Yet another slice of Kiwi goodness, Braindead (more tamely retitled Dead Alive, thanks to some rights issues) is an insane piece of horror filmmaking from the suburbs of New Zealand. Let me emphasize the “insane” bit: this is not a movie for fans of understated haunted house flicks or traditional ghosts and under-the-skin fare. Braindead is a geyser of viscera and mayhem that is constantly and rapidly topping itself with scene after scene of gore and mayhem, and is about as politically incorrect as horror movies can get without getting maliciously crass. Give it about twenty minutes and you’ll see why this is such a feat.
Braindead begins with a cold-open in the canyons of Skull Island, where the mythical (and, indeed, fictional) Sumatran rat-monkey has been tracked down and caught for the first time. It is shipped away to be displayed in a zoo. A stop-motion animated atrocity that probably didn’t look any good then, the rat-monkey is where some viewers will jump off. Those that stick around will be rewarded with Lionel (Timothy Balme). He’s a teenager, who looks more like twentysomething, smitten with Paquita Maria Sanchez, a local shopkeeper’s daughter, but he is unable to so much as ask her on a date thanks to his domineering mother (Elizabeth Moody). The two plotlines intersect when Lionel asks her anyway, and the two head to the local zoo, where Lionel’s mother follows them to spy. She strays a little too close to the rat-monkey exhibit and is bitten, setting off a chain of events that just has to be seen to be believed.
I cannot stress the insanity of this movie enough, but suffice to say that you’re going to see at least one sequence you never thought possible. There are some familiar ideas, like ominous tarot readings, midnight cemeteries, and zombies, thrown into the mix; but they’re nothing compared to the dinner scene, the priest, the animal stimulants, the baby stroller, and the siege of Lionel’s mother’s Victorian mansion, where all bets are definitively off and someone sentient intestines admire themselves in a mirror. Does that sound like I just spoiled a major surprise? I haven’t. There’s so much going on by that point, and so much still to happen, that you’ll probably forget all about it.
Braindead takes the cake as the most over-the-top movie I’ve seen, like The Evil Dead movies gassed silly with the jenkem of Hausu and Happiness of the Katakuris. It’s also unquestionably the goriest movie I’ve ever seen, even accounting for Aftermath and Inside (A’linterieur)--so if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to go on a drug-fueled killing spree with, say, a lawnmower, this is your perfect simulation.
And who, you might be wondering, directed this still-banned-in-several-countries movie?
Peter "Lord of the Rings" Jackson.
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