Dead Alive (Peter Jackson, 1992)
[originally posted 3Apr2000]
Sometimes you just gotta laugh, and this is most definitely one of those times. Informed by every over-the-top horror film from Repulsion to Return of the Living Dead, filled with more Freudianism than a box of Cuban cigars, with more gore than any three Herschell Gordon Lewis movies combined, Dead Alive makes you wonder whether what’s bubbling up from the pit of your stomach is laughter or bile way too many times.
Paquita (Diana Penalver) is convinced that she and twittish Lionel (Timothy Balme) are made for each other, thanks to her mother’s fortune-telling (nice Crowley deck there, I might add). She ropes Lionel into taking her to the zoo, and the two are followed and spied on by Lionel’s domineering mother (Elizabeth Moody, doing her finest Joan Crawford impersonation). In the act of spying, Mum is bitten by the Giant Sumatran Rat Monkey, whose bite turns the victim into a zombie capable of animating other zombies and… well, you get the idea. In perfect comedy/horror tradition, the only way to kill the zombies is really, really bloody.
Much of the atmosphere of this film is lent by the fact that everyone there isn’t taking it all that seriously, and it shows; this is the same thing that lends strength to Return of the Living Dead and Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead films. As long as everyone behind the TV screen is having fun, you might as well too. I just hope the lawnmower doesn’t show up in the Lord of the Rings trilogy Jackson’s working on at present. *** ½