Dead Alive (aka Braindead) (1992)
Long before he was directing hobbits, wizards, elves and dwarfs around Middle Earth, Peter Jackson worked with characters that would make an orc cringe. In the late 80’s/early 90’s, Jackson cut his directorial teeth with a couple of splatter films, Bad Taste and the unforgettable Braindead, better known to us Yanks as Dead Alive.
Possessing an undeniable right to call itself a contender for the title of goriest film of all time, Dead Alive holds back nothing. It’s a complete and utter assault on the eyes from the moment the infectious bite of the Sumatran Rat Monkey takes hold. With some of the most disgusting zombies you’ll ever see, Dead Alive will turn your stomach as you split your gut laughing at the completely over-the-top scenarios our hero, Lionel Cosgrove (played by Timothy Balme), gets himself involved in while trying to keep his zombies inside the house.
This was one of the first films to blend the horror and comedy genres nearly flawlessly. As opposed to many films that fall into the horror-comedy category, House didn’t rely on over-the-top gore to achieve the horror tag on the film. Instead, House was actually able to add an element of suspense. It’s not easy to get audience members biting their fingernails in suspenseful fear in one scene and then get them laughing at George Wendt in the next. (And you have to love the “Must See TV” collaboration of Wendt from “Cheers” and Richard Moll from “Night Court” in this film.)
Director Steve Miner evoked genuine laughs and frights in the same film. Yes, upon rewatching the film now, 25 years after its initial release, it does lose a bit of its original kick, but House certainly drew up an excellent blueprint for horror-comedies to follow.