FIVE FILMS FROM...1992
(Directed by Peter Jackson)
Okay, so you're Peter Jackson, and you've just made a silly low-budget sci-fi horror with your friends ("Bad Taste"), which has unexpectedly become a big deal on the festival circuit and turned into a cult film. What do you do next? Well, Meet the Feebles actually, the filthy and funny Muppet satire. But what do you do after that? Meet Braindead, or Dead Alive in the USA, or Your Mother Ate My Dog in Spain. This splendidly OTT zombie comedy is alleged to have been (and perhaps still is) the bloodiest film of all time, with over 300 litres of blood sprayed across the screen during its running time! And yet despite that, It was nearly given a "15" rating in the UK, mainly because the BBFC saw what a jolly funny romp it was! Belly-laughs negates gore in Blighty, you see. The rest of the world apparently doesn't have much of a funny bone when it comes to genre, and various countries (like Germany and the USA) showed it in mainly censored versions, at least initially. Back to the set-up though, directed and co-written by Jackson, the plot is a clever mash-up of genre tropes and slapstick kiwi humour, with a dose of romance chucked in for good measure.
Set in 1950s New Zealand, Lionel Cosgrove (well-known soap actor Timothy Balme) is a decent mild-mannered chap, absolutely dominated by his hideous mother Vera (Elizabeth Moody). Vera blames Lionel for the premature death of her husband and won't let him forget it. However, Lionel shows some backbone and takes out local beauty Paquita Sanchez (Diana Peñalver) to the zoo. Vera sneakily follows him but gets bitten by a new exhibit (a stop-motion Sumatran Rat-Monkey). This causes her to deteriorate grotesquely, eat a dog (hence that Spanish title), and eventually, become a member of the Living Dead. She starts a zombie infestation, mostly centred on the Cosgrove manor. But Lionel has found out he has some real guts… and they're all flying off the rotary blades of his lawnmower! Where to start with this daffy dead-headed delight. It's bloody brilliant, as long as you're not expecting a serious zombie-apocalypse. The story is nuts (the Rat Monkey comes from "Skull Island". Yes, Kong's gaff!), there are plenty of quotable lines (Kung Fu Vicar: "I kick ass for the Lord!"), and the amount of gore and throwaway gags are astounding.
It also pleasingly, contains a bit of heart. For all the knockabout humour, it's quite sweet in places. The initially wimpy Lionel is easy to root for, as is his unlikely romance with Paquita. Balme also exhibits some superb comic-timing. Just check out his hilarious excursion to the playground with zombie baby "Selwyn", as he kicks the hyperactive little sod all over the place! That's another thing to enjoy, as Jackson plays hard-and-fast with zombie tropes. Selwyn? He doesn't come from a pregnant woman made into a zombie. He's the result of a zombie nurse and priest getting jiggy-with-it and a very quick gestation! For more showstopping "eew" moments check out the ear in the custard, and Lionel's "born again" confrontation. And of course, the lawnmowing scene is now legendary in the annals of genre "splat-stick". Sadly enough, it wasn't a big hit on its first run, but if you can see an uncut version, it still nails the horror funny-bone and has hardly aged. Fun fact: "Dr Bob" from the UK's "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!" designed the prosthetics and make-up! Great, great fun and showed the world a fraction of Jackson's grab-bag of talents before the Kong remake and LOTR