SEPTEMBER 29 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : BRAIN DEAD
A highly successful blending of horror, comedy and romance, Braindead is a showcase for Peter Jackson's talents and a wild ride of gore. In 1957, an expedition to Skull Island (Sumatra) turns up a rare and prized rat monkey. Destined for Newtown zoo, the monkey's deadly nature is such that one of its captors is hacked to death by his assistants after just a few scratches. In Newtown, Paquita Maria Sanchez (Diana Peñalver) dreams of finding true love and consults her Grandmother (Davina Whitehouse) for advice. The tarot cards never lie and when the clumsy Lionel Cosgrove (Timothy Balme) stumbles into the Sanchez's shop, it's as if destiny has tapped Paquita on the shoulder. He's the chosen one and she'll do anything to snare him, including delivering the groceries to his mother's house.
Lionel lives with his elderly mother Vera (Liz Moody) in virtual servitude, the focus of a heavy guilt complex and exploitation. Burdened by the belief that he caused his father's death many years earlier, Lionel will do anything to keep Vera happy. However, Paquita bounding into his life is like a breath of fresh air. She manages to convince him to take her to the zoo, a secret rendezvous where Lionel can be himself. Unfortunately, Vera has cottoned on to the visit and takes it upon herself to spy on the happy couple (in the belief that Paquita is a woman of loose morals). During her covert operation, Vera manages to trip and finds the rat monkey enthusiastically chewing upon her arm. She manages to throw it off and manipulate Lionel into taking her home, but the damage has already been done. Tomorrow Mr (Lewis Rowe) and Mrs Matheson (Glenis Levestam) are visiting and Vera certainly isn't feeling herself.
The dominant theme of Braindead is undoubtedly zombies. There are hordes of them and they're mostly terminated in a variety of inventive and bloody ways. What makes Jackson's creation stand out from the crowd is the sheer volume of imagination, humour and care that has been lavished on what could have been yet another reanimation film. Each of the primary zombies is an individual, related to whoever the person was when alive yet skewed to highlight the depraved aspects of their character. When lashings of bad-taste humour are applied, the result is a never-ending stream of hilarity -- Lionel does his best to cope with a house full of mischievous, dependent and homicidal zombies. He can't bring himself to kill any of them (since Vera is one of their number) yet the increasingly desperate lengths to which he has to go to keep them secret are incredible.
Surprisingly, the level of acting in Braindead is high. The straight characters, such as Lionel, Paquita and her family are played as fairly normal people forced to deal with a rather unusual situation. Their reactions (especially dead-pan Lionel) have the ring of authenticity which allows them to slither through pools of blood without looking silly. In opposition, an array of eccentric and weird roles provides sly humour and knowing contrast, all without going too over-the-top. Selecting individual performances of particular merit is difficult when the entire cast are convincing, though Balme, Peñalver and Ian Watkin (Uncle Les) are especially memorable. The former expresses his surprise and innocence (lined with common-sense) beautifully in the early scenes, moving onto close-shave heroics with ease. His love interest, Peñalver, is attractive in a natural way, emitting a wonderful radiance when she smiles at Lionel. Even better, she knows how to take care of herself when confronted with slimeballs like Les. He's as dominating, ruthless and deadly as his sister Vera yet he possesses a form of sexist, take-no-prisoners charm.
Unlike the steady stream of direct-to-video schlock splatter movies, Braindead has pretty high production values. The period is created attractively both through props and people's behaviour, showing the attention to detail that is a characteristic of the film. This approach covers a multitude of areas, from the clever weaving of "The Archers" into the narrative to dialogue littered with quotable one-liners. In addition, the excellent special effects are used in unusual ways as elements of the story, rather than as crowd-pleasers in their own right. Overall Braindead is a dynamite combination of outrageous humour and graphic violence (against zombies) which leaves the audience and cast knee-deep in blood and body parts. It's an energetic, deeply black comedy on the surface which also takes the time for some quieter moments. The combination won't appeal to everyone, but to aficionados Braindead is the ultimate comedy-horror flick.
