Dead Alive (1993) - Rotten Tomatoes

Dead Alive (1993)

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AUDIENCE SCORE

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.

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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).

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Cast

Timothy Balme
as Lionel Cosgrove
Diana Peñalver
as Paquita Maria Sanchez
Elizabeth Moody
as Vera Cosgrove
Ian Watkin
as Uncle Les
Brenda Kendall
as Nurse McTavish
Stuart Devenie
as Father McGruderombie McGruder
Tony Hiles
as Zoo Keeper
Glenis Levestam
as Mrs Matheson
George Port
as Lawrence
Lewis Rowe
as Mr Matheson
Davina Whitehouse
as Grandmother
Peter Jackson
as Undertaker's Assistant
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 Zombie
Ken Hammon
as Featured Party Zombie
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News & Interviews for Dead Alive

Critic Reviews for Dead Alive

All Critics (34) | Top Critics (6)

After you see it, you want to race out of the theater and recommend it to your sickest friends right away.

October 19, 2016 | Full Review…
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

Ordinarily I don't care for this kind of thing at all, but something must be said for Jackson's endless reserves of giddy energy, which are clearly meant to be silly.

October 19, 2016 | Full Review…
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

The best to date from Kiwi gore specialist Peter Jackson.

July 22, 2008 | Full Review…
Variety
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.

June 24, 2006 | Full Review…
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.

May 20, 2003 | Full Review…
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.

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

Audience Reviews for Dead Alive

½

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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
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

"Dead Alive" is a weird, gory, disgusting movie. It's also pretty funny. As far as zombie films go this is one of my favorites. Peter Jackson pre-LOTR era. It's some brutal stuff.

Eric Shankle
Eric Shankle

Super Reviewer

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