Horror Movie Review: Braindead (1992)


Braindead or Dead Alive which is the name it was given with its release in North America is widely considered to be the bloodiest movie ever made. In fact, 300 litres of blood (5 gallons per second) were used in the final scene alone but is this simply a gore fest with no substance? Let’s have a look at Braindead and find out.

Over the years this movie had garnered a rather large cult following and is generally positively received amongst critics. Much of the attention that the movie started to attract was due to the fact that Braindead is directed and co-written by none other than Peter Jackson, yes that Peter Jackson. After the huge success of The Lord Of The Rings, attention was drawn to some of Jackson’s earlier directorial attempts. It became apparent that during the late 80s and early to mid-90s Jackson primarily directed horror/comedy movies, most notably “Bad Taste” (1987) “Braindead” (1992) and “The Frighteners” (1996).

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The movie opens on Skull Island when Stewart, an explorer returning from the depths of the island with his team, is carrying a rat-monkey in a cage and is stopped by fierce warrior natives that demand the return of the monkey. The “Sumatran Rat-Monkey” is a hybrid creature that, “according to legend”, resulted from the rape of tree monkeys on Skull Island by plague-carrying rats. They escape to a waiting jeep, but Stewart gets bitten by the Rat-Monkey. Seeing the mark of the monkey’s bite on his right hand, Stewart’s men hold down the explorer and amputate it. A bite mark is then seen on his left arm, which results in the removal of that limb. Finally, they see a set of bloody scratches on Stewart’s forehead and kill him. The captured rat-monkey is shipped to Wellington Zoo in New Zealand.

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Lionel Cosgrove lives with his domineering mother, Vera. To Vera’s dismay, Lionel falls in love with a shopkeeper’s daughter, Paquita. While snooping on the two during a visit to the zoo, Vera is bitten by the rat-monkey. The animal’s bite begins turning her into a ravenous zombie.

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Despite this happening, Vera has some very important guests coming over for afternoon lunch so turning into a zombie will just have to wait. Poor Vera tries to put on her best face for the occasion but this only leads to some pretty nasty moments, these include: Lionel sticking part of Vera’s face back on with glue, Vera squirting ooze from her bite into one of the guests custard (much to his delight) and finally Vera’s ear literally falling off to which she eats her ear, Lionel is horrified but determined to care for her.

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Despite his efforts to take care of her, she eventually dies after falling down the stairs. A nurse arrives but is brutally murdered by the now fully zombified Vera and is as well transformed into a zombie. Lionel tries keeping them locked in the basement while simultaneously trying to maintain his relationship with the oblivious Paquita. It all seems to be under control as Lionel is using a strong tranquillizer to keep both his mother and the nurse unconscious. Vera escapes and appears to attempt to stop Lionel getting further involved with Paquita even in death but she is sadly hit by a tram.

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As the townspeople assume she is dead, Lionel tranquilizes the zombie for her funeral. After she is buried, he returns to the graveyard to administer more anesthetic, but is accosted by a gang of hoodlums. Vera bursts from her grave, resulting in more deaths and zombies.

The towns priest Father McGruder is awoken by all of the commotion and goes to see what’s going on. This leads to quite possibly my favorite scene in any horror movie ever; in my opinion it contains two of the funniest, most well timed lines EVER spoken in any film.

As their numbers grow, Lionel manages to keep the zombies under relative control with repeated injections, and tries keeping them concealed in his home. However, Lionel’s uncle Les arrives to wrangle with Lionel over Vera’s estate. Les discovers the “corpses” and blackmails his nephew into giving up his inheritance in return for his silence.

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Lionel reluctantly administers poison to the zombies (“killing” them), and buries them just as Les and his friends arrive for a housewarming party. However, the poison turns out to be an animal stimulant; since the zombies came from the bite of an animal, it gives them more energy. The zombies burst from the ground to attack the party guests.

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This is when the movie really goes into overdrive mode and the body count really begins to rise. There is so very much to cover in the next scenes in terms of gore, funny moments and seriously creative and memorable deaths that it’s almost impossible to do it any justice at all.

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For starters, the zombie nurse has given birth to a baby zombie that is on the loose causing chaos which actually brings me back to a previous scene in which Lionel takes the zombie baby to the park and genuinely hilarious events unfold. During the massacre in the house, there is a really funny on going joke where uncle Les continuously gets hit in the balls in different ways.

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The gore and effects used in this final seen are insanely impressively and even now I struggle to comprehend how they managed to do some of the things that they do because it just looks so realistic. My personal favourite deaths involve a zombie getting its head slammed onto a light bulb which ignites their face with light and it’s just a really cool effect.

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Another involves the baby literally pulling a girl’s face apart and a Zombie’s intestines falling out only to have them still be animated and chasing after Lionel.

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Another highlight has to be when Uncle Les is trapped in kitchen [Wielding a knife and a cleaver and faced with a horde of zombies] which leads him to shout “Step right up you greebo bastards!” and massacre them all.

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All of this culminates in Lionel kicking down the front door with a lawnmower in hand and going to work. As I stated above, 300 litres of blood was used in this scene and it’s easy to see as Lionel goes from zombie to zombie tearing them limb from limb spraying himself and just about everything with gallons of blood; it’s amazing.

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During the conflict an open gas pipe ignites, setting the house ablaze. Lionel manages to kill all of the zombies, until Vera, who has become a gargantuan monster with a grossly distorted head, spine and huge breasts, pursues Lionel and Paquita to the rooftop. Paquita is left hanging onto the edge of the roof while Lionel confronts his mother.

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Lionel declares that he is no longer afraid of Vera and she opens her womb, engulfing Lionel, declaring that he is “such a good boy” and that “none will ever love you as much as your mother”. Vera then tries to kill Paquita by removing her hands from the roof. Lionel cuts his way out of his mother’s body, causing her to fall into the burning house. Lionel and Paquita escape the building and walk away arm-in-arm as the fire department arrives.

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Braindead is by far one of the best horror comedies ever made. Crazy, visceral, over the top, quirky, violent, gory, silly, funny, extreme and (in its own way) sweet, these are just a few words that can describe this visual extravaganza.
Here’s a short run down of some of the things you’ll see in this film:
. A baby zombie
. Zombies having sex
. A group of zombies being chopped up with a lawn mower
. Talking intestines
. A kung-fu zombie-ass-kicking priest
. A zombie’s head being embedded onto a light bulb so its face lights up like a Jack-O-Lantern
The list could go on and on and on.
Timothy Balme is excellent as the mama’s boy who ends up taking on the whole undead world by himself, with a couple of mechanical aids. The soundtrack is great, the supporting cast are great, and everything is just great. I honestly cannot think of a single thing that I disliked about the film, it’s just so damn entertaining.

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Braindead
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