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Dead Alive

I’m really gonna get it for this one. I know the ladies and gentlemen of the internet fucking LOVE this movie. It’s one of those few things, like Chow Yun Fat or Bruce Campbell, that NOBODY says a negative word about on the internet. And that’s unusual because there is a LOT of Negativity on the internet in my opinion, I mean I bet Ghandi or Martin Luther King or somebody could have gone on there and get flamed to tears. But anyway…

When I reviewed the Evil Dead pictures, alot of individuals suggested that I would also like Dead Alive. And I guess I can see the connection, but excuse me while I kiss the sky – I’m afraid Dead Alive is no Evil Dead 2 in my opinion. This is a comedy about a guy in New Zealand whose mom gets bit by a half rat half monkey and turns into a zombie. And then the zombie disease starts to spread and what not and I think you can see where this is going, before you know it there is blood spraying everywhere.

Dead AliveWhat Evil Dead has that Dead Alive doesn’t is a delicate control of atmosphere and tone and a strong central character to hold it together. Ash is an unforgettable character, he is hilarious and he is an idiot and we love to see him in agony. Dead Alive doesn’t have that appeal. In fact I don’t even remember the dude’s name, sorry bud but it’s the truth. I believe he had glasses, average height, possibly light colored hair. That’s about all I remember.

Evil Dead also has such a strong atmosphere that it is creepy even when it is funny. Sam Raimi really means it with his horror, he doesn’t pull punches, so even when he’s making us laugh at flying eyeballs and what not we don’t forget the threat of those cackling demons and flying cameras and rapist trees in the woods.

Dead Alive doesn’t have that. It takes place in a small town which is well photographed but low on creep value. There are jokes like a doctor who is so obviously a Nazi that there is a little tear in his sleeve revealing a swastika armband underneath. Like in the cartoons. In that context you can’t really take any of the zombies or what not as a serious threat. I guess not all horror comedies have to work as horror, but what I like to call The Evil Dead Precedent proves that it is possible so I think it’s something that should be strived for. I mean there are two types of horror comedy, there is Evil Dead and there is Dracula Dead and Loving It. You decide.

There are two reasons why everybody loves this movie though, and they are pretty good reasons. One is where a priest says “I kick ass for the lord” and starts doing a bunch of karate. The other is where the forgettable main character lifts up a lawnmower and walks through a room plowing a crowd of zombies into slush. This really is the goriest scene I have ever seen and it is so ridiculous it is hard not to love it. This sequence builds into many elaborate and disgusting creature effects. They are very imaginative and well executed, pretty much in the spirit of the original Evil Dead. But it’s like having one amazingly great chapter near the end of a book. You can enjoy it and give it its due but still, the thing doesn’t work as a whole. You don’t give a rats fuck about what happens to the characters one way or another. You just wanna see some slimy tentacles pop out of their mouths or something. It’s too bad the story and characters don’t live up to the power of the lawnmowing zombies sequence.

Good try though Peter Jackson I’m sure some of this motherfuckers other stuff is better, this definitely shows some brains on the guy but I don’t think it’s no masterpiece, sorry just tellin it like it is.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Monday, January 1st, 2001 at 4:03 pm and is filed under Comedy/Laffs, Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

9 Responses to “Dead Alive”

  1. Good review Vern,

    I just watched it this weekend because I heard about the lawnmower scene. It’s hard to argue with your assessment, and your analysis is as good an explanation as any as why Evil Dead is more beloved and well known than Dead Alive.

    But the movie threw so much goofiness at me, that I just couldn’t resist. I’m thinking of the scene where he’s feeding the zombies he’s keeping around, and also the one where he takes the zombie baby for a stroll for some entirely inexplicable reason.

  2. For the record this was probly posted around 2000 or something, even though it says 2005. So if I’m wrong then chalk it up to (relatively) youthful indiscretion. I oughta watch this one again, actually.

  3. I’d also like to put in a vote for you to re-review this one, Vern. I agree, it’s no Evil Dead 2, but judged on its own merits it’s a good, goofy movie that just happens to have zombies, kung-fu fights and more blood and gore than an Eli Roth movie. And really, I don’t think we can reasonably expect another movie that compares to Evil Dead 2. Something that good only comes along every hundred years or so, like Haley’s comet.

