Dead Alive (1993) - Rotten Tomatoes

Dead Alive (1993)

Dead Alive (1993)

Dead Alive




Critic Consensus: The delightfully gonzo tale of a lovestruck teen and his zombified mother, Dead Alive is extremely gory and exceedingly good fun, thanks to Peter Jackson's affection for the tastelessly sublime.

Dead Alive Trailers & Photos

Movie Info

Considered by many to be the goriest film ever made and one of the funniest "splatstick" horror films since Sam Raimi's Evil Dead 2 (1986), Peter Jackson's New Zealand-lensed zombie epic Dead Alive is a hilariously over-the-top splatterfest that outdoes even the director's aptly-titled Bad Taste (which featured such gag-inducing sights as communal vomit-eating, exploding sheep and a chainsaw C-section). The story centers on a milquetoast mama's boy (Timothy Balme) whose budding romance with the lovely Paquita (Diana Penalver) is severely tested by the rapid decomposition and increasingly gross behavior of his oppressive mother (Elizabeth Moody), whose recent encounter with a "Sumatran Rat Monkey" transforms her into a rabid, flesh-eating zombie. Unable to bring himself to chop his undead mum into little pieces, he tries vainly (and disgustingly) to keep her alive until she begins chowing down on everyone within reach -- but even a dutiful son's love has its limitations. Concentrating his efforts on imprisoning her and the growing legions of her undead victims in the cellar -- away from both the nervous Paquita and the prying eyes of a greedy uncle (Ian Watkin) who has his sights on the old lady's inheritance -- he finally begins to realize that the whole affair is going to end very, very badly. Jackson's hyperkinetic directing style and the laugh-a-minute script lend a jovial, throw-away feel to the literal avalanche of sticky gore (the lawnmower climax must have set some kind of record for sheer blood volume) and severed limbs & organs splashing across the screen (there's even a fine bit of acting from a constantly-flatulent pile of intestines) with such gleeful abandon that it all becomes one enormous, tasteless joke. Although it certainly limits the range of its audience appeal (i.e. anyone who laughed out loud at the "Mr. Creosote" skit in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life will be delighted), Dead Alive is great fun for horror buffs with a well-disciplined gag reflex. Believe it or not, Jackson followed this film with the elegant, tragic art-house hit Heavenly Creatures (1992).more
Rating: R (for an abundance of outrageous gore)
Genre: Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Comedy
Directed By:
Written By: Peter Jackson, Stephen Sinclair, Frances Walsh
In Theaters:
On DVD: Sep 8, 1998
Trimark Pictures - Official Site

Watch it now


Timothy Balme
as Lionel Cosgrove
Diana Peņalver
as Paquita Maria Sanche...
Elizabeth Moody
as Vera Cosgrove
Ian Watkin
as Uncle Les
Brenda Kendall
as Nurse McTavish
Stuart Devenie
as Father McGruderombi...
Tony Hiles
as Zoo Keeper
Glenis Levestam
as Mrs Matheson
Lewis Rowe
as Mr Matheson
George Port
as Lawrence
Davina Whitehouse
as Grandmother
Peter Jackson
as Undertaker's Assista...
James Grant
as Tram Driver
Jim Booth
as Lionel's Father
Frances Walsh
as Mother at Park
Chris Short
as Customs Official
Jamie Selkirk
as Father at Zoo
Sarah Scott Davis
as Featured Party Zombi...
Ken Hammon
as Featured Party Zombi...
James Grant
as Tram Driver
Tony Hiles
as Zoo Keeper
George Port
as Lawrence
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Dead Alive

Critic Reviews for Dead Alive

All Critics (29) | Top Critics (4)

The best to date from Kiwi gore specialist Peter Jackson.

Full Review… | July 22, 2008
Top Critic

The finale, in which Lionel reduces a horde of flesh-eaters to a mulch of blood, flesh and offal with the aid of a flymo, is probably the goriest scene ever.

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Because all of this looks blatantly unreal, and because the timing of the shock effects is so haphazard, Dead Alive isn't especially scary or repulsive. Nor is it very funny.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

Horror films used to be primordial spook shows, tapping midnight-dark fears. Now they tap bodily goo: rivers of blood, dripping limbs, eyeballs that go pop in the night.

Full Review… | February 12, 1993
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

Takes a few views to really appreciate, but Peter Jackson's blood-splattered horror masterpiece is a gory good time.

Full Review… | January 29, 2012

Lionsgate's visceral, albeit barebones Blu-ray package lets viewers really sink their teeth into Dead Alive.

Full Review… | October 20, 2011
Slant Magazine

Audience Reviews for Dead Alive

Think Greg Kihn's "Our Love's In Jeopardy" video @ 200 mph. Fuck I dated myself.

Bob Stinson

Super Reviewer



Directors Cat
Directors Cat

Super Reviewer

Who would have thought that Peter "Lord of the Rings" Jackson started his career off by making campy, gory horror schlock films like this? This film, despite the copious and over the top amounts of blood and gore, is actually quite hilarious and enjoyable.

The plot follows a village dweeb who tries to have a budding romance, while also trying to conceal the fact that his overbearing mother is a flesh-eating zombie.

The tone of the film is deliriously cartoonish and over the top.I think that's what makes it surprising considering that it's also probably the goriest film I've ever seen, if not the goriest of all time. Seriously. I can't believe how gruesome and messy this film gets, and I actually feel even more twisted for finding it all so friggin' amusing. The effects are very well done, and really make you appreciate the effort that goes into this sort of thing.

The acting is also surprisingly really good, and there's some good lines, too.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

Dead Alive Quotes

Father McGruder/Zombie McGruder: The devil is amongst us.
– Submitted by Thomas R (2 years ago)
Uncle Les: I see you've come across your uncle's old stag films. Is this the one with the donkey and the chambermaid?
– Submitted by Thomas R (2 years ago)
Father McGruder/Zombie McGruder: Stand back boy, this calls for divine intervention!
– Submitted by Thomas R (2 years ago)
Lionel: They're not dead exactly, they're just... sort of rotting.
– Submitted by Nick S (3 years ago)

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