New Zealand, 1992
Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Timothy Balme, Diana Peñalver
Nowadays oscar-winning director Peter Jackson is best known for films such as Lord of the Rings, Heavenly Creatures, and King Kong. But back when he started his film career in New Zealand, he was the splatter king. This particular film concluded his early b-movie trilogy which includes his first two films Bad Taste and Meet the Feebles. Unfortunately this was to be his last foray in b-movie cinema as he moved on to larger, more commercial projects.
What these early features had in common was a low budget aesthetic combined with over the top gore and incredibly inventive effects. Brain Dead was filmed for only $3 million, and yet contains enough special effects for a movie with ten times the budget.
Despite the large amount of blood, brains, viscera and assorted many-hued body fluids on display, its definitely gore played for laughs - with a similar feel to Evil Dead II, Dellamorte Dellamore, or even Tokyo Gore Police. Jackson takes the zombie genre, and goes completely over the top with it. This is an incredibly funny movie - that is, if you're the kind of person that finds humour in zombies being taken down by garden implements with extreme prejudice.
The first half hour however is b-grade at best ... set in 1950's New Zealand, there is a distinct lack of glamour. No hardbody co-eds frolicking in the pool here! The backstory involves a zoo official collecting a rare Sumatran rat-monkey to bring back to New Zealand, despite strong disagreement from the local tribesmen.
Turns out they had good reason to object. This hybrid was conceived through the unlikely scenario of a giant rat raping a monkey, resulting in one evil motherfucking beast. Nevertheless, it takes up residence at the local zoo, and its not long before its zombie virus is unleashed.
Meanwhile we've been introduced to a range of strange characters, a love story is in progress, and the unlikely hero is rapidly maturing from bumbling nerd to ass-kicking zombie despatcher. The acting is quite woeful at times, but then its obvious that's not where the budget has been spent. Once the movie hits the last hour, it quickly gathers momentum with the body count accelerating exponentially. Before long we've descended into a balls-out orgy of zombie mayhem that may well be the single greatest achievement in zombie cinema.