    Are there any other movies that people are bugging you to revisit? If so, maybe you could do a little feature where you rewatch a few of these and do a little write-up of each. Just tossing out the idea.

    Also, have you ever seen Peter Jackson’s first movie Bad Taste? It’s not great, but there are some flashes of brilliance. It actually reminds me a lot of They Live and that can’t be a bad thing, right?

  4. Yeah, I always wanted to do something called “Vern’s Appeals Court” or something where I re-watched one that I hadn’t seen in a long time that I didn’t like that much but alot of people said was great. I might’ve done one, I forget. I tried to do it with CRANK but I didn’t have much luck liking it any more. I would like to do it with NATURAL BORN KILLERS and a few others. This might be a good one.

    I did see BAD TASTE, that one is alot funnier to me, I guess the whole home made on the weekends vibe is kind of appealing. Also if you haven’t watched it I recommend the making-of deal that’s on one of the DVDs of BAD TASTE, it was made for New Zealand television at the time so it’s just about a local kid making a movie and of course they have no idea who he’s gonna become. They talk to his parents about how he’s always cooking monster heads in their oven when they need to make dinner.

    Alot of people think Peter Jackson got too big for his britches metaphorically when he got too small for his britches literally, but I still like the guy. Maybe the combination of bad reviews and worldwide indifference set my expectations right, but I even really liked THE LOVELY BONES and was pretty moved by it in the end. I forget why I never reviewed that one, must’ve been busy at the time having adventures or something cool like that.

  5. I’m not really a Jackson fan, but I did quite enjoy THE LOVELY BONES. Oh sure, there were several parts that were absolutely terrible, and the ending, or at least part of it, was embarassing. But I was never bored, and could connect with it on an emotional level, which is not something I could personally say for any of his other films that decade

  6. Revisiting movies would be great and the ones you still hate are just as valid. Natural Born Killers would be interesting in the currrent political climate. I don’t think I’ve watched it post 9/11. Forrest Gump though, that is just creepy today.

  7. FTopel – yeah, “Forrest Gump” has become pretty notorious recently. Although I think it’s mainly because it’s a “serious” movie that won Oscars – there are many, many action movies that have similar or worse themes to FG that haven’t faced the same amount of latent hostility. (Most obvious example I can think of is the Rambo sequels, in which a socially maladjusted PTSD sufferer is sent off to die or come home in a blaze of glory for the good old USA. I think plenty of people have criticized them on the grounds that they’re terrible films – which is completely justified BTW – but nobody [apart from myself of course] seems to have singled out their politics.)

    I’d be more interested to see how the likes of “Cold Mountain” and (from what Vern’s said about it, I’ve never seen this one) “The Reader” do today. Certainly with “Cold Mountain” and from what I’ve read about “The Reader”, these are films that are made for the Oscar committee, not the audience; built to win awards instead of to entertain. The same might be said about films like “Crash”, “Rain Man”, etc. Now that they’re no longer tipped for the Oscars, would they still be regarded the same way as they initially were?

  8. Back in vocational school, we had a docent who came to our class once a month to talk with us about several aspects of filmmaking (Editing, lighting and so on). He referred to COLD MOUNTAIN as “a wonderful movie, that is completely miscast in every single role”.

  9. I wouldn’t say people don’t comment on the right-wing politics of the Rambo films, in fact I’d say their notorious for them, far more so than FORREST GUMP, the politics of which (intentional or not) I don’t think are something the genral public has ever really cottened onto, and I don’t think it’s really discussed much outside of serious film fans/critics and the odd NATIONAL REVIEW article. FIRST BLOOD PART II was and is well known as a big favourite of Reagan’s, which of course made it a popular subject for unambitious stand up comics for about 10 years.

    I’m not sure I’d lump RAIN MAN in with stuff like CRASH; it shares traits with them and was release during Oscar season, but it’s essentially a big “audience” picture that lucked out with the Academy

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