Undead (2002)

Starring Felicity Mason, Mungo McKay, Rob Jenkins, Lisa Cunningham

Directed by Michael & Peter Spierig

What was the last good zombie movie you saw? I’m not talking about a night with friends re-watching the Romero trilogy, and any frequent readers of this site know I’m not talking about any movie that starts with a ‘Re’ and ends with ‘sident Evil’. I mean something truly original?

For me, it was Undead. Last night.

You may have heard about this movie from time to time on the site, as the twin brother filmmakers slowly leaked just enough info to keep us short attention spanned horror fans interested. Now it’s completed and on it’s way to theaters all around the world, and I’ve gotten the chance to take a sneak peek at what we’re in for. And it’s awesome.

Undead is the story of a small town in Australia that is suddenly ridden with rocks falling from the sky, due to some very odd activity in space. If a rock lands near you (or on you, as is the case for a few), you become a flesh-craving zombie. The premise from there is simple as a group of survivors with their own sorted history have to ban together to try and survive the onslaught of the undead.

Hence the title.

I say the premise is simple, but it really isn’t. There are forces out there aside from their flesh-craving neighbors (and fish) that are trying to prevent them from surviving this big mess, complete with odds lights in the sky and ominous warnings from the town crazy (McKay) who claims he’s been abducted before and this is just the beginning of the end.

I swear to you, I’ve only just described the first, say, half hour of the movie. To go any further into it would spoil many surprises and moments of “huh?” (in a good way) that follow in the last hour and a half. It sucks that I can’t really go too much farther into the plot for Undead without dumping spoilers on you, because it’s one of the coolest and more original concepts I’ve witnessed in a very long time.

Instead I will focus on the strong suits outside of the plot. The first one that should grab any viewer that knows anything about the movie (i.e. that it’s an indie feature) is the amazing use of CGI. Not on a big George Lucas scale, but simply as an enhancement for what’s already happening on screen and making it that much cooler. But these two brothers know what they’re doing when it comes to not just CGI effects but straight-up old fashioned gore, of which there is plenty. At times a great throwback to the early days of Peter Jackson (ala Dead Alive, of course) and even some cool homages to Romero, I really hope we get to see more messy horror form these guys.

The other high-quality feature is the acting. I’m not sure how they came about the cast they have, but you’d never know they were first-time actors. They either trained heavily for their parts beforehand or were just naturally blessed with good acting skills, because you never get the impression this is their first movie. And that’s a really positive thing to have in an indie film because no matter how great your story or effects might be, terrible actors can ruin a movie for pretty much everybody.

My only complaints about the overall film involve some bits at the beginning that seemed to drag on ridiculously long, with the zombies taking this side of forever to catch up with their prey. This slow-action doesn’t last for too long, however, and once it’s out of the way you will forget it ever happened fairly quick. Who knows, maybe they wanted it to be that way to draw out the tension, but for me it just took to long to get through.

Trust me when I say, though, this is a very minor complaint when held up to the quality of ‘Undead’ as a whole. I really hope we in the states get a decent DVD release of it, and soon, because I want every single one of you to see it. We can only hope that more and more filmmakers like the brothers Spierig continue to flock to the horror scene because we need more quality zombie films like this to show Hollywood how it should be done.

Lions Gate Films acquire Undead a while back, and have plans for releasing it on U.S. soil sometime next year, though I’m not sure if it’s theatrical or straight-to-video yet. There is a Region 4 release of the movie in the Brothers’ home country of Australia, but make sure if you’re going to search it out that your DVD player is region-free.

For more on the film and the latest updates regarding it’s release, check out the official website for Undead right here. You can also now check the official site for the film’s composer, Cliff Bradley, right here.

4 out of 5

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Johnny Butane

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