I covered the gore, the director, the actors, the gore and the gore.  Again, Dead Alive isn't seamless.  I dare you to watch it without experiencing a natural high, though.  C'mon, Peter...enough Tolkien shit.  Go back to your roots!  Roots, bloody roots!

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