Currently Peter Jackson is reknowned for his fantasy movies and exceptional cult remakes. But once upon a time, he was better known for splatter-gore horror movies, like the "Dead Alive," a bizarrely hilarious movie full of zombies, rat-monkeys and messy death. Glorious!
Lionel (Timothy Balme) is a downtrodden young man, who has the unpleasant honor of caring for his nasty mum (Elizabeth Moody). Then he meets store clerk Paquita (Diana Peñalver), and the two young people fall in love. Unfortunately, during a date to the zoo, his mom follows them so she can wreck his date.
She succeeds, sort of -- she gets bitten by a Sumatran rat-monkey from Skull Island (the same one where Kong came from?) and dies. But poor Lionel can't get off that easily -- because of the bite, his mom comes back to life as a flesh-eating zombie. Soon zombies are running amok, and Lionel and Paquita must find a way to get rid of them. Can true love triumph over the undead?
Be forewarned: this movie is gross. Very disgusting. Lots of fluids and body parts, and zombies eating people in detail. And the whole movie climaxes with hundreds of zombies crashing a party, and a spectacularly gory sequence involving a, uh, lawnmower and chainsaw.
But gore alone doesn't make a movie a cult hit -- any idiot can make a zombie movie. This one is special because of Jackson's twisted sense of humor; "Shaun of the Dead" definitely owes a stylistic debt to him. How many movies do you see where a character tries to clean up the blood after Zombie Mom has lunch?
Jackson sprinkles his 1950s setting with all sorts of weird characters -- a kung-fu reverend and a Nazi vet among them. He takes every weird zombie scenario and runs with it, whether it's Lionel babysitting a hyper zombie baby or the Reverend McGruder announcing, "I kick ass for the Lord!" or "Stand back boy! This calls for some divine intervention!"
But the movie is also notable for a very touching love story, between Lionel and Paquita -- and like any good hero, Lionel has to overcome obstacles (the zombies and Mum) before they can live happily ever after. Both actors do very solid jobs, and Balme really makes us like his downtrodden mama's boy, especially once Lionel picks up that lawnmower.
"Dead Alive" is a delightfully stomach-turning ride through a town full of zombies, body parts, and those ugly little buggers from Skull Island. Although it's not for the faint of stomach.