SEPTEMBER 29 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : BRAIN DEAD
Braindead - AKA Dead Alive possibly the bloodiest and goriest movie ever created . . .
. . . it is almost hard to believe that this movie was directed by Peter Jackson of The Lord of the Rings fame. But believe it or not, it is most certainly the case.
This is a comedy, a horror and touching love story all rolled into one. Okay, maybe touching love story is pushing it a bit, but there is an element of touching and love in the story (who could forget the touching love scene between Father McGruder (Stuart Devenie) and Nurse McTavish (Brenda Kendall)?).
We begin the story with a trip to Skull Island where the dreaded Sumatran Rat Monkey is smuggled out against the advice of the angry islanders. Fast forward to Lionel (Timothy Balme) on his first date with the local shoppe girl, Paquita (Diana Penalver) who has been told by her granny (Davina Whitehouse) that this will be her one great love. On their date at the zoo they are being followed by Lionel's overbearing Mum (Elizabeth Moody) who does not like the idea of her little boy (or should we say little servant) shagging with little miss Paquita. Of course, Mum ends up getting bit by the sick little monkey and all hell breaks loose as she becomes one of the Dead Alive and cannot help herself from trying to eat everyone in site. Each one she bites in turn become the Dead Alive as well.
As time goes on it becomes very difficult for Lionel to keep up appearances and he enlists the aid of some animal tranquilizers to keep his motley crew in line. Enter Uncle Les (Ian Watkin) who just wants his piece of the pie. After he uncovers Lionel's nasty little secret he blackmails him into letting him stay with him and throws the party to end all parties. But the festivities become really interesting when Lionel accidentally gives the wrong "medicine" to all his Dead Alive friends and instead of finally killing them he kind of jump starts them into a feeding frenzy to end all feeding frenzies. And of course with Uncle Les' party going on there is plenty on the menu!
It is then up to Lionel and Paquita to try and stay alive and rid themselves of the cursed zombies that are running amuck. With some of the most hysterical and goriest moments ever caught on film - including a vengeful anus - the conclusion of this film is one not to be missed.
Braindead (Dead Alive) is a must see for any fans of horror comedies, gore or just plain having a good time while watching a movie.
SEPTEMBER 29 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : BRAIN DEAD
Peter Jackson, director extraordinaire, did an absolutely incredible job in bringing The Lord of the Rings trilogy to the big screen. Because of this, people started searching for other films that had Peter Jackson’s name on them. Oh to have seen the look on their faces when they pressed play on such independent gems as Bad Taste and Meet the Feebles. Both great films, in a sick and twisted sort of way, but not films that would be located in the “family entertainment” section.
My favorite however is a comedy/gorefest classic titled Braindead (released as Dead Alive here in the states).
We start Braindead by watching a zoo expedition that has captured the legendary and elusive “Sumatran Rat Monkey”. While trying to escape with the creature, the attending zoologist is bitten in the hand. His native assistants see this and cut his hand off. They also see that he has been bitten in the arm and cut his arm off. After this they notice that the monkey has put a scratch on the zoologists head. Hmmmm.
Next we go to New Zealand where we meet Paquita Maria Sanchez (Diana Penalver), a very attractive young lady that helps run a local store with her parents. We also meet Lionel Cosgrove (Timothy Balme), a young man whom Paquita believes is her soul mate, and Vera Cosgrove (Elizabeth Moody), Lionel’s jealous and domineering mother.
Lionel and Paquita decide to go out on a date to the local zoo. Unknown to them, Mum has followed them and while spying she is bitten by the Rat-Monkey which she then proceeds to stomp on. Running back to her home, Mum starts to feel ill over the next few days eventually starting to decompose - becoming a walking corpse. Mum also starts to attack and infect everyone that she comes into contact with. Lionel, who has discovered his Mum's new "habits", is trying very hard to hide her from everyone. What follows is some the funniest and bloodiest film making that you will ever see.
