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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 21.88%
Average: 14.06%
Pretty Bad: 23.44%
Total Crap: 6.25%

5 reviews, 34 user ratings

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by Rob Gonsalves

"The Spierigs like the same movies I do. Great."
3 stars

There's such a thin line between homage and rip-off, and sometimes it just comes down to whether you find it entertaining.

Neil Marshall paid respects to John Carpenter and George Miller in Doomsday, and the film seemed like it filled a gap left by those two masters. Undead, the debut feature by Michael and Peter Spierig, is so baldly a tribute to the movies these brothers grew up on that it really should be stamped "Property of Peter Jackson, Sam Raimi and Steven Spielberg." Yes, Spielberg. The film is set in the bustling Australian town of Berkeley, which might as well be called Amity; Cliff Bradley's score bites large chunks out of John Williams' Jaws music not the da-dum da-dum theme but specifically "Promenade (Tourists on the Menu)" and spits them out barely chewed. The brothers have obviously also closely watched the ending of Close Encounters, and there's a rugged hero who wears a wide-brimmed hat.

The plot makes little sense. Some sort of meteorites rain down on Berkeley, colliding with various townspeople and turning them into zombies. There is also actual acid rain, a massive wall with metal spikes, and aliens who abduct people. It's a real catch-all movie, made by two brothers who clearly wanted to stuff everything they think is cool into one film. The Spierigs also did the sometimes-impressive visual effects, using technology that a pre-WETA Peter Jackson could only have dreamed of when he was making Bad Taste on weekends. The gore in Undead is so over-the-top that the presumably inattentive 2003 guardians of the MPAA, which let the film pass with an R rating, might well have tolerated the splatter of Jackson's Dead Alive and Raimi's Evil Dead II (both of which had to go out unrated).

We spend most of our time with five survivors, three of whom a cringing pilot and his whiny pregnant wife; an oafish cop we don't care about. Then there's Rene (Felicity Mason), the town's Miss Catch of the Day, and Marion (Mungo McKay), a well-fortified outdoorsman with more secret passages in his house than actual rooms, one suspects. These two are interesting, but the script just gives them the usual survival notes to play. What passes for character here is when the movie stops dead to demonstrate some bad-ass move by Marion or Rene. (Sorry, but are their last names Ravenwood and Belloq by any chance?)

Is any of this fun? In fits and starts it's faintly cool, though the tone is all over the place; sometimes we're meant to hoot and holler, sometimes we're supposed to take it deadly seriously. But, again, it comes down to whether the antic pastiche works for you, and I found my attention wandering early on, when I realized the undigested scraps that fed the filmmakers' imagination weren't going to resolve themselves into a vision uniquely their own. No, the Spierigs are content to stage things that were cooler, frankly, when other directors did them.

I suppose "Undead" works on the calling-card level of "Look what we can do on a shoestring." Duly noted. But, since others have done far more original things with even less money, how great a recommendation is that?

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 01/10/10 15:12:08
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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.

User Comments

4/20/07 Ozma What a hoot !!! 4 stars
5/10/06 sweetgrrl1972 Very creative and super funny 4 stars
12/12/05 gray could have been better 3 stars
11/17/05 Indrid Cold Moderately entertaining, with an original idea or two. 3 stars
11/10/05 ShadowFace5 No hot chicks are devoured by zombies. Complete rubbis actually. 1 stars
11/05/05 malcolm half of it was pretty good, but then got stupid. had some good jokes 2 stars
10/13/05 Johnny Cake Not great, but still a total blast...WAY better than SHAUN OF THE OVERRATED DEAD. 4 stars
7/27/05 Evil One Not scary, not funny, not good. Bloody awful. 1 stars
7/11/05 3 stars
6/11/05 C Hernandez Godawful. I don't get what everyone sees in it. 1 stars
9/15/04 Nik Mladenovic Bloddy Awesome 5 stars
8/06/04 Jeremy Kick ass funny! 5 stars
7/25/04 Pure RAGE... UNDEAD 2: DEADER! 5 stars
7/20/04 SLEDDOG_17 Absolutely awesome Zombie made. Can't wait for the sequel--hope it includes Felicity Mason. 5 stars
7/12/04 "Meth Lab" for Dummies WAY BETTER THAN, "Resident Evil" & "Evil Dead"! NEEDS A REMAKE THOGUH...!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
5/29/04 Ryan the movie is good.. hope next tym i could see the uncut of it. 5 stars
3/02/04 travers lee brillent 5 stars
2/10/04 Roberto D'Onofrio Innovative, great for the money they had 4 stars
10/25/03 Jean-Philippe Ruest Kitch at it's best! Reminds me of Braindead... 5 stars
10/17/03 Hellstrom Totally badass and wounderfully original 5 stars
10/08/03 Jonathan Holmes Good stuff. 4 stars
9/24/03 Danno the Movie Manno Why would the aliens clean GRASSHOPPERS before humans?? 2 stars
9/19/03 Zombie hunter Not as good as Romero's zombie films, but on par with Braindead. worth a look 4 fans 4 stars
9/18/03 Kieran Shanley Saw the film last night - have to say it was brilliant ! B grade black humor + horror = 5* 5 stars
9/16/03 Undead overrated If it hadn't been made locally, it would be a stinking pile of poo. It still is. 2 stars
9/12/03 Mr Creosote B-grade genius 5 stars
8/12/03 scott Way cool! 4 stars
8/02/03 Dickhead debate moderator This is a great film and just to note that I'm truly disturbed at the low (6.6?)imdb score 5 stars
7/27/03 Francoise you ARE a dickhead if you see this "movie" 1 stars
7/25/03 izy i read the review, and take this from it, altered: "youd be a dickhead not to see Undead " 4 stars
7/07/03 Hayley Brilliant - A must for all fans of the genre 5 stars
6/19/03 Matt Absolutely kick ass! You MUST see this on the big screen! 5 stars
6/17/03 Jeff fantastic black comedy.. instant cult clasic 5 stars
6/16/03 Tyrone Noonan Fantastic 5 stars
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  01-Jul-2005 (R)
  DVD: 11-Oct-2005



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