Peter’s Retro Reviews: Braindead (1992)

October 15, 2013

Braindead movie posterby Peter Nielsen

”Some things won’t stay down… even after they die!”

So, my friends! We’ve reached the third week in the 2013 October Spooky Flix Fest and I hope you’ve enjoyed it so far? We’re just a couple of weeks away from Halloween and we’ll be there, as usual, to keep you company and maybe give you a few movie-tips along the way. Outside it’s steadily getting darker and darker and fall is upon us! Well, at least here in Sweden it is and although I do enjoy the long bright summer evenings, I am a night person! Always has been, so this season is right up my alley!

This week we’re going to New Zealand in the late 1950’s, but we first have to take a small detour to Skull Island. Yup, that’s right… Kong’s island!

It’s no secret that the director, Peter Jackson, is a huge fan of the original King Kong from 1933 (me too), so this is a little homage to that one. Mr. Jackson was later to return to Skull Island in 2005 with his remake of the classic movie.

Sumatran Rat-Monkey

Sumatran Rat-Monkey

Braindead starts on this island, where an explorer has caught a live specimen of the vicious and feared Sumatran Rat-Monkey. According to legend, this creature is the offspring of rats scuttling off a slave ship onto the island and raping some poor tree monkeys. The explorer is chased by the natives of Skull Island, but manages to escape with his prey. In the scuffle he gets bit on the hand and his men freak out and chop it off with a machete. They also find a bite-mark on his other arm, so the men promptly lob that one off too, and then they discover the scratch on his forehead and… Well, you can kind of guess what happens next.

This scene sets the tone for the rest of the movie and if you’ve seen Peter Jackson’s earlier movies, Bad Taste and Meet the Feebles, you know what to expect next. And if you, like me, are a fan of those movies, you also know you’re in for a treat!

We now shift our focus to Wellington, New Zealand where Lionel lives with his dominant and bossy mother, Vera. Lionel thinks he’s somehow partially responsible for his father’s accidental death, when he was a boy, and his mother has let him believe that all his life. Every time he tries to do something on his own, she gives him a guilt-trip and the old “you-don’t-love-me-anymore” routine. But that’s exactly what he does! Love her, I mean, and very much so, which make him do some pretty bizarre stuff later on in the movie.

Re-applying the skin!

Re-applying the skin!

Lionel and his mother are played by Timothy Balme and Elizabeth Moody. He’s mostly done a lot of TV-work, which is, with a few exceptions, how it is for most of the cast. Ms. Moody only have 8 credits to her name, but she’s actually quite good in this one. And you know what, so is the rest of the cast. It’s not Academy Award material, of course, but who the hell would want or even expect that from this type of movie anyway? I mean that would just be weird and feel totally out of place. There are some great characters in Braindead, though, that could only come from the wonderful brain of Mr. Jackson, but we’ll get to them later.

When Lionel starts dating Paquita, played by Spanish actress Diana Peñalver in her only English-speaking role, and they go to the zoo… his mother follows them to see what shameful acts they’re up to. In a cage at the zoo is the Sumatran Rat-Monkey from the start of the movie and Vera gets too close to it and gets bitten. She’s a tough lady and quickly (and messily) stomps the creature to death with the heel of her shoe and this is where things rapidly start to go downhill for poor Lionel.

"I kick ass for the Lord!"

“I kick ass for the Lord!”

Oh, and by the way? Horror aficionados will recognize Mr. Forrest J. Ackerman in a quick scene here. If you know the magazine “Famous Monsters of Filmland” you’ll know who he is. If not..? WHAT!! Are you kidding me? Please look him up immediately!

A day or two later, it’s pretty obvious that something is horribly wrong with Vera, because she’s starting to deteriorate. She’s literally falling apart! At one point Lionel tries using glue to fasten the skin back onto her cheek because they’re expecting company and that’s actually a dinner-scene you’d wish you could forget! I dare you to eat custard immediately after it! I sure couldn’t!

Since Vera refuses to go to the hospital, the nurse has to make a house-call, which ends with Vera biting her and now Lionel has two crazy “dead” bodies on his hands. It doesn’t end with that, though… Oh, no, not by a long shot. More and more bodies keep stacking up and Lionel, who doesn’t know how to “kill” them, hides them in his cellar and keeps them calm by shooting them up with tranquilizers. But you all know that’s not going to last long…

Persistent zombie!

Persistent zombie!

As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of great characters in Braindead. Apart from Lionel himself, there’s his uncle Les, played brilliantly by Ian Watkin and Holy Crap what a creep he is! He’s funny though, but a creep none the less!

Some of the greatest lines in the movie are spoken by another awesome character, namely Father McGruder, played by Stuart Devenie. When the priest is fighting a couple of zombies at the cemetery, he says: “The Devil is amongst us… Stay back, boy! This calls for divine intervention! I kick ass for the Lord!” And he does! Kung Fu style!

One of the zombies fighting the priest is a local thug named Void and it doesn’t really matter what they do to him… He just won’t stay down! Ripping him in half doesn’t seem to help and at one point he’s even eviscerated, but STILL refuses to “die”. He’s one persistent zombie and I kind of like that!

"Party's over!"

“Party’s over!”

Void is played by Jed Brophy, a name I’m sure even “younger” moviegoers will recognize! He plays Nori, one of the dwarves in the new Hobbit trilogy! He’s also been in District 9, King Kong (2005) and the two last Lord of the Rings movies, to name a couple of titles. This past weekend I had the fortune of having a little chat with Mr. Brophy at the Scandinavian Sci-Fi, Game and Film Convention here in Sweden and I have to say that he’s a hell of a nice guy!

Braindead was released in Sweden in the summer of ’93 and it was shown uncut in the theaters, which came as a huge surprise to us, because we were sure the censors were going to shred it. (No pun intended!) I’ll be the first to admit this isn’t a movie for the squeamish and if you’re easily offended or grossed out, you might want to steer clear of this one. Me? I think it’s absolutely hilarious and over the top funny and I think that the censors saw this too and gave it a pass. There’s so much blood and gore in this it’s almost absurd, you know? I mean there’s even a “zombie love-scene” between the priest and the nurse which results in Baby Selwyn. The scene with him and Lionel at the playground is indescribable and has to be seen to be believed.

I could actually go on and on about this movie because there’s so much going on in it, but I have to stop somewhere. The ending bloodbath alone, where Lionel, Paquita and Uncle Les square off against a horde of vicious zombies would take a review of its own to cover…

So, my friends… next week we’re going to Louisville, Kentucky! Dare you join me?

Until next time…

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