Sunday, February 21, 2016

Braindead (Peter Jackson, 1992)

Like any normal, red-blooded, fake Lithuanian, I love gore. But after watching Braindead (a.k.a. Dead Alive) for the first time the other day, I've noticed that my love of gore has gone down a few pegs on the gore-meter. I know, how lame of me. I'll probably change my mind by the time I finish this review (hopefully rendering myself less lame in the process). But as of right now, I've got to say, this film sapped me of all of my Oprah-approved inner-strength. Despite the fact that no one asked me directly, I could sense people out there wondering why I hadn't got around to reviewing Peter Jackson's contribution to the zombie/splatter genre. If they had asked, I would have probably answered by saying: The reason I haven't reviewed it is because I want to watch the uncut version. Well, I've seen the uncut version, and, man, was that an error in judgment on my part. The final forty minutes feature some of the craziest gore effects ever captured on film. And there's no let up. We're talking at least forty straight minutes of non-stop gore. While part of me admired the unrelenting bukkake of gore/theater of guts that was transpiring on-screen, my more sensible side began to wonder what the point of all this was. I mean, when Uncle Les starts pulling out Zombie Father McGruder's teeth with a pair of pliers, I was like, Dude, why are you doing that? Then it dawned on me. The film's creature and gore effects team had already made the prosthetic mouth. In other words, they weren't going to let all that effort go to waste. Regardless if it came across as pointless or excessive, every special effect they had was going to be employed no matter what.

However, it's not like that all the time. The first hour, while just sick and twisted as the final forty or so minutes, does give us room to breathe. And it has a pretty awesome cemetery fight sequence that boasts a kung-fu fighting priest who kicks ass for the Lord. Actually, the ass kicking for the Lord scene is when the film really starts to get insane.

Of course, I'm not saying the scene where Lionel's mum eats Fernando, Paquita's dog, or the scene where Lionel's mum treats Nurse McTavish's face like a hand puppet were anything close to being compos mentis. I'm just saying, when it came to the unrestrained expulsion of viscous liquids, the kung-fu priest scene was the turning point, cuckoo-wise.

Personally, the most revolting pre-gore party scene occurs when Lionel's mum unwittingly eats her own ear (it fell into her custard). Yum.

If you must know, the reason so many ghastly things occur in this Wellington, New Zealand set film is because of a rat monkey from Sumatra, and because Vera Cosgrove (Elizabeth Moody) doesn't want her grown son, Lionel Cosgrove (Timothy Balme), dating Paquita Maria Sanchez (Diana Peñalver), an attractive, probably Paraguayan woman  who works at a small grocery store.

Let me explain. While on a date with Paquita at the zoo, Lionel hears her mother let out a blood curdling scream (she was spying on them - she doesn't like Paquita). Running over to where the scream originated, Lionel and Paquita watch in horror as Vera angrily stomps in the head of the rat monkey that just bit her on the arm. While the rat monkey (the by-product of monkey raping slave ship rats) won't be biting anyone else anytime soon (mum crushed its head real good), the damage has been done. You see, anyone who is bit by a Sumatran rat monkey will eventually turn into a pus-laden zombie freak.

Since Lionel is a good boy, he tries to help his mother, despite the pus, get better. Unfortunately, the chances of Lionel's mother bouncing back from this are pretty slim.

When Lionel's mum turns Nurse McTavish (Brenda Kendall) into a pus-laden zombie freak, Lionel  decides that the only sane recourse is to buy tranquilizers from the town's Nazi doctor, inject his mother and Nurse McTavish with said tranquilizers, and lock them in the basement.

After his mother breaks free from the basement, the authorities end up burying her. Realizing that she's not dead, Lionel plans on digging her up. This plan, however, is thwarted by a gang of greasers, who accost Lionel at the cemetery. Luckily for Lionel, Father McGruder (Stuart Devenie) just happened to be nearby and comes to Lionel's defense.

Sadly, one of the greasers ends up turning Father McGruder into Zombie McGruder (Stephen Papps). Taking Zombie McGruder and the greaser who wasn't completely dismembered by a series of roundhouse kicks, I'm guessing, Void (Jed Brophy), back to his place, Lionel is up to his chin in pus-laden zombies freaks.

To make matters worse, Nurse McTavish and Zombie McGruder develop the hots for one another and Lionel's Uncle Les (Ian Watkin) starts sniffing around (he's clearly after Lionel's inheritance). While the prospect of two pus-laden zombie freaks having dinning room table sexual intercourse doesn't sound all that bad. The byproduct of this sexual intercourse is. That's right, Nurse McTavish gives birth to a pus-laden zombie baby. And you know what that means? Exactly. Lionel is forced to take it on strolls through the park. As for Uncle Les. To celebrate the verbal agreement he made with Lionel (in exchange for his inheritance, he won't tell the police he's living with four pus-laden zombie freaks and a pus-laden zombie baby), Uncle Les decides to throw a party.

Five minutes into the party (a well-attended affair featuring women in dresses and guys in sweater vests) all hell breaks loose when Lionel's pus-laden zombies join the festivities.

"Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast." You said it, Ron Burgundy.

Sit back, because the next forty or minutes are going to feature some of the most heinous things you have ever seen. You could almost view the party sequence as an audition tape for the special effects team. And it obviously worked, as most of the folks responsible for the gore effects continue to work in the industry to this day.

Even though my stance has softened somewhat since the first paragraph of this review, I still think the sheer amount splatter on display during the finale was too much. I mean, when Lionel straps a lawnmower to his chest, I was... Hold on, I liked that part, as it moved things along . That being said, the sequence is still mind-numbing in its disgustingness. Oh, and I loved Elizabeth Mulfaxe as "Rita." I was rooting for her the moment I laid eyes on her. Of course, the chances of anyone leaving this party alive are pretty slim. But still, it was nice to discover a character I actually liked amid all the gonzo carnage.


  1. Hey, I dig your reviews. I check back here once a week and see what 80s madness you've watched, and I usually end up looking for it online after reading what you have to say about it.

  2. I've owned a copy of this movie since high school (nearly two decades now), and it's always been rare for me to want to watch it. I also try not to see it before or after I've eaten.

  3. It's ruined custard for me, that's for sure.

  4. You've been seeing that oily shop girl!

    Love this film. Saw it at the cinema back in 1992.