I made a comment in a recent review about Peter Jackson and his pre-'Lord of the Rings' filmography. Now, I love the LOTR trilogy, they are some of the most beautiful and epic movies ever put to film. Having seen those, most people just simply wouldn't believe the movies that Peter Jackson made earlier in his career. I talked a bit about that New Zealand thing they got going on in their movies, and he is the personification of that. Early movies of his, like "Bad Taste", about some gnarly aliens that serve human flesh at their chain of fast food joints, or "Meet the Feebles", which is about just the most twisted and depraved group of Muppet-like puppets tht suffer from drug addictions, murderous rampages, etc. Those 2 movies, along with "Dead Alive", are his trifecta of bloody, ooze-covered fright flicks, though it's impossible to paint them into that particular corner. But God bless him for them.
Just reading the trivia on IMDB on this movie alone is entertaining. You learn fun things like the fact that during the big, bloody finale, fake blood was pumped out at 5 gallons a second, the fact that this is officially the bloodiest movie of all time, or the fact that when made available for rent, some countries provided a complimentary vomit bag. Now, don't let those statistics scare you away, as every second of this film is done in a brilliantly whacky and outrageous way, and it's not something you'll soon forget. This stuff is certainly an acquired taste, though. It's certainly not "Human Centipede" disturbing, but it's gross and disgusting and ooey and gooey, but above all else, it's hugely fun and entertaining. I will forewarn you, bloody fun aside, the movie itslef looks like crap, it has terrible voice dubbing, and just the overall datedness of it will make you question exactly what you are watching.
First off, this movie is not "Inception", it doesn't ever pretend to be anything more than it is. It's not rocket surgery. The insanity starts out on Skull Island, a nod to King Kong, where we have this silly researcher running about this rocky sland with a bamboo cage. He is confronted by an indigenous tribe, whom he hilariously escapes, but then ends up being bitten by this small animal in this cage. We find out this is a Sumatran rat-monkey. Now when it comes to this little creature, I could probably do better with some sticks and Silly Putty but that's what makes this movie so great. This rat-monkey is done with very primitive stop-motion and looks hilariously ridiculous, yet it's easily one of my favorite special effects I've ever seen. We're introduced to our damsel-in-distress, Paquita, who is desperate to find the love of her life. Enter Lionel, the endearing loser, but ultimately knight in shining armor. Poor Lionel's life is completely controlled by his domineering mother, though. As Paquita tries to create a spark with Lionel, almost against her will at first, Lionel's mother will have none of it. On a date to the zoo, Lionel's mother follows them, and accidentally gets bitten by the Sumatran rat-monkey. She immediately falls ill from the bite, eventually turning into a zombie.
He tries to keep her in hiding, even though it doesn't work out well. Before her decay gets too bad, she has company come over for dinner, and I won't spoil the surprise, but let's just say they have pudding for desert. Things go from bad to worse as a visiting nurse gets bitten and becomes a zombie, then a group of greaser punks. Then there's a priest that becomes one, and that's my only true complaint about the movie. This priest was such a potentially great character, as he knows karate and proudly exclaims that he "kicks ass for the Lord!" He's actually killed pretty quickly after some hilarious physicality, and I would've loved it if he'd been kept alive and given a bigger role. Lionel keeps these undead people trapped in his basement, constantly keeping them sedated, I guess until he can figure something out. The priest zombie and the nurse zombie end up getting it on and having a zombie baby, who looks like a mix of Sloth from 'The Goonies' and a Garbage Pail kid. The actor who plays Lionel shines through the movie with his physical comedy, especially in a scene where he does what any normal person would, take the little mutant baby to the park to play. One thing I find so hilarious is in some shots, it's obviously a dummy baby, but in others, it's clearly a "small person" in a suit. The way it comes across is just hilarious.
What leads to the infamous finale is Lionel has an uncle that blackmails him into giving him the estate, he invites a house full of people over for a party, and they unwittingly unleash the zombies. What follows is some of the most entertaining stuff ever filmed. We get a good 30 minutes of one insanely creative kill after another. Between the baby causing hijinks, to fires being started by zombified intestines (I think), we see some of the craziest stuff. Lionel resorts to picking up a lawnmower and just mowing down (no pun intended) seemingly hundreds of zombies. Every conceivable limb and appendage is going to fly or get chopped up, to absurdity. But I love it. And if you can suspend your disbelief and just take off your rose tinted glasses for 90 minutes, you might have some fun yourself. It's not highbrow entertainment, it doesn't try to push some great hidden meaning or life-altering knowledge. It's about a rat-monkey and zombies getting chopped up with a lawn mower, that just so happens to be made by the guy who went on to make one of the most epic film trilogies of all time, and also set the record for the number of Oscars won. Who could have ever seen that coming?
"Dead Alive" gets 8 Sumatran Rat-Monkeys out of 10