Essays · Movies

31 Days of Horror: Dead Alive

The Return of the King may have one the Oscar for Best Picture, but Dead Alive might just be Peter Jackson’s best film.
By  · Published on October 30th, 2008

Dead Alive aka Braindead (1992)

Synopsis: A vile, old woman is bitten by a stop-motion Sumatran rat monkey while visiting the zoo and proceeds to turn into flesh-eating zombie. Her son, Lionel, who has just fallen in love for the first time, is tasked with protecting his mom from her “illness” and the town from his mom. He fails, of course, and soon his house is overrun with fornicating zombies.

Killer Scene: I’m tempted to highlight the zombie sex between the priest and the nurse which results in pregnancy, birth, and a hilarious trip to park with the undead newborn, but I’ve got to go with the finale. As the zombie horde grows out of control and begins a final assault on Lionel and Paquita, he resorts to the one weapon most suited to the job… his lawnmower. The carnage he amasses from the mower’s whirling blades is incredible as he literally paints everything and everyone blood red. The sticky crimson stuff is everywhere by the end of the scene. As a bonus, the lawnmower massacre features some fantastic slapstick.


Violence: Natives attacking and hacking an explorer into pieces kicks off the bloodfest, but it’s soon followed by the bite from the rat monkey and all kinds of zombie mutilation. The lawnmower scene mentioned above is filled with gore including some nice stump-grinding, and other folks meet their demise via knives, cleavers, teeth, rakes, an embalming machine, pruning shears, toilets, a blender, and so much more. And a priest who “kicks ass for the Lord” rips zombie limbs off in a cemetery battle. Oh, and there’s also a disturbing scene of child abuse in the park.

Sex: The black-belted priest gets dirty with a nurse, but not until they’re both dead of course. Their sinful deed almost immediately results in a pregnant zombie, a birth, and a monster toddler.

Scares: Dead Alive isn’t scary in any real sense of the word. It’s a horror comedy, with the emphasis on the comedy. There are a couple scenes that just might scare you off of eating custard though.

Final Thoughts: Dead Alive remains Peter Jackson’s most enjoyable film. Yeah, I know, he’s since made the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but I still say minute for minute Dead Alive is a more entertaining movie. It’s an offbeat and zany mix of romantic and physical comedy that also happens to be incredibly gory, and is probably best described as Evil Dead 2‘s younger brother from New Zealand. If you only know Jackson for his visit to Middle Earth, I highly recommend a back to back to back screening of Bad Taste, Meet the Feebles, and Dead Alive. Bring the kids.

What do you think of Dead Alive? Have you eaten custard since? Have you ever eaten custard?

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.