Before he turned all respectable—and a good bit less fun—Peter Jackson made his mark on the cult-movie world with cheerfully gory movies that reached their apex with Dead Alive (1992), the American moniker that got affixed to his uber-juicy zombie flick Brain Dead when it lurched into U.S. theaters in early 1993. When I say “uber-juicy” I’m not foolin’ around. Prior to this, Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator (1985) was considered the absolute ultimate gory movie, with its much-vaunted 50 gallons of fake blood. In terms of sheer splattery goodness, Dead Alive upped the ante with 10 times the blood—and so far as I know, it still holds the record. It’s not exactly serious horror in that it’s purest splatstick, but its zombies are menacing and the gore is sometimes cringe-inducing. The story is all about a nebbishy, mother-controlled guy (Timothy Balme), who threatens mom’s (Elizabeth Moody) control when he takes up with a pretty girl (Diana Penalver). But while following the couple, mom gets bitten by a Sumatran rat-monkey at the zoo—and wouldn’t you know it, such a bite guarantees the old gal will become an avaricious zombie, who, in turn, will make more zombies, despite the son’s best efforts to control things. It never lets up and it never disappoints—and anyway how can you not love a movie with the line, “Your mother ate my dog”?
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