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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 8.76%
Just Average: 10.95%
Pretty Crappy: 1.46%
Sucks: 3.65%

5 reviews, 107 user ratings

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Dead Alive
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by Mel Valentin

"When gross-out gags become routine, so does everything else."
3 stars

Could "Dead Alive" (aka "Braindead") be Peter Jackson's finest film? Not by a long shot. Following the advice of fellow horror fans, I finally decided to give "Dead Alive" a view. After all, given my twisted affection for zombie movies, how could I miss a movie legendary for its mix of horror, comedy, and gore? Alas, I learned firsthand what another friend meant when he described the first 20-40 minutes as interminable. I almost wanted to give up. It took extreme willpower for me to get that far, but once the zombie mayhem began in full force, "Dead Alive" went from nearly unwatchable to, well, watchable.

Surprisingly, Peter Jackson decided to make Dead Alive a period piece, setting his film in a bucolic 1957 New Zealand (for no discernible reason). Lionel Cosgrove (Timothy Balme) is a thirtyish, unadventurous type who still lives with his mum, the fiercely protective and possessive Vera (Elizabeth Moody). Finally taking the first tentative steps toward adulthood and independence, he begins romancing a local, Paquita (Diana Peñalver). His mum, sensing a threat in Paquita, follows them on a date to the zoo. Distracted, a Sumatran Rat Monkey reaches through a cage and takes a bite out of Vera. As we learned in the superfluous prologue, the Sumatran Rat Monkey has been imported from “Skull Island” no less (yes, the same Skull Island where King Kong made his home, and will make his home in Jackson 's upcoming remake). From there, the plot follows a simple path: mother goes terminal, dies, and is resurrected, definitely worse for wear. The protagonist, suffering from a bizarre mother fixation, can't bear to dispatch his now zombified, ravenous mother. Instead, he keeps her sedated in their basement. She escapes, of course, spreading the zombie virus (presuming, that is, a pseudo-scientific explanation for the toxic spread of reanimated corpses and their hunger for flesh).

On the plus side, Dead Alive has an overabundance of gross-out gags, all tied to bodily functions (or decaying, putrescent bodies). With so much blood and gore, it was a dinner-table scene, featuring tranquilized zombies and custard, which almost turned my stomach. In a different vein, the second best scene in Dead Alive involves the village minister, whose hidden talents are revealed when the zombie menace overwhelms the local graveyard (capped by a hilarious line that must be heard to be believed). In his exuberance, Peter Jackson is more than willing to borrow ideas and conventions from other, seemingly unrelated genres. In the graveyard scene, Jackson borrows from Hong Kong/Asian kung fu/action films. It’s a brilliant, out-of-nowhere moment. Another scenes worth noting is the climactic dismemberment party, with the protagonist taking on a house full of zombies with a lawnmower. Throw in some zombie sex (yes, you read that right), and the inevitable offspring of said unprotected zombie sex is something to behold for splatterfest fans.

On the minus side, the opening 40 minutes overindulges in exposition at the expense of action or horror. Peter Jackson tries for a campy, jokey feel, over-relying on hyperactive camerawork and tight close ups (and tracking shots that end in tight close ups). Jackson over-punctuates every line of dialogue, every character moment and emotion with track-in camera movements, a technique that quickly grows tiresome. Some of the gore effects are, to be charitable, unconvincing, and Jackson shows a lack of restraint in the climactic battle between the monstrously large zombie mother and her rebellious, blood-soaked, gore-drenched son. Using an oversized, badly constructed puppet makes for a joke that rapidly loses its punch (womb shot to the contrary). By that point, however, most viewers will be more than ready for the end credits to roll on Dead Alive. Mercifully, Jackson obliges. The less said about the amateurish, histrionic performances, the better. Jackson may be a filmmaker of many talents and skills (mostly on the technical side), but subtlety isn't one of them.

Tangent: having heard so much about Dead Alive for so many years, I was fully expecting the protagonist's mother to transform into a half-conscious zombie, in constant need of feeding (maybe I was subconsciously channeling Little Shop of Horrors), with the main character turning into a cold-blooded killer to provide his ravenous mother with new "meat" to satisfy her hunger. That might have made for a better setup and payoff later on, story wise. Instead, once the main character's mother crosses over into Zombieland(tm), she's just another generic zombie (in the climactic transformation scene, she speaks, but that entire scene makes zero sense, given her inability to speak beforehand).

In sum, "Dead Alive" fell short of expectations, the occasionally inspired splatter gag or inventive idea notwithstanding. There were, alas, too many missteps (e.g., a scene involving a blender and a zombie baby, a gleefully twisted, sick idea admittedly, didn't pay off properly). Overall, in part because I saw "Dead Alive" under extreme duress (actually more like extreme pain from an earlier dental appointment), and in large part because of the gore content, comic bits, and gross-out gags, "Dead Alive" deserves, if not a pass, then a marginal recommendation (but only for gorehounds).

