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Thirty years ago the world was subjected to Peter Jackson’s madcap, blood-splattered vision and introduced us to an infected Sumatran rat-monkey, an ass-kicking priest, and a lawnmower wielding protagonist with serious Mummy issues.

For me, it was my first introduction to Peter Jackson’s as a director, albeit the last of his splatter trilogy following Bad Taste and Meet The Feebles. These movies I would see at a later date, but it also marked my earliest experience of New Zealand’s quirky humour which resonated and reverberated nicely in this writer’s cerebellum, impacting deeply to shape my own taste and love of dark comedy.

It also brings about nostalgic memories of friendship and a united love of the horror genre with that disturbing twist. 

Braindead aka Dead Alive is a zany tale of Lionel Cosgrove (Timothy Balme) whose mother, Vera (Elizabeth Moody) is fatally bitten by the afore-mentioned rodent simian. She becomes infected and dies before coming back to life and terrorising Lionel from beyond the grave.

The feature’s appeal doesn’t just reside in its energy though but also in the gore-spewed special effects combined with a warped love story involving the awkward Lionel and the local shopkeeper’s latino daughter, Paquita (Diana Peñalver). The latter is completely smitten by the stars and her romantic pursuits that drive her in winning Lionel’s heart, despite the crazed obstacles that stand in her way. Lionel too must overcome his ties to his mother, and free himself from the shackles that have gripped him all his life. 

Part of the lure is through Jackson and long time writing partner and collaborator Fran Walsh’s carefully laid groundwork using exposition to create the world in which Braindead resides. It is this dedication that allows for the madness to ensue, much to the delight of the audience. The film’s climax is also a sight to behold, cementing its place in in horror celluloid history with 300 litres of fake blood to carry out Jackson’s creativity and Lionel’s rise to personal triumph.

Supposedly it was a great influence on another successful comedy horror film, Shaun of the Dead, and its infectious attraction is the reason that it still resonates today and places in Time Out’s The 100 best horror movies of all time

  • Saul Muerte