1. Brain Dead/AKA Dead Alive ~ 1992, Peter Jackson, New Zealand


Before New Line made the ballsiest gamble of the 21st century and entrusted him with directing the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, Peter Jackson, honorary Hobbit and King Kiwi of the cinematic lexicon, was a handsomely bearded, but little known director, who spent the first phase of his career crafting some of the zaniest splatter films ever made. Like, obnoxiously, unreasonably zany.

It’s worth mentioning this was not necessarily the most hospitable environment for that type of cinema, either, the 1990’s were a bleak and dismal period for horror films on the whole. The genre had enjoyed a reckless hayday in the 1980’s, but by the close of the decade, the market had become saturated, the products dated, and mainstream audiences no longer gave a shit. The once proud horror subculture retreated underground like the primitive Morlocks that they are, and America’s first tier film studios lost faith in tentpole horror franchises of yesteryear, motivating them to move away from the likes of Freddy and Jason, and onto greener pastures, like Ace Ventura 2, Battlefield Earth, and Big Momma’s House. As such, 1992 yielded precious few zombie films, but one that it did produce was Brain Dead, or, as its known in the United States, Dead Alive. Luckily, sometimes it’s quality over quantity, and Dead Alive has quality on lock down.

THE PLOT: Lionel is a meek and unremarkable man who lives with his manipulative, over-baring mother Vera, in a small coastal town somewhere in New Zealand. Lionel is a straight up momma’s boy, Vera has him 200% under her thumb, and he doesn’t appear to have the strength of character to tell her to friggin’ back off now, or ever. In fact, Lionel is so incapable of letting go of his unhealthy relationship with his mother, that when she becomes zombified in a freak primate exhibit accident at the zoo (yep), he does everything in his power to conceal her condition from the public, even going so far as to round up all of her newly zombified victims and keep them hidden away in his basement. Seems like if he had any intention of moving out of his mother’s house, her turning into a homicidal ghoul would be as good a time as any to pull the trigger. Clearly, this birdie ain’t leavin’ the nest.

…But if Lionel won’t ever man up his own, a much needed catalyst arrives in the form of Paquita, a pretty young woman who meets Lionel through coincidence, and who quickly decides that he’s the man she’s going to marry, whether he likes it or not. For a time, Lionel tries to juggle these two relationships, but eventually this becomes infeasible, and he is forced to choose between his controlling, domineering mother, who makes all of his decisions for him… and his controlling, domineering girlfriend…. who makes all of his decisions for him… So, really, this is sort of a long trip to wind up right back where you started, but at least Paquita isn’t a zombie. He for sure upgraded.

Dead Alive’s dodgy super-motif doesn’t bother us. The journey is enjoyable enough that we aren’t deterred by Lionel’s half assed character arc, and the film is silly enough that we assume this lateral development to be deliberate. And anyway, this is easily the most true to life component in the entire film,  everybody knows somebody like Lionel, and that guy usually winds up with a Paquita. Most people even know a Vera!


Sadly, few of us have religious leaders like this guy in our lives.

It’s a hell of a movie. For years, Dead Alive was said to be the goriest movie ever made- a boast that’s easy to believe if you see the unrated version of the film. It really feels like if Peter Jackson could have conceived of a way to make this movie gorier, he would have done it. The much coveted “goriest film ever” crown has been snatched up more than once over the years- last I checked, Fede Alvarez’s remake of The Evil Dead is the curent record holder, but I’ll tell you this; Dead Alive still FEELS gorier. In fact, I’ve searched and searched, and no film feels quite as bloody as this one does. No matter how many gallons of red stuff Alvarez dumped onto a sound stage, Dead Alive will trump that volume through it’s execution. Truly, if you have any interest in gore cinema, this needs to be your next stop.

Dead Alive’s 1992 vintage is indeed a rarity. Zombies were sort of in hibernation during this period, meaning that Dead Alive came out after the second wave of zombie fiction, but before the third. More than likely this helps to make the film feel fresher, it’s not really part of any trend, and it’s not really a rehash of anything else, it’s a zombie film that was made because Peter Jackson wanted to tell a zombie story. Really, it’s a rare home run from an era where not many people even cared to swing the bat. If you’re a fan of Jackson’s Hobbit and or magical elf related motion pictures, or if you fancy yourself a fan of zombies, but kinda want to see a film that isn’t a broken mess of lowest common denominator pandering and heat chasing, then do yourself a favor and get this shit on your TV pronto. It’s plenty of fun.


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The Lawnmower Man

The Lawnmower Man ~ 1992, Brett Leonard, USA


The Lawnmower Man is a far out early 90’s horror film which boldly jumps into the once exciting world of VIRTUAL REALITY.