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=4011&reviewer=402
originally posted: 06/01/05 19:30:03
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell the best gore movie ever for strong stomachs only 4 stars
11/26/11 joshuaprater1979 Very funny gross-out! 5 stars
10/08/11 Mitchell Fletcher One of the worst movies I have ever seen 1 stars
6/05/11 Aardvarki Loved it, but you have a point about the lack of actual horror. 4 stars
5/10/10 Keith Yoocell Loved it since I first watched at the age of 12 5 stars
2/07/10 elton good movie 4 stars
11/25/09 mort a heart preening in the mirror using lung hands? hell yes. 5 stars
10/18/09 Mikey i agree with the majority on here - f'in' fanTASTIC movie! 5 stars
3/03/09 Jebus Absolutely awesome zombie movie. 5 stars
1/05/09 Tim The worst movie of all time. Belongs in a museum. 5 stars
11/21/08 Shaun Wallner Awesome Story! 5 stars
9/04/08 Frontage best. horror-comedy. EVER 5 stars
7/12/08 Alex Spivey giant zombie baby 5 stars
6/23/08 mr.mike Do not enter into it lightly 4 stars
6/20/08 Bill Shook my head at the sheer adacity of the gore! Could only watch in slack jawed amazement. 4 stars
12/15/07 Bnorm most outrageous movie ive ever seen; the baby getting thrown was unexplicably hilarious 5 stars
11/20/07 Jett promising beginning, but quickly slips into monotony 2 stars
9/03/07 rob idiotic 2 stars
3/16/07 matthew an absolute riot! hilarious and kicks ass, you won't believe the gore 5 stars
12/18/06 William Goss Exahaustingly gruesome, with a doozy of a climax. 3 stars
8/20/06 bill hedges what a fun movie!not for everyone,but a hoot! i am in love with DIANA PENALVER 5 stars
6/02/06 LC This movie is outrageous! 5 stars
2/26/06 chris f totally awesome!!!! 5 stars
8/06/05 Eric Wilson One of the best zombie flicks ever!!! 5 stars
8/01/05 Kankasaur Like smoking cheap tobacco, sure you get your guilty pleasure, but is it worth the nausea? 3 stars
7/06/05 Isaac Baranoff Peter Jackson's BEST FILM! The Lord of the Rings trilogy is overrated! 5 stars
6/24/05 John flawed but better than this review lets on 5 stars
6/02/05 deadwiz This movie is classic, gory and fun. 4 stars
3/17/05 indrid cold The splatterfest to end all splatterfests. But is it "good"? Of course not. 4 stars
3/16/05 ELI acting + script are awful. But I don't give a fuck! :) Best stupid movie ever! 5 stars
1/04/05 magaafi this is THE shizznick./ 5 stars
12/11/04 Tom Benton Jackson's pre-"Rings" masterpiece; the most digusting, gory film ever made 5 stars
12/08/04 Marco D Man you suck! That's the greatest gory movie I've ever seen. And I saw *many* of those... 5 stars
7/20/04 Harry J The best of gore, that's for sure. You gotta see it !!!! 5 stars
7/06/04 Disgruntled Me Man you're lame this movie is awesome, lame-o's shouldn't watch horror 5 stars
5/05/04 dead next door could be a lot better 3 stars
4/21/04 Lord Durvok 2 Elena obviously missed the point entirely. 5 stars
4/07/04 Sig wow... LoL! 5 stars
3/29/04 Tom This movie kicks such serious a$$! It is SO FUNNY! 5 stars
3/21/04 Samuel fuckin awesome! 5 stars
3/18/04 Umbrella Corporation. Elena... PLZ! Go home to your fuckin' RESIDENT EVIL & PET SAMETARY DVD's. THIS IS DA SHITZZ 5 stars
1/23/04 Elena Overrated. The special effects are childish and plot is a bag of flaming dog crap 1 stars
12/13/03 Isabelle Millaire Verry good!!! 5 stars
11/29/03 john pure genius ! 5 stars
10/28/03 ZF ingenious. 5 stars
10/22/03 Lord Durvok II DANG IT!!! Jon Lyrik stole my idea! Well... "That's my one-liner you're pissing on!" 4 stars
6/11/03 Jon Lyrik This movie kicks ass for the LORD! 5 stars
5/04/03 Peter the Great I had to vomit sometimes but I laughed a lot 5 stars
3/24/03 Dark Barøn Evil Intestines, living head, baby zombie in the blender. Juice anyone? 5 stars
3/10/03 beehotch If you disagree with my rating, I will eat your face. 5 stars
1/17/03 Mighty Tid Check out the snapshots of Lionel's Dad and his lover. Holy Wienershnitzel!! 5 stars
12/27/02 Scott Malbranque Superb. Hilarious. Ingenious. Brilliant. I have a 9 inch chubber. 5 stars
11/01/02 Zaw Funny as hell. 5 stars
10/29/02 Bård Aase Dead alive rules 5 stars
10/28/02 Joseph James I heard about it, thought it would be stupid, watched it, loved it, and had a zombie baby. 5 stars
9/21/02 Morally Sound See the "Unrated" version if you can find it! 5 stars
