Dead Alive


Dead Alive

Critics 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.



Total Count: 40


Audience Score

User Ratings: 64,508
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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).


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
Peter Vere Jones
as Undertaker
Tony Hiles
as Zoo Keeper
Glenis Levestam
as Mrs Matheson
George Port
as Lawrence
Lewis Rowe
as Mr Matheson
Davina Whitehouse
as Grandmother
James Grant
as Tram Driver
Peter Jackson
as Undertaker's Assistant
Jim Booth
as Lionel's Father
Fran 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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Critic Reviews for Dead Alive

All Critics (40) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (35) | Rotten (5)

Audience Reviews for Dead Alive

  • Nov 26, 2013
    Directors C Super Reviewer
  • Aug 01, 2012
    "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 S Super Reviewer
  • Jul 26, 2012
    **** out of **** I love blood. I love guts. I love gore. I love anything (artificial) that flows in large amounts, even if we aren't speaking of bodily fluids. But if we are, then movie blood is what I always crave. The more the merrier is my motto when it comes to such a thing. I'm not easily offended or shocked by movie violence; and in the case of features like "The Evil Dead" and its sequel, the grotesque becomes the darkly comic and absurd. Peter Jackson apparently loves blood, guts, gore, and fake red bodily fluids as much as I do. His early effort "Dead Alive" (known as "Braindead" some places) is an ode or homage to the mere existence of over-the-top movie violence and gore. The whole thing has this real low budget aesthetic to it throughout the first half and that's charming, but what's even more-so is the transition from that to all-out gruesome carnage in the third act. This is probably one of the most bat-shit insane and violent movies I have ever seen, period. It's such a lively, spontaneous, comic horror farce; it embraces special effects for blood and gore like few films before or after it truly have. And by blood and gore, we're talking organs coming back to life, faces being ripped open and necks suffering from a similar fate, flesh exploding into a frenzy of green goo, and a in a famous scene, a lawnmower meeting with mortal flesh and causing certain disfigurement and mutilation. Was there a line that Jackson ever considered? Because if there was; he not only crosses but disregards it all-together. With "Dead Alive", there simply is no line. And Jackson couldn't give less of a fuck about it. It starts out with a sequence involving a couple of misguided explorers on the fictional Skull Island who intend to escape with a caged "Rat Monkey", which has a rather nasty bite. Not everyone makes it back alive. Cut to the town of Wellington, New Zealand; where the rat monkey now lives, confined in its cage with the other monkeys at a zoo. It's 1957; and the likably docile Lionel (Timonthy Balme) is living with his elderly mother (Elizabeth Moody) and is being pursued by a helpless romantic foreigner named Paquita (Diana Penalver). The two go to the zoo one day on a date and Lionel's over-protective mother tags along, only to be bitten by the crazed rat monkey. Lionel must take care of her while she is still sane, which won't be for long. She starts losing her skin (an ear, parts of her face, soon her whole body) and eventually goes completely mad, or so it seems. Perhaps she's just a zombie. Her behavior gets increasingly violent and Lionel must purchase a syringe in order to fight back against his mother and the ill-fated house guests that she has killed and turned into zombies just like her. When mother leaves the house, she starts attacking townsfolk and turning them into zombies as well. Soon she'll have an entire army behind her. Lionel must contain what she's started in his house. But it's not easy. Two of the zombies have sex and produce a disgusting little zombie baby who Lionel attempts to father by taking it to the park and then subsequently beating the shit out of it. Then Lionel's obnoxious cousin arrives, discovers the zombies in the guest room, and invites all his friends and family to the house for a party. You know what happens next. I'm a sucker for movies like this. Movies that are made according to a director's original and daring vision regardless of what the general public might think. Even the most mainstream of film critics have warmed up to this one by now; and it's considered a masterpiece in the field of marrying the humorous with the macabre by horror fans and movie critics specializing in or who enjoy the genre in particular. I can understand why. Here, you've got a director (Jackson) who is known for bigger and supposedly better things such as the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and the spectacular re-imagining of "King Kong" (which also features Skull Island). But the truth is that the earlier end of the director's career was populated by absurdist comedies of an extremely over-the-top nature; and this is one of them as well as one of the best. If you're half as crazy as me when it comes to your taste in cinema; you're going to have the movie-going experience of your life with this one. Kung Fu priests that "kick ass for the Lord", diabolical yet playful zombie newborns, silly dialogue, silly accents, yet effective satire on 50's New Zealand society; "Dead Alive" has just about everything I've been looking for in a movie but never expected I would get. As far as sheer entertainment goes, it's a marvel and I haven't had this much pure fun watching a movie in a long time, but I love it when the occasion pops up at random. Every self-respecting sicko should see this. Any self-respecting human being should see this. It's such a good, hilarious, ridiculous bloodbath that I can't stand seeing it being overlooked by ANYONE. It is good cinema. Because as a special effects extravaganza, it really does understand itself. It's completely self-aware of its absurdity. But it was also influential for the new wave of American horror film; particularly films like "Shaun of the Dead". It's a classic on its own right. A flesh-crawling, head-ripping, toilet-absorbing, blade-cutting good time.
    Ryan M Super Reviewer
  • Jul 13, 2012
    An hilarious, brutally gory ride from start to finnish without forgetting that we're supposed to care for these characters. I don't think the last mansion scene will ever be topped by any movie anytime soon. Buckets and buckets of gory fun!
    Francisco G Super Reviewer

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