Posts Tagged ‘Gore’

Dead Alive aka Braindead (1992)

October 11, 2019

Rated R for gore and language.

Back in 2016, I reviewed a little movie called Bad Taste which happens to be the first film that a young Peter Jackson made. It was absolutely fantastic in a similar style to the Troma style of horror movies. Lots of wildly fake but gross gore and plenty of silly comedy. The thing is, the general public mostly knows Peter Jackson as “the guy who made Lord of the Rings”. Except, the Lord of the Rings franchise was the second phase of his career. Before that, he made three horror movies that are still celebrated today even if one of them is not technically ‘good’. In 1983 (when I was not yet one year old) he joined together with his friends to make a goofy, crazy horror movie called Bad Taste. It took them four years filming on weekends in their little town in New Zealand. Still, it was his ticket to show business and nine years later (1989) he released The Frighteners, a fun horror comedy starring Michael J Fox. In between, he directed his second film to get a wide release in the United States called Braindead (renamed Dead Alive for American audiences). I am so excited to watch this last movie in his horror trilogy.

As long as I can remember, I have been afraid of contagion. I think that is a natural response to learning that out there are things that you cannot see that can kill you. I used to dread visiting hospitals because I just knew I was going to catch something. I still get skeeved out in them. When I was a preteen, my mom’s best friend got cancer and my first fear was that my mom would catch it consoling her. Obviously, I am not alone in my fear. The media is rife with stories about one contagion or another. Since I was a kid there have been tons of outbreaks of Mad Cow Disease. There have been some potential Ebola outbreaks a little too close to home but now they seem to have developed a cure. That is why the anti-vax movement scares me so much because it causes outbreaks of diseases we thought we already defeated. It makes me worry about how the United States and the world would do in a real global pandemic with too many stupid people on Earth.

What I first noticed was that this movie is every bit as goofy and zany as Bad Taste but with a slightly higher budget. Everything is done with practical effects and the gore starts flowing within minutes of the beginning. In keeping with the same wacky atmosphere as his previous movies, the camera lurches from dramatic angle to dramatic angle like an episode of 1960s Batman. Still, I feel like all of this services the movie really well as it heightens the comedy as it shifts to horror. Everything keeps high energy and almost never stops building toward a conclusion. As I said, the blood definitely flows and the aforementioned contagion and rot definitely rears its head. Those effects are so gross but again, good for the movie. There is a reason that this movie holds the record for most fake blood used in a movie. I also love the stop motion animation. Stop motion has a lot of potential for being absolutely terrifying (see The Ghoulies, The Gate, Evil Dead, and Puppet Master).

The acting is over the top but also fantastic. Timothy Balme is perfect as the nerdy, put upon guy who is thrust into a horrible situation.  He feels like Charlie Chaplin stuck in a horror movie. Diana Peñalver is great as the sunny and naive Hispanic immigrant who falls in love with Balme for better or worse. Elizabeth Moody plays Balme’s horrible mother who is horrible to be with even before everything goes to Hell. The rest of the movie is populated by plenty of zany character actors who get into a lot of terrifying but comically violent situations. It is once again set in New Zealand with a mostly New Zealand cast. A lot of the acting is purposefully exaggerated as it was in Bad Taste. It is like watching a horror movie made by the Three Stooges and The Marx Brothers in the best way. Almost everybody mugs for the camera and makes sure every word is over annunciated. Over the top was the only way to do this movie and it really works for me.

Overall, I really loved this movie. It made me cringe and wince over and over but its outrageousness kept me wondering what would happen next. It is full of plenty of surprises but all of the surprises are definitely earned instead of just for cheap scares. While the movie is still pretty rough, it shows clearly how good Peter Jackson is at putting a movie together. Everything works together in service of the movie and nothing clashes. Everything works toward wacky, bloody horror and nothing pauses the action unnecessarily. I definitely recommend it for people with strong stomachs.

Bad Taste (1987)

October 19, 2016

Today’s selection is from now legendary director, Peter Jackson. You may remember Peter Jackson from the impressive Lord of the Rings movies and the less impressive Hobbit movies. For the record, I don’t fully blame Jackson for the Hobbit movies being less satisfying. Splitting into three movies was a good idea when you had Del Toro on board to direct the first part. Anyway, enough about another project that horror master Del Toro got pulled off of. This movie was made fourteen years before the Fellowship of the Rings. The movie that convinced me to watch Peter Jackson’s first full-length film is actually The Frighteners. I think I’ve talked briefly about the film but it is a mix of comedy, horror and fantasy that is definitely worth checking out. Michael J Fox is great at being terrorized and put upon in equal measures. That made me decide to see what Peter Jackson could do on a shoestring budget with his friends out in nowhere New Zealand.

Today I was looking at an article that says that we are unlikely to encounter sentient extraterrestrial life. The reason is because any beings that are smart enough to develop interstellar travel will most likely kill itself first much like we’re doing. Is there a word for experiencing both sadness and relief? When I was a preteen, I was terrified of aliens. It had little to do with any movie I saw but more with a movie called Fire in the Sky which I still have not seen. Every time I saw the poster, I would be paralyzed with fear. Every time I went camping with my friends, every shooting star was a reason for a silent panic attack. I was terrified of being abducted and then who knows what would happen? Worse, nobody would ever know what happened to me because aliens were so elusive and there were so many conspiracies. I feared the unknown from beyond long before I developed my mental muscles for critical thinking. Still, I hold those fearful memories forever.

This is probably the cheapest film that I will review this year as it was largely filmed by Jackson and his friends over the series of several weekends. We start this movie in the thick of things, a full-scale alien invasion. Of course, that is not much of a spoiler since that’s what the IMDB description says. We are not sure what the exact threat it is but we know it’s aliens. We are in New Zealand and they take advantage of the beautiful seaside mountains for this fictional town. The sound and picture quality are about what you would expect from a bunch of weekend warriors in the eighties. Like Horror Express, most of the dialogue is dubbed in later and a lot of it does in cartoon voiceover style. The actors were all unknowns to me but they did a good job with the two different tones this movie bounces back and forth between. Although, Peter Jackson himself plays two of the biggest roles and he is great at both a hero and a villain.

The whole movie is very cartoony but it is also very creepy too. Aliens that look like humans is a horror/science fiction device that has been used well many times over to great effect. It is an obvious thing to use if you are working with a limited budget. In this, we have aliens who seem to have turned humans into their slaves. One of the creepiest parts to me was how casual the gore is. One minute a body might be fine but the next half of a person’s head might be gone. That kind of thing freaked me out since it felt like there was not a lot of buildup to it. Also, the gore effects are some of the best I have seen in any horror movie. The special effects are practical and that makes sense as this film is listed as the first film Weta Workshop ever worked on. In a lot of ways, this movie reminds me of the making of Evil Dead and El Mariachi which were obviously cheap but still look great. Also, like the Evil Dead franchise, there is a lot to be creeped out by and a lot to laugh at too. In fact, its comedy makes the horror parts even scarier.

Overall, I think this is actually a must-see movie for any horror enthusiast. Sure it’s cheap and goofy but it’s also still really scary once you get into it. There is kind of a classic rock and roll feel to the movie mixed with the weirdness that permeated the Seventies and Eighties. The aliens look silly but by the time they appear, I was conditioned by the back and forth tone and the excellent synth score to be afraid of them anyway. There is also a whole extended action movie sequence but they do a good job of keeping the tension throughout. This movie was really enjoyable and it clearly shows how Jackson would become so widely regarded in film. I definitely recommend it to anybody out there and you can probably find it for free on Youtube like I did.


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