9/09/02 .Choadushouse. Watching the whole movie can be boring. But certain scenes make it completely worth it. 4 stars
7/29/02 Captain Midol My life was incomplete until this. You'll never look at a lawnmower the same way again... 5 stars
7/24/02 Malarkey Highwater Paquita was hot, but I could've done without the monster boobs at the end. Fuck 4 stars
7/10/02 James It's time for some Divine Intervention!!! 5 stars
5/22/02 mike anderson greatflick. nothing else to it. 5 stars
5/17/02 Dave Beatty All I have to say is this is one SWEET ASS MOVIE! 5 stars
4/25/02 Charles Tatum Gross and hilarious, like me 5 stars
4/21/02 Someone sweeeeeeeeet 5 stars
4/14/02 Y2McKay blows his mother. DA BEST! 5 stars
4/09/02 Rockitman007 Right up there with the Evil Dead: "I kick ass for the Lord!" 5 stars
4/06/02 Film Dude Whoever hated this movie must like classy pictures like Kazaam, or Freddy Got Fingered. 5 stars
3/28/02 NeuroManson I kick ass for the lord!!! Say no mother fucking more... 5 stars
2/28/02 Axe Murderer THIS MOVIE IS EVIL!!.....BUY IT!..RENT IT....JUST FUCKING SEE IT!! 5 stars
2/27/02 Alan Smithee The bloodiest movie ever made. The lawnmower scene is hilarious. 5 stars
2/18/02 Adolf Oliver Nipples Congrats on Peter J. on doing LOTR! Oh yeah, the movie was sweet too. 5 stars
1/21/02 Nathan Cocks Hip Hooray for Peter J! Vile, disgusting and so damn funny you'll be laughing til you spew! 5 stars
12/12/01 Shane Robert Myers!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Who ever says this sucks they suck! this movie... RULES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
12/08/01 Keith Fuck yeah!! Gore galore! Definitely worth buying for all genre fans 5 stars
12/03/01 auroradae it was gross. not funny, not scary, not good. just gross, in a stupid way 1 stars
11/19/01 Chris K. Hard to believe that the director of DEAD ALIVE is working on THE LORD OF THE RINGS! 5 stars
11/15/01 Geto Smurf This is the shit. This is a REAL zombie movie! 5 stars
8/25/01 Kyle AWESOME! 5 stars
8/09/01 Mental Duck Awesome... spot the Peter Jackson cameo as the assistant. 5 stars
8/01/01 King Jackass This movie is one of my favorites! 5 stars
7/21/01 gus it stinks 1 stars
7/14/01 Violent J See this now, or go to hell. 5 stars
7/06/01 Best gore movie ever! My name sez it all mothafucka! 5 stars
7/06/01 Dan Fucking Brittant, Best Horror Movie I've Scene. No Movies Have This Much Gore,Troma's Close 5 stars
6/30/01 kingjackass222 my fav movie ever! 5 stars
6/29/01 Erik you Bastard you Took This Out of the Top 20 Simply kicks motha fuckin ass! 5 stars
6/29/01 Gored Gus Has everything you want except nudity- damn. But still pretty good! 5 stars
6/28/01 Da Zombie FUCKING SHIT VICTORY!!!! 5 stars
6/28/01 Movies 'R Kewl my opinion: ---------------------------------------------------> 5 stars
6/23/01 erik the movieman Probably the grossest film I've ever seen. It's great, but not GREAT! 4 stars
6/18/01 steel flesh one of the greatest horror movies ive ever seen. 5 stars
6/12/01 Joe Blow Fuckin awesum! 5 stars
6/07/01 Mr. Eff It's the bomb. Fans of this movie should also check out Meet the Feebles. 5 stars
6/02/01 King Jackass has funnier supporting actor than puffy the dog in something about mary! the baby is awesom 5 stars
5/12/01 Axe Murderer .....kicks fucking ass.......... 5 stars
5/04/01 Rael The Hamlet of Cannibal Zombie Films! 5 stars
2/20/01 Ken Limbocker Totally gross. Totally funny (if you like gross). A disgusting classic. Loved it. 5 stars
2/06/01 m Absolutely fabulous. Hollywood could learn A LOT from this Kiwi film. 5 stars
11/08/00 JOeBlow Greatest zombie movie.. no wait.. movie.. ever. Period. 5 stars
10/22/00 sickboy Amazing. Up there with, if not surpassing, the Evil Dead trilogy. 5 stars
9/03/00 Somnabulist Has a zany horror spirit, but the acting/story/scares all are old hat 1 stars
8/29/00 Craig K. Best horror movie out their! 5 stars
8/14/00 Terrie Smith No words to describe this one; standouts are the kung-fu priest and the zombie baby. 4 stars
7/09/00 Adam Great scene with a lawnmower 5 stars
5/27/00 daghost Definitely the goriest, funniest, best movie in film history!!!!! 5 stars
4/02/00 Josh Goriest Movie Ever and its a lot of fun!!! 5 stars
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  02-Oct-1992 (R)



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