Remember when people were excited by Virtual Reality, or VR, if you’re hip? You probably don’t, because holy shit, that was decades ago… but no matter, circa 1992, the people of Pre-Myspace Earth really thought that Virtual Reality was gonna be super awesome, and they also thought, hilariously enough, that the technology needed was practically within our grasp. Let me set the stage for you; at that time, The Super Nintendo was straight up blowing people’s minds. Trying to perfectly replicate an interactive universe inside a digital environment back in the early 90’s was sort of like trying to travel to the moon when mankind was just starting to figure out how boats work. Today, pretty much every bozo on the street carries in their pocket a device which would have left 1992’s most jaw dropping technology in the dust, and we routinely drop the damn things into the toilet. The certainty with which The Lawnmower Man addresses it’s techno-speculation really makes watching it feel like coming upon a photograph of something really embarrassing you did in high school, only this time, the embarrassment impacts Western Civilization as a whole. Man. We sure were stupid back then, huh? Yes, and we still are.

The Plot~ Pierce Brosnan plays Dr. Lawrence Angelo, a cool 90’s scientist who has a pierced ear. Angelo is really smart, and his work is super important. What is his work, you ask? Pretty much he just straps monkeys into those weird gyroscopic things you used to see at the county fair and makes them play Atari Jaguar on stupid Virtual Reality headsets all day. For some reason, he thinks that this will stimulate the growth of brain tissue, which would thereby prove that video games actually make you smarter. Hard sell, Angelo, I think that by simply logging into X-Box Live we can pretty much disprove that little theory once and for all, but regardless, that’s what he does, until his work hits a road block when his test monkey loses it’s shit and attacks some people, who in turn, blow its little monkey head right off. Seeing how distraught Angelo has become after this regrettable setback, his black-hearted employers decide to send him home on a paid sabbatical, so he can chill the hell out and avoid losing his marbles altogether. They were foolish, though, to think that the ever obsessive Dr. Angelo would ever halt his research simply because it was proven to drive his subjects into fits of mindless, violent fury. On the contrary, having just now seen how potentially dangerous these experiments really are, Angelo does the one thing a scientist worth his salt would ever do, and that is to move directly into human trials without the oversight of any regulatory agency whatsoever. He does this in his basement, using a mentally retarded and possibly sexually abused man who mows his lawn. What ethics?

Jobe, the titular lawnmower man, responds well to his time in virtual reality land, and his intelligence does begin to improve. Enthused by his success, Angelo brings his findings to his employers, who are delighted, and Angelo is again allowed to continue his work in their vastly superior facilities. However, without telling Angelo, they also alter the programming for Jobe’s VR sessions to include the same aggression based programming that had previously driven Dr. Angelo’s chimpanzee insane, because scientists just like to do that kind of stuff sometimes. As a result, the now genius level Jobe not only gains godlike super-powers, but also vengeful, homicidal tendencies. That, boys and girls, is how Pierce Brosnan turned Simple Jack into a god-like Super Murderer with powers that rival the mighty Sega Genesis. Quiver in fear!!


No idea what this is supposed to be.

The Lawnmower Man’s strategy is pretty clear; it wants to wow you. This movie wants to throw so many awesome, pixelated, computer generated effects at you that your head’ll just be spinning with disbelief. Unfortunately, today we find the picture absolutely defanged, declawed, neutered, and humiliated by time. Bubsy 3D, anyone? I’m sure that what Lawnmower Man brought to the table may have spun a head or two back in the early ’90s, but for today’s viewers, every single aspect of the film’s main attraction comes across as primitive, and embarrassing. It’s actually somehow worse than what you see in the “Atom-Age’ B-movies of the 1950’s, because at least most of us haven’t actually dabbled in atomic fission firsthand, but we damn sure know about playing video games. That’s a fact. The Lawnmower Man NEEDS to be futuristic, it NEEDS to be impressive, and it NEEDS to convince you that your freaking Nintendo 3DS might be giving you super powers slowly. If it fails to achieve these goals, then what you have is a movie that burdens itself with an impossible obstacle, and therefore simply cannot be taken seriously. It is for that reason that The Lawnmower Man is probably the most dated film I have ever seen.

It’s also sort of sort of offensive, and isn’t directed all that well… BUT…. at the end of the day, none of what bothers me about The Lawnmower Man is going to be enough to detour it’s potential fan base completely. This is a film about a man who murders people with what basically amounts to “Computer Magic,” and there will always be people who want to see that. Hell, the general criteria for what makes a horror film passable to mainstream horror culture is pretty damn lenient, and The Lawnmower Man clears most of those hurdles just fine. From an academic perspective, what he have here is a turkey, straight up, but The Lawnmover Man is somehow enjoyable on some primitive level, and I guess that’s better than nothing.


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Godzilla Vs Mothra AKA Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle For Earth!

Godzilla Vs Mothra AKA Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle For Earth– 1992, Takao Okawara – Japan


So… If “MOTHra” is a MOTH… Then “BATtra” is a bat?

Nope! Battra is also a damn moth. Sorry, suckers. That would have been cool, though.


After the painfully convoluted Godzilla VS King Ghidorah, a time travel movie that doesn’t understand time travel, we have Godzilla VS Mothra– a much more streamlined, point A to point B story, with no time travel and no frumpy ginger androids. Hooray!

