Worth A Look: 21.88%
Pretty Bad: 23.44%
Total Crap: 6.25%
5 reviews, 34 user ratings
by Stephen Groenewegen
Look, I’m not a horror film kind of guy. On my way to the special Friday the 13th world premiere screening of Undead, I realised I’d seen more films directed by twin brothers than I had zombie flicks. Well, this new Aussie genre film falls into both categories. Apparently only the second Australian feature about zombies (following 1988’s little-seen Zombie Brigade), Undead is a ripper. Um, literally, I guess.We’re barely introduced to the inhabitants of the small Australian fishing town of Berkeley, before meteor fragments begin streaking down and transforming them into brain-munching zombies. Soon our select group of survivors is holed up in the basement of a ramshackle-looking house in the bush. A sign out the front proclaims it as “Marion’s World of Weapons”.
There’s the six-foot plus laconic Marion himself (Mungo McKay), with his akubra hat, drizabone coat, bushy beard and impossibly deep voice. An earlier attack by a zombie fish (!), which we see in hilarious flashback, gives Marion sufficient warning of what’s coming and he’s made preparations. Our other hero, Rene (Felicity Mason), is the Fish Queen (she won the Miss 2002 Catch of the Day contest in a vain attempt to keep up payments on her late parents’ farm). There are two cops – an excitable male redneck (Dirk Hunter) and an asthmatic female constable (Emma Randall) on her first day on the job. Rounding out the bunch are engaged couple Wayne (Rob Jenkins) and Sallyanne (Lisa Cunningham), the latter about 8 and three-quarter months’ pregnant.
Besides the ravaging zombie hordes (never thought I’d be writing that in a review!), there are some strange cloud formations, a massive metal wall encircling the town, alien abductions and acid rain to contend with. Then, about halfway through, the film takes a left turn into even stranger territory...
At first, I thought the ridiculously talented Michael and Peter Spierig (born a minute apart, by the way) had lost the plot. But sensibly, they knew there was only so far they could take their initial storyline, so they expanded it into more general science fiction territory.
You’ll laugh and squirm yourself silly through most of Undead. There are a couple of flat patches. One of the scenes in Marion’s sealed basement goes on too long. Nor was I sure whether a cheesy model shot involving an aeroplane was the best they could do or a deliberate joke. But the special effects are inventive and never otherwise disgraceful. The budget was under $1 million and every cent went into making the best-looking film possible.
Queenslanders Peter and Michael raised their money, and gathered experience, by making commercials. They’ve also been making short films since they were kids. The direction is confident and, from the first scene, there is never any awkwardness in the tone. The young cast are all perfect, especially Felicity Mason, who is essentially carrying her first film and Mungo McKay, who delivers the corniest lines with superb deadpan timing. The likes of Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson and George Romero inspired the Spierig brothers, and more knowledgeable horror buffs than I will doubtless spot countless references.
What I liked most about Undead was its ambition. The Spierig brothers wrote, directed, edited and produced the film. They’ve obviously laboured long and hard to ensure every aspect of the film is just right – from Cliff Bradley’s score to the decision to shoot on film (Andrew Strahorn was the cinematographer). Importantly, they spent more than a year getting the script right (the film was about three years in the making overall). You laugh at the script and visual gags, as much as the gross-out splatter.
Undead has style, wit and imagination, not to mention buckets of blood and body parts. Thankfully it’s set for local release and has already sold to 21 countries including Britain and the US. At the Q & A after the screening, one guy was already asking about the DVD release. The film hasn’t even opened yet, but it’s an indication that Undead has a promisingly long future life ahead of it on the small screen.
It’s perfect late-night entertainment for snuggling with a partner, or to enjoy with a crowd of mates and copious amounts of beer and pizza. But there’s something about sharing the visceral thrill of a film like this with an enthusiastic cinema audience; you’d be a dickhead not to see Undead on the big screen first.If the 50th Sydney Film Festival were a restaurant, Undead would be a heaped serving of brains and chips. Not complete, of course, without lashings of tomato sauce.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=7803&reviewer=104
originally posted: 06/15/03 17:57:37
|OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2004 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
For more in the Australian series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sydney Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 San Francisco Horror Film Festival. For more in the 2004 San Francisco Horror Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Brisbane Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Brisbane Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Minneapolis/St.Paul Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Minneapolis/St.Paul Film Festival series, click here.