AWESOME-tober-fest 2013: Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive (1992)

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Today I’m going to take a look at Peter Jackson’s 1992 cult zombie film, Dead Alive.

Dead Alive poster

Suprisingly, I’d never seen this movie before. I used to be a big gore hound in the late 80s. I’d heard of it at the time, but never had a chance to watch it.  I like Peter Jackson’s films for the most part. The first Peter Jackson movie I ever watched was probably The Frighteners with Michael J Fox and I loved it.  I even saw his ultra-cult hit Meet the Feebles.  So I’m a little behind the curve on this particular movie.  But with my zombie Halloween theme this year I thought this would be the perfect time to rectify this situation.  So I watched it.

And I didn’t just love it. Don’t get me wrong, there were some funny and weird moments that I enjoyed. I probably would have enjoyed this even more if I had watched it with a bunch of buddies and beer or had I watched it back in the 90s.  But, let’s not dwell on what I didn’t like, I’ll talk about some of the stuff I enjoyed.

I liked the leads well enough. Timothy Balme as Lionel was suitably awkward and Diana Peñalver was adorable and cute as Paquita. The crux of the story is an interesting origin for the zombie plague. It all starts with a rare mutant animal called a Sumatran Rat-Monkey that is created by plague rats raping tree monkeys. Yes, you read that right. One of these disgusting looking Rat-Monkeys is, mistakenly, I think, shipped to a zoo in New Zealand.


In New Zealand, awkward and nebish Lionel meets Paquita who fall in love, but Lionel’s overbearing mother disapproves.  While spying on the couple at the zoo, Lionel’s mother is bitten by the Rat-Monkey and turns into a flesh eating undead monster.  Everyone else thinks she dies, but Lionel secretly keeps her in his basement along with a live-in nurse who the mother also turned into a monster.  Soon, other victims become monsters and are put in the basement.  Eventually it gets out of hand when Lionel’s shady uncle shows up looking to get a share of Lionel’s inheritance.

That’s only like half the plot.  So much goes on that’s weird and nearly indescribable.  You really have to see it.

At one point, Lionel is attacked by a group of punks in the graveyard.  His mom attacks them, turns them into monsters and then a priest shows up and famously shouts, “I kick ass for the Lord” and uses karate to kick the monsters’ collective asses.  It’s a pretty great scene.

Having this silver haired priest go Chuck Norris on a bunch of zombies was sheer absurd brilliance.  Eventually, the ninja priest succumbs to the monsters and is attacked and changed himself.

Later on in the movie Lionel is keeping like 5 of these zombie creatures at his house.  Right before the uncle shows up Lionel is seen serving them soup for dinner.  There’s a blissfully disgusting scene of these zombies sitting at a dining table trying to eat soup.  Then two of the zombies (the nurse and priest) start making eyes at each other and start screwing on the table.  TWO ZOMBIES START SCREWING ON THE TABLE.

Yeah, that happens. It’s right after this that the uncle shows up, is rude, crude and funny.  However, that unholy zombie union actually creates a baby zombie who tries to kill Lionel on several occasions.  The last scene filmed for the movie involved Lionel and the zombie baby at a playground (which is actually pretty funny).

Like I said, I’m glossing over some plot points, but all hell breaks loose after Uncle Les throws a party at the house and everyone must fight against a bunch of zombie monsters and we end up with the famous “lawn mower scene”.

And then Lionel must battle his own mother who inexplicably turns into a giant, grotesque demon zombie with misshapen boobs who sucks Lionel BACK INTO HER WOMB.  Like I said, weird.  But in an entertaining way, I guess.

It seems the whole point of this horror-comedy was to be over-the-top and weird but in a funny way.  It mostly succeeded.  I’d watch this again before I’d watch Jackson’s Meet the Feebles again.  And if I was having a gathering of friends and wanted to watch an insane movie we’d all enjoy shouting at I’d put Dead Alive on.  But if I myself just want to watch a funny horror-comedy involving zombies I’d probably watch Army of Darkness or Zombieland instead.

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Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.


5 Responses to “AWESOME-tober-fest 2013: Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive (1992)”

  1. Yeah, this movie is batshit crazy. I was lucky in that I had my sister introduce me to Jackson in the late 80s, so I saw this pretty soon after it was released as a teen. Right age, right time. The level of gore he was looking to do, to top Evil Dead 2, made this for me at the time. Now I really appreciate the zaniness of the love scene and the insane humor. Loved the Frightners when it came out and was surprised as hell when he actually pulled off the LOTR flicks!

    • Yeah, I’m a big Frighteners fan. And I like the LOTR movies, but don’t love them. HOWEVER, I loved the first Hobbit movie. But I think that has more to do with my feelings on the books themselves.

      Meet the Feebles. Ugh. That’s another story.

      • Yeah, Meet the Feebles is a hard watch. I love Bad Taste, but I will be the first to admit it’s a really hard watch. Have you seen Heavenly Creatures?

  2. I’ve not seen Heavenly Creatures. Good?

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