Worth A Look: 21.88%
Pretty Bad: 23.44%
Total Crap: 6.25%
5 reviews, 34 user ratings
by Brian McKay
After checking out an earlier show of DAWN OF THE DEAD, I hauled ass across town for the festival's opening night selection, the low budget and ultra-campy Australian flick, UNDEAD. Having also watched the original DAWN OF THE DEAD the night before, I was feeling just a bit burned out with the whole zombie genre - yet I found my interest revitalized by UNDEAD just long enough to take one more stab at it.As any fan of the genre will tell you, there are two kind of zombie flicks. There's the kind that plays it straight, like Dawn of the Dead and 28 Days Later, going for a serious atmosphere of tension that is broken up with some occasional humor. And then there's the other kind that aims for camp while throwing in some scary moments here and there, like the Evil Dead films or Dead Alive. Which kind is better depends on your mood - and after four hours of "Serious" zombie action, I was definitely in the mood for something on the lighter side.
"It doesn't make a hell of a lot of sense, but it's still fun to watch"
For such a modestly budgeted film, Undead looks great. While it's visual effects are nowhere near as polished as a studio-backed film, it manages to not look laughably cheap, either. And while some (okay, most) of the characters are just a little too over the top and grating at times, the whole thing just has such a self-assured tongue-in-cheek attitude about it that's hard not to enjoy.
After inheriting her family's farm in the small town of Berkeley, Rene (Felicity Waterman) loses it to the bank because she can no longer keep up on the mortgage payments - even after she enters and wins the local "Miss Catch of the Day" beauty pageant for some much-needed scratch. But as she tries to leave town to go stay with friends in the city, a strange metorite shower wreaks havoc on Berkeley, causing an accident that blocks the road out of town, and turning the locals into shuffling cannibal corpses.
After Rene is rescued from the undead by a gun-toting mystery man (whose triple-shotgun is the coolest zombie-slattering weapon since Bruce Campbell's chainsaw hand), she follows him through the woods to a ramshackle house. The sign out front reads, "Marion's World of Weapons". Marion (Mungo Mckay) is a hulking man with a beard, coveralls, spurs on his boots, and a big goofy-looking hat. He also appears to have weapons hidden in every pocket, fold, and orifice, and can do Matrix-like acrobatics better than any man of his girth should have a right to. He announces to Felicity that the end of the world is coming, at which point a group of other survivors, led by a terribly obnoxious Constable Harrison (Dirk Hunter), show up to take refuge in Marion's basement. True to the sign out front, Marion does indeed have a lot of guns, which they eventually use to shoot their way out of the place so that they can take one of their group, a pregnant woman, to a hospital outside of town.
What is it with zombie movies and pregnant women, anyway?
From there on, things get really strange. To be honest, the story falls apart with a banging, crashing sound in the third act, and none of it was terribly logical from the beginning. Let's just say that, as if zombies weren't enough, our heroes will also have to contend with Acid Rain, a giant metal wall surrounding the town, and a possible alien invasion. Sound silly? It is.
But what keeps it from crashing and burning is it's own slightly-smug sense of humor. I mean, when you cast a guy like Mungo Mckay (who looks like a gun-toting Amish fisherman) as your hero, laughs obviously have the priority over scares. Mckay delivers lines like "Are you a fighter, Fish Queen, or are you zombie food?" with such overwrought and deadpan earnest that you can't help but get a chuckle out of the guy. Even the normally straight-faced Waterman has a gleeful moment of Zombie-choppin' with a circular saw blade mounted on a broomstick. It's excessively campy and often outright silly, but sometimes you need to take a sip of "Zombie-lite" in order to cleanse the palate - which is exactly what Undead provides.Like the newly-released DAWN OF THE DEAD, UNDEAD also pays tribute to its predecessors, only with a more exuberant flair. While that final act may leave you scratching your head, you should get enough laughs and good, campy gore along the way to have made it worth your trip.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=7803&reviewer=258
originally posted: 03/21/04 12:52:15
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Minneapolis/St.Paul Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Minneapolis/St.Paul Film Festival series, click here.