Hello again ghouls! Let’s keep our highway to horror rolling with another pitch-black horror-comedy classic: Peter Jackson’s gloriously gruesome 1992 splatterfest Braindead (also known as Dead Alive). After yesterday’s minimalist road thriller The Hitcher, today’s pick veers hard in the opposite direction – wallowing in decadence and showcasing early glimmers of Jackson’s flair for fantastical gore.
Braindead wastes no time drenching viewers in rivers of blood and bile. Protagonist Lionel lives under the thumb of his domineering mother Vera, whose nasty demeanor worsens after being bitten by a Sumatran Rat-Monkey. Soon, she transforms into a contagious zombie, infecting others and threatening Lionel’s burgeoning romance.
What follows is an orgy of creative practical gore effects as Lionel scrambles to contain the outbreak. No taboo goes untouched as zombie heads are blenderized, innards erupt like firehoses, and one determined undead infant decimates a crowd. Through it all, Lionel remains hilariously meek.
Braindead revels in an anything-goes anarchy reminiscent of Evil Dead 2, taking cartoonish violence to surreal new heights. The sum of its increasingly absurd parts shouldn’t work. But Jackson strikes a brilliant balance between go-for-broke comedy and shock value. Moments like Lionel’s lethal lawnmower rampage proved Jackson’s mastery of tonal tightropes early on.
Critics and audiences were polarized on Braindead’s theatrical release – some praised its wickedly funny shocks while others recoiled at the sustained nastiness. But over the years, its reputation blossomed into reverence among horror buffs. Today, many consider Braindead Jackson’s goriest, most creative achievement. Its latex-drenched final act is regularly cited among the bloodiest scenes in film history.
So this October, treat yourself to the untamed insanity of Dead Alive. It remains a singular work of gruesome black comedy, and a delightful precursor to Jackson’s evolution into fantasy juggernaut. Just be sure to avoid suspicious rat-monkeys, clingy mothers and any baby that likes impaling people. This October, go full zombie!