Okay – before you all get your panties in a bunch, Peter Jackson’s zombie romantic comedy – or zom-rom-com if you want to put labels on it – Dead Alive may not be the BEST zombie movie of all time (I’ll argue with you on that one), as I’ve been informed by some fellow zombie aficionados that because it’s a comedy its somehow not allowed to be considered “the best.” I think that is ridiculous but I’ll give it to you so you’ll be quiet and let me finish my point. Dead Alive may not be the best ever (to some) but it's one of the best in the genre.
Released on August 13, 1992 in his native New Zealand under the title Braindead, Peter Jackson manages to combine incredible gore effects, smart humor you’ll appreciate, and, most importantly, romance. That’s right, I’m a sucker for a good zombie love story, and I’m not ashamed to say so. His tale of hapless, brow beaten Lionel Cosgrove (Timothy Balme, Jack Brown Genius, The Almighty Johnsons) and his true love Paquita (Diana Peñalver, Fotos, The Things of Love) overcoming such obstacles as Lionel’s incredible shyness, his mother Vera (who takes the word “overbearing” past Bates-ian proportions) and the unfortunate fact that many of his friends and relatives are becoming zombies hell bent on eating them both never fails to make me swoon with the overtures of love conquering all. Here are five reasons why Dead Alive trumps many of the more “serious” entries in the genre to claw its way to the top of the heap - and my heart.
Get Down and Make Love
DA has the best portrayal of zombie sex (zex?) you’ll ever see on film. Don’t get me wrong – you could get far more graphic and disturbing (and if that’s your bag check out 1981’s Zombie Lake or 1985’s Mansion of the Living Dead - no judgments) but Peter Jackson does zombie sex in a way that fits the plot, isn’t gratuitous, and makes you feel slightly messed up for laughing at it so hard.
Zombie Babies are Incredibly Durable
As a result of the aforementioned hot zombie love making, Lionel now has to deal with their precocious zombie spawn, Baby Selwyn. This scene really lends nothing to the plot other than to make you shake with laughter when he brings Selwyn to the park in an attempt to give him some kind of a “normal” childhood. Of course Selwyn escapes, of course calamity ensues, and it’s fantastic. So fantastic that you’re totally okay with ignoring the obvious use of a doll changed out with a little person body double for the beating action.
The Best Worst Dinner Party You’ve Ever Seen
Before Lionel’s mother completely makes her transformation she’s still lucid enough to try and host a dinner for two community bigwigs in an attempt to win their favor. One thing’s for certain: you’re never going to look at custard quite the same way again.
Kicking Ass and Saying Grace
After Lionel’s mother succumbs to the bite that leads her down the path to zombie infamy, we’re introduced to Father Jon McGruder (appropriately dubbed “The Kung-Fu Priest”), played to camp perfection by veteran stage actor and Peter Jackson regular Stuart Devenie (you can see him in two other Jackson epics, Meet the Feebles and The Frighteners). Let me put it this way, if Ash had an older brother who joined a rectory and a dojo, he’d be Father Jon McGruder. Not only is he directly responsible for reasons five and four, he also has the movie’s best line, making “I kick arse for the Lord!!” a battle cry of epic proportions for horror geeks everywhere. (Spoiler Alert on the video below if you don’t want to learn the Kung-Fu Priest’s fate.)
The Lawnmower Scene
Could there be any other possibility for the number one slot? It’s quite simply one of the best displays of handmade gore effects and camera direction you will ever see on film, and to me it’s what solidifies DA as one of the greatest zombie movies ever made. No other words are needed, just see for yourself:
And I rest my case.