Godzilla VS Mothra is another environmental fable style Godzilla flick, and this time they really play up the spiritual aspects of Mothra that have been touched on and/or implied in past movies. In this film, Mothra’s role has been redefined as a quasi ethereal guardian monster, one of the tools the Earth uses to maintain balance. Mothra and Co. become representations of Nature, and are presented as above our subjective concepts of morality, instead serving as mechanisms for a more universal, inarguable form of natural justice. As such, even when they make the hard choices that seem difficult to we feeble humans, they are still framed as being “The good guys,” because that’s just how it has to be. Therefore, Godzilla, by default, slides into his role as “the bad guy,” and represents science, hubris, and the tragically meddlesome nature of the human race. It’s sort of funny, at this point in the franchise, Toho has really turned on science in general. It’s hard to imagine the same Futurist attitude seen in Son Of Godzilla or Destroy All Monsters belonging to the same franchise as GVM; and by this point the series appears to advocate an almost neopaganist return to nature and spiritualism, something eerily in step with the Neopaganist movement in Europe at that time. Those same sentiments exist today, so if anything Godzilla VS Mothra is more meaningful now than it ever was.


THE PLOT- Meet Taukya Fujita- the Japanese Indianna Jones! As a rugged, “Devil May Care” tomb raider/scoundrel, Takuya’s adventurer’s spirit gives him the wherewithal to survive inhospitable jungles and dodge ancient booby traps, as well as child support payments! That’s right, Takuya has totally and completely skipped out on raising his daughter, a fact brought to our attention when he is sprung out of jail by his babymomma Masako, as well as by a sniveling, spineless yes-man called Kenji. The two represent some giant Japanese land developing corporation, and they need Takuya’s help investigating an island owned by their employers. Although Masako resents Takuya for his failures as a parent, she knows him to be a capable jungle adventurer, and she bites the bullet and puts her feelings aside for the near-term. Taykua, however, is predictably scoundrel-like in his behavior, yet he eventually agrees to help, and so the three set out to Infant Island, who fans of the Showa Godzilla films will remember as the island where Mothra lives. I think the plan was that both parents should leave for this dangerous island, so that that way if anything happened, their child would be left orphaned. It’s a “put all your eggs in one basket and then ship that basket to a dangerous island” strategy. SPEAKING OF EGGS; that’s what they discover on infant island, Mothra’s egg. It seems that a recent meteorite impact along a fault line in the ocean triggered landslides and Earthquakes which had uncovered Mothra’s egg, as well as the egg of Battra; an evil, spikier, cooler moth monster. Although Infant Island is uninhabited (or is it?), ancient cave paintings are discovered by our team, and from these they learn about Mothra and Battra, two sides of the same monster coin, destined to bring balance to the force, or the Earth, or whatever. They also encounter the two tiny women of Infant Island, Mothra staples from past Toho films.

The tiny ladies tell us a little bit more about the situation at hand. Apparently, they are called “Cosmos,” and are actually ancient creatures from space. Sounds about right. Also, the Earth is hurting and we’re mean to it or whatever. Whatever, Cosmos- Hey, you guys, I know; let’s yank this giant egg out the Earth and see if we can make money off it somehow! So, that’s what they do.

Mothra’s egg never makes it to Japan, however. That same meteorite that shook up Infant Island also woke up and pissed off Godzilla, and he’s eager to let everyone know how giant and angry he is. From here, we have a three way monster confrontation stretched out over the rest of the film. Battra shows up, and he/she/it is pretty darn cool. Initially, Mothra and Battra are at each others throats, until Godzilla intervenes and appears poised to slay Battra. Mothra saves Battra’s life, and after some weird, tender kaiju moth exchanges which we can never hope to understand and probably wouldn’t want to if we could, Battra and Mothra reconcile, accepting one another’s role as being crucial to the survival of the Earth. They then team up and kick Godzilla’s ass. This metaphor is repeated, and solidified, through the reconciliation of Takuya and Masako, who patch things up and accept that their duties as parents to their daughter supersede their own selfish ambitions. Following this metaphor through to finish, this makes the daughter a representation of the Earth, and at the end of Godzilla Versus Mothra, mankind pledges to be less of a shit head in our role as stewards of our planet. I’m sure that lasted like, a week, then we steam rolled Tibet to make way for a parking structure.

So, the central metaphor for Godzilla VS Mothra is fairly well pronounced, and the composition is solid. Beyond this, we have a mixed bag of ups and downs, but over all the film is pretty good. I think I’m going to list this.


  • Battra is a cool, interesting new character. He might seem more original than he actually is, given that he’s just an evil Mothra doppelgänger, but he still feels like an expansion of the Mothra universe, and not just a retred.
  • Our human characters are enjoyable, especially Takuya.
  • The more spiritual/cosmic angle on Mothra feels appropriate, and it solidifies Mothra as being distinct and unique next to her kaiju colleagues.
  • This is the first time Mothra looked like she could actually put up a decent fight against Godzilla.


  • The monsters don’t really look very good. Godzilla’s once rubbery hyde now looks too shiny and plastic, as do the other monsters. They look more like something your kid would play on in a McDonald’s Playplace, and their motions look jerky and robotic.
  • The movie could stand to have a little more monster action.

Over all, a pretty good entry for the Heisei series.


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