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Dead Alive (1992)

Lionel, a Mama’s boy has the unwanted honor of having to look after his overbearingly evil mother. He ends up falling in love with a local woman who believes that they’re destined together. In a moment of intentional sabotage of one of their dates, his mother is bitten by a mysterious creature that ends up zombifying her. It’s only a matter of time before she rises from the dead a powerful, bloodthirsty zombie. It’s only a matter of time before she starts infecting residents of the town and Lionel has to stop her…and them.

Who would have imagined that in 1992 a film director of mainly cult movies would grow to the immense stature that he has today? I certainly didn’t, but this is exactly the case with Peter Jackson, who then brought this extremely bizarre comedy-horror splatter-fest called BRAINDEAD, also known as DEAD-ALIVE, and between 1999 and 2003 cemented his status with the ubiquitous, monumental LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY.

A simple premise that had by then done numerous times — flesh-eating zombies wreck havoc among the living — is taken not only to the ultimate extreme: here it just makes going over the top seem like a weak clich√©. It completely jumps straight over a cliff and never bothers to return to any sense of normalcy. That this story of zombies gone amok has been dressed with an interesting Freudian spin — over possessive mother tries to control her son’s every move even after (un)dead, quite like PSYCHO — only makes the hero’s evolution from Mama’s boy to unlikely survivor ever the stronger and gives the completely lurid tale some grounding even after it explodes left and right, literally, in pieces of flesh and still moving body parts.

DEAD ALIVE has a lot to owe to EVIL DEAD 2: DEAD BY DAWN with its gleeful amounts of gore and truly slapstick scenes of crazy body parts, but it out-does it by the sheer volume of gore and blood that comes forth once the real madness begins. The fact that the aforementioned body parts have a will of their own makes for one rip-roaring sight gag after another in frenetic shots — for example, one character’s body snaps in two; his lower torso continues to amble about, his inner organs come ripped apart from his body and even take a peek at a mirror to see how they look, while the owner’s upper torso gets partially flushed down a toilet. As a matter of fact, that same character’s intestines take up quite a lot of screen time towards the climax as they chase the apparently hapless Timothy Balme around the house as his girlfriend, battling zombies in the kitchen, uses a blender to grind a hand that simultaneously tries to pull her in and all the while a baby zombie is becomes something of a tennis ball, bouncing about while creating yes, even more havoc. That is, until Balme goes berserk with a lawnmower and makes puree out of the entire lot of them. All this shows to what extremes the notion of the exaggeration of horror could be taken: the more blood and outrageousness, the less horrifying it becomes, and here, once it starts, it never lets up until its side-splitting finale.

Definitely not for all tastes but for people who like their horror with a nice dose of Tex Avery lunacy, comedy as black as night and tanks of the red stuff — this is horror comedy par excellence.