Many thanks to Camiele White for writing this entry for us :)
I’ve never come across a film that’s actually made me reconsider an entire food group. But after having experienced the mind fuck that is Dead Alive, I’m actually thinking long and hard about eating any dairy product with the consistency of yogurt.
In preparing this blog, I had to actually step away from the project and get my head wrapped around what it was I just experienced. Having seen Dead Alive (a.k.a. Braindead) when I was a kid, I think I had to unbury some tragically traumatising experience because I couldn’t exactly remember what it was that made me never watch it again. Now, after a decade I’ve come to realise that the film is the most repulsive, hideously gory, and hideously ridiculous film I’d ever seen in my entire life.
The true testament of a brilliant film is one that finely balances the grotesque and the hilarious. Peter Jackson, though he certainly matured as a director (winning Oscars and such), definitely showed the signs of a true genius with the clay work and animation involved in the bloody ridiculousness of Dead Alive. It starts with a trip to Skull Island --a fictional native wasteland full of the most unique beasts of the world. We come across an explorer, straight out of Imperialist Europe, guided by his indigenous tracker and lugging a crate holding, no doubt, one of the many weird and wonderful creatures of the island (we find out later that it was a monkey that was raped by a rabid rat --go figure, huh?). Our illustrious adventurer, in an attempt to throw a little White Power muscle on the half-naked natives, runs away when his tactics of intimidation backfire. Whilst running away (and forgetting his guide, no less), he gets bitten by this raped and rabies ridden monkey. Both the guide and the driver exclaim in the voices of over exaggerated cries of disgust and fear, “You’ve got...THE BITE!!!!”
And that’s where our glorious tale of guts, gore, and romance begins.
Our two lovers, Lionel and Paquita, are ensnared into a disgusting journey of a sickness gone horribly awry. In probably the most disturbing sequence of scenes ever strung together in a film, the audience is bombarded with nothing less than live animal consumption, necrophilia, pornos including mysterious scenes with a donkey and a chambermaid, and bursting pus filled boils into yellow cream filled custards. It’s enough to strain any budding relationship --not surprisingly, Lionel finds the stress of keeping the living death of his mother and three other hapless victims in check too much of a burden to add to his self-suppressed feelings for Paquita. But the brave Latina isn’t deterred by her flame’s sudden “disinterest” in her. She’s ever persistent in ringing him up and knocking on his door until she decides enough is enough and barges into his home (now inhabited by over a hundred guests and a perverted, money hungry uncle).
This rushed and somewhat slipshod summary of the events that occur only serves to set up the most gruesomely entertaining massacre ever captured on film. How does one survive an onslaught of the braindead, so engrained with evil and carnal hunger that even their innards have the ability to reach out and feed? By lawnmower, of course! In what can only be described as a stroke of pure, unadulterated genius, Peter Jackson has our fumbling protagonist literally mow down a horde of the hungry undead. For virtually 20 minutes, the audience is led through chunky body parts, chomping teeth, crunching bone, and blood, blood, BLOOD!!! It’s enough to drive one crazy with laughter or cramping from the amount of vomit you’ve tried to keep from bursting from your pores.
Briandead is ultimately about the tortured and often twisted relationship between mother and son. The apex of the film (and my favourite scene) has Lionel finally confront his overbearing mum --who, as a result of a ridiculous mishap, has been transformed into some sort of evil zombie alien bitch that looks like something left in a toilet after burrito night. Without giving any credence to Lionel’s heroic speech on the rooftop, his mother gurgles “No one can love you like your mother!” Her gigantic belly splits open, revealing insides that in an instant reach out and grab Lionel and envelop him (where else?) in her womb. Whilst toying with the now flailing and helpless Paquita, Lionel experiences a literal rebirth as he bursts through big, ugly Momma’s belly (covered in “afterbirth”) to save the love of his life and leave his house, full of horrid memories, to burn to the ground.
Braindead did for horror what the Beatles did for pop music --make it okay to be what it is. Essentially, horror is a genre that brings together the fears of the audience and exploits them into something that’s utterly ridiculous. Peter Jackson, though moving on to such mature material as The Lord of the Rings, should never look back on his earlier work as anything less than the makings of sheer brilliance. His take on the genre was enough to make me repress some pretty graphic imagery. If that’s not making an impact, I don’t know what is.
Article writer by day, renegade poet by night, Camiele White loves any and everything film. She chases only the original (or incredibly funny) and has been known to talk for hours about subjects that most people just don’t care about. Right now, she gets her jabberjaw jollies writing about Halloween costumes. If you want to give her a buzz, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.