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Braindead

Braindead

By Jamie Suckley • January 18th, 2012
Static Mass Rating: 5/5
BRAINDEAD (MOVIE)
WingNut Films

Original release: May 14th 1993
Certificate (UK): 18
Running time: 104 minutes

Country of origin: New Zealand

Director: Peter Jackson
Writer: Stephen Sinclair

Cast:
Timothy Balme, Diana Penalver, Elizabeth Moody, Ian Watkin

I used to love eating custard. I mean I’d eat it with almost anything. Nowadays I can’t stomach it, or even be in the same room without retching. This fear of creamed pudding started when I was nine when I crept down my bedroom stairs to watch a film I had been forbidden to watch, the 1992 zombie cult classic Braindead (aka Dead Alive).

Long before Peter Jackson guided us through the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and made us feel sympathy for King Kong he had directed a number of independent horror/ comedy gems. Following Bad Taste (1987) and Meet the Feebles (1989) in which Jim Henson-esque puppets will corrupt your adolescence forever, Jackson created this splatter fest like no other.

Braindead

Opening on Skull Island, Stewart (Bill Ralston), an explorer, has captured the Sumatran Rat-Monkey. ‘According to legends’ the hybrid resulted from the rape of tree monkeys by plague rats on the Island. After a pursuit progresses involving natives, Stewart is bitten and ends up swiftly losing an arm before realising his head is next on the ‘to decapitate’ list by his tour guides. The hybrid locked inside a box is then transported to Wellington Zoo in New Zealand.

In Wellington, Lionel Cosgrove (Timothy Balme) is a boy firmly smothered by his overly possessive mother Vera (Elizabeth Moody) and has the unwanted task of looking after her. Since the death of his father his life has been on hold whilst he carries out her every demand. Against his mother’s wishes he begins a relationship with Paquita (Diana Peñalver) who is adamant that he is her soul mate. Fuelled with jealously and trying to sabotage their date at the zoo, Lionel’s mother is bitten by the hybrid, crushing its head in retaliation.

The animal bite slowly transforms her into a bloodthirsty zombie. Lionel, although terrified, remains dedicated and cares for her. Despite injecting her with doses of veterinary anaesthetic to control her murderous urges, she begins infecting the residents of the town. Lionel must once and for all accept his responsibility and finally put his mother and the other infected residents to rest.

Braindead

Braindead is packed with so many entertaining scenes that have remained in my head. The dark slapstick comedy formula used is reminiscent of the Evil Dead series. Scenarios include a Kung fu-priest (“I kick ass for the lord”) who when infected begins a sexual relationship with another leading to a zombie pregnancy and birth. And how could I forget the excessive amounts of gore? – I honestly couldn’t. It’s regarded as one of the bloodiest films ever made.

From the moment party goers are violently killed and turned into members of the undead leading up to the lawnmower scene which could easily be the biggest contender: as Lionel literally turns the zombies into mush, blood covers not only him but the entire room. It’s not just walking zombies that he and the survivors must face. Limbs, a severed head and intestines are reanimated, becoming deadly pawns and that’s before his mother is transformed into a giant mutated monster.

Braindead

It also has an underlying coming of age theme concerning Lionel progressing from the boy his mother has manipulated for years into manhood. Once he realises his love for Paquita, he has no choice but to (as Kay suggests):

“Stand up to his mother and depart from the “womb” (Jackson uses a rather literal and repellent visual effect during the films climax to drive the idea home).”

Indeed, this effect perfectly addresses his mother’s smothering head-on as she stores him back in her womb proclaiming “No-one will ever love you like your mother!” By defeating his mother in her mutated state he is able to finally develop into a man.
There is one scene I must pin point: the one that instantly put me off creamed puddings. During a committee meeting/meal which Vera had organised before her transformation, Lionel tries to keep his mother’s deteriorating health a secret and, pretending everything’s normal, prepares a meal for Mr and Mrs, Matheson (Glenis Levestam and Lewis Rowe). As her urges become apparent (stealing meat off their plates and savagely eating it) Lionel hurriedly prepares custard for desert. Vera presses her bite wound and pus seeps out. As Mrs Matheson looks in horror, it lands in her husband’s bowl and he unintentionally eats it declaring: “Mmm. Rich and creamy, just the way I like it!”

By this point of the film, the sound of me retching was enough for my parents to realise that I had been hiding on the landing and they frogmarched me to bed. (How they didn’t hear me laughing at other scenes baffles me). From that moment, I couldn’t eat a creamed pudding again. I wasn’t actually able to watch the film fully until a few years later.

SOURCES:

  • Glenn Kay, Zombie Movies- The Ultimate Guide, Chicago (2008), Chicago Review Press

Braindead is simply one of the best horror comedies of all time and has rightfully earned its cult status. It’s funny, gory and requires a viewer with a strong stomach. If George Romero and Sam Raimi had created a baby, this would be the finished product. Just don’t ask me to eat custard.

Jamie Suckley

Jamie Suckley

Jamie, editor for Cult Movies at Static Mass, is a 24 year old media studies graduate from Sheffield, who likes nothing better than watching films. If he was to star in a horror film he’d like to be the first one killed (think Drew Barrymore in Scream).

He has a keen interest in horror which started when he was a child. Due to his hyperactive behaviour his cousins made him watch films they thought would calm him down- They were wrong! It was watching Hellraiser and Killer Klowns from Outer Space that his passion for horror began. Over the years this developed into a passion for zombies, madmen, mutated animals and all things gore.

When he’s not working, in his dream world, worrying about zombie epidemics or watching films, he can be found on Twitter sharing his thoughts and bringing his dream world into reality.

You can follow Jamie on Twitter @JamieSuckley.

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