Braindead / Dead Alive (1992)
Lionel lives with his overbearing and spiteful mother in a large house with immaculately clipped lawns. When his mother gets bitten by a Sumatran Rat-Monkey, she becomes ill and dies. But when she returns to life as a flesh-eating zombie, other people begin to get infected too. Will Lionel save the day? Will he save the house and his inheritance from his creepy uncle Les? And will he and Paquita from the grocery store end up living together happily ever after?
Several years before he directed the Lord Of The Rings and Hobbit movies, Peter Jackson started his career with a couple of gruesome horror comedies that quickly gained cult status. Braindead (also known as Dead Alive) is possibly one of the goriest films ever made. But the blood, guts and goo are so over-the-top it's actually hard not to laugh out loud. Jackson gets the balance perfectly right between visceral horror and slapstick comedy. And there's no doubt this film's tongue is very firmly in its cheek.
The whole visual style is very cartoon-like, with exaggerated camera angles, bright primary colours, and a campy 1950s aesthetic. It features hilarious use of stop-motion animation, shadow puppetry, and some revoltingly clever practical special effects. The sound and score add to the humour, and it's the only horror film I've heard of that features an episode of The Archers. The comic performances border on pantomime (in a really good way). And Timothy Balme (better known these days as one of The Almighty Johnsons) shows a real talent for physical comedy. And there's a witty (and highly quotable) script that keeps it all moving along well.
Paquita: "Your mother ate my dog!"
Lionel: "Not all of it."
Sticklers for good taste and decency would be best to leave this well alone. Let's just say there are some (incredibly funny) scenes involving a zombie baby, and also a funeral. And the infamous climax of the film is a classic scene of modern horror cinema. Just mention the word "lawnmower" to anyone who's seen the movie, and they'll either laugh their head off, or run away screaming.
I have to be honest, the best way to watch this is with someone who has absolutely no idea what to expect. But if you're not that wicked, it's still a great night in, especially watched with a big group of friends.