the fresh films reviews

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Braindead (1992)

Peter Jackson
Dead Alive (US title)
New Zealand
104 minutes
Jim Booth
Stephen Sinclair
Frances Walsh
Peter Jackson
Based on a story by:
Stephen Sinclair

Cast includes:

Lionel Timothy Balme ½
Paquita Diana Peñalver
Mum Elizabeth Moody ½
Uncle Les Ian Watkin ½
Nurse McTavish Brenda Kendall -
Father McGruder Stuart Devenie ½
Void Jed Brophy -
Undertaker’s Assistant Peter Jackson -



At a time when Peter Jackson wasn't preoccupied with making overlong showcases of classic literature, he was the relatively unknown Kiwi alternative filmmaker that the world was about to notice. After his wildly amusing (but somewhat uneven) début, Bad Taste, Jackson wrote (with his wife Fran Walsh and author Stephen Sinclair) and directed Braindead. Received as an instant cult classic by film clubs and indie lovers, the film has since then only reinforced its position as arguably the best ever splatter movie (Sam Raimi fans will have me excused).

The film is built around the simple story of young, clumsy Lionel who lives in an old Victorian mansion with his destructively controlling mother and becomes the object of a tarot inflicted crush from neighbour girl Paquita. Their love awakes the wrath of Lionel's mother, something that is only amplified (to say the least) when mum is bitten by a not too cosy rat-monkey from Sumatra.

Although they're quite pleasant, there's nothing remarkable with the dramatic or romantic contents of the film. These function merely as settings for Jackson's blood-thirst, so to say. The film is arguably the most bloody (when it comes to volume) of all horror movies ever, but even though Braindead carries a lengthy sequence of fairly repetitive action, it always stays on top of its game. The special effects are nothing short of extraordinary, especially taking the budget into account, and the creativity and vision with which the most graphic scenes are conducted are simply amazing.

Braindead most definitely isn't for every taste. But with that said, this film is so professionally conducted and has a thematic ambivalence to it that won't offend people who're able to see it in an artistic light. Peter Jackson shows a great deal of flair in combining the horror with the distinctive satire and comedy with which Braindead is soaked. In my opinion, still Peter Jackson's best work.

Re-reviewed: Copyright © 8.3.2006 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang
Original review: © 17.4.1996
Fredrik Gunerius Fevang