Let’s start with “funny”: I was unaware of the fact that zombies could have sex and have a baby until watching this film. I have also become convinced that every zombie film should have a kung-fu priest to help kick zombie butt. There is a lot of dark comedic slap-stick that is reminiscent of the Evil Dead series.
Now the “bloody”: Braindead is said to be the bloodiest film of all time, measured by the amount of fake blood used during filming. Try 700 liters in the last scene alone. It was absolutely awesome.
If you ever wanted to know what you would get if you crossed Sam Raimi with George Romero, then Braindead is a must see. If you want to see the inventive things that can be done with intestines, then Braindead is a must see. If you want to learn how to use your lawnmower as a hand weapon, then Braindead is a must see.
SEPTEMBER 29 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : BRAIN DEAD
Some years before New Zealand director Peter Jackson gave us the first of the Lord of the Rings trilogy there was this little film from his native land. An hour and forty minutes of blood drenched mayhem, ‘Braindead’ or ‘Dead Alive’ as it is known in the US was what you could call New Zealand’s answer to ‘The Evil Dead’. Made on a small budget (But slightly bigger than his shoe string first feature which was ‘Bad Taste’ a few years earlier), it tells the story of Lionel Cosgrove (Timothy Balme). A thirty something who lives under the thumb of his tyrannical mother (Elizabeth Moody) in 1950′s New Zealand. Lionel falls in love with Paquita (Diana Penalver) the beautiful spanish daughter of a local shop owner. However ,mother of course does not approve her boy seeing the young lady and keeps Lionel at bay.
Lionel and Paquita manage though to start dating behind the old battle axe’s back.But when mother gets suspicious she decides to follow Lionel to the local zoo where he meets up with the girl of his dreams. That very same day a new animal has been delivered to the zoo. A grotesque creature called the Sumatran Rat, it has a deadly bite that unknown to the zoo keepers, transforms those that are subjected to it’s bite into flesh eating, killer zombies. Unfortunately for Lionel’s loathsome mother, she gets too close to the cage holding the beast while spying on Lionel and Paquita, and is bitten by the foul rodent. Things after that just can’t get any worse for poor Lionel.
As gory horror flicks go this has to rate as one of the sickest, disgusting, degenerate of the lot. But it is also one of the down right fun ones. It’s not a great quality movie when compared to the like of LOTR. The special stop motion puppetry for the Sumatran Rat which we see early on in the movie is blatantly ropey and the score could have put together by someone who composed the music for Prisoner cell block H. That said however the gore and Zombies effects are certainly first rate. What other director could give us such jaw dropping scenes as a kung-fu fighting priest(Stuart Devenie) who ‘kicks arse for the Lord’, somersaulting and giving some undead thugs a good beating. Then theres the sight of Lionel’s zombified mother and the now flesh eating priest shagging. The demonic child that spurts forth from mothers rotting womb and is jerked suddenly back by the umbilicle cord that is still attached to it is just another of Jackson’s great accomplishments. Then theres the final icing on the cake. A blood drenched finale where Lionel’s obnoxious uncle Les gate crashes his house and throws a wild party only for the guests to be attacked by a small army of the living dead. This has to count as one of, if not the most gruesome scenes in movie history next to the likes of ‘Re-animator’. Just wait till you see what Lionel does with a flymo.
Any way I’ve said enough. In surmising Braindead will never be hailed as the very best of Jackson. After all it was only his second offering and considering the budget size is a testament to the man as a director.It contains some good tongue n’ cheek performance from a cast of unknowns and enough of Jackson’s amazing directorial flair to hold your interest for it’s running time of an a hour and forty. Oh, and be sure and look out for a brief cameo appearance from the great man himself as a Morgue attendant in a funeral parlor.