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.


more movies


Blood Freak – 1972, Steve Sipek and Brad F. Grinter, USA


Blood Freak is a seriously confused creature. Part pious minded morality play on the folly of living an unchristian life, part smutty ass gore film about drugs, sex and mutants, this thing is a two headed monster hauling ass in opposite directions. Needless to say, it doesn’t make it very far.

THE PLOT~ When Herschel, a lumbering, middle aged lummox cruises into town on his motorcycle, he encounters Angel, a nice, old-fashioned Christian girl, with whom he quickly hits it off. Immediately, Angel abandons Herschel at a drug party where he is skeezed upon by numerous ladies, including Angel’s noticeably more attractive sister Anne. Herschel isn’t into drugs or casual sex, so he turns Anne down when she makes a pass at him, and she does not like that shit, not one damn bit. Not about to let her sister’s new friend reject her hard-partyin’ life style in favor of morality or church, Anne kicks the peer pressure up a notch and soon gets her way. Within days, she’s sleeping with a newly drug-addicted Herschel, who will now never again live a normal life and can barely even function in society. Win?

In the meantime, Hershel also takes a job working at a poultry farm, where he is coerced into acting as a guinea pig by two scientists who are testing out some sort of weird, turkey chemicals. Hershel is apparently a serious push over. Anyway, he eats some genetically modified turkey, and shortly thereafter mutates into a horrible, turkey headed monster who is addicted to drugs and must drink the blood of other drug addicts to survive, as do so many of our young people today. Thus begins Turkey-Hershel’s gore laden rampage across central Florida, which claims many lives and is hilarious. In the end, he wakes up, no longer a monster, and we learn that this whole thing was a horrible dream brought on by the side effects of turkey chemicals and the drugs already in Hershel’s system. Apparently, Hershel was in ‘Nam, and since the war, he has self medicated a fair amount. So…. hastily tacked on anti-war message? Hard to say.

As I stated earlier, the most pronounced peculiarity here is just how divided this movie is at it’s very core. It really is fairly churchy, but it’s the “do as I say, not as I do” style churchiness you might see in outspoken community activists from the deep South, the type of person who attends church every Sunday without fail, but who also owns a lot of bondage gear and has a secret torture chamber in their basement. Blood Freak’s message is simple; “Woe to thee who strays from the righteous path of the lord, for he is our shepherd, and only through him can we know the divine kingdom of heaven, but also if you don’t  a damn turkey monster will mutilate you and drink your blood, so now let’s watch some people smoke crack and fuck.” It’s a mixed message, for sure.

One also get the impression that this movie really wanted to present itself as some sort of shocking expose into the wild world America’s drug savvy youth culture, which was just tearing it up in the early 1970’s, but on this front Blood Freak is a clear failure, because it doesn’t look like they were able to get anyone under the age of 40 to even be in the movie. I guess Anne and Angel looked like they could be in their late twenties, but everyone else is firmly plopped into middle age. Herschel especially looks like he must have been cast in a pinch, this man is just old as hell. If someone had handed me a copy of the Blood Freak script in 1971, I imagine the only reason I would have not to throw it in the garbage was out of concern that it may end up being evidence in a murder trial in the very near future, but if I had read it and somehow managed to ignore how insane it was, I feel like I would have envisioned the lead role to be played by more of a James Dean type guy. Herschel looks more like a background extra who bumbled off the set of Hee Haw and into our movie. To make matters worse, Herschel is the worst biker name I have ever heard.

Fun fact; there is like, ONE sound effect for a woman’s scream in this entire movie; they use it over and over again, and it’s super, super recognizable. In one sequence, a woman screams like, thirty times, and it’s the same sound effect, used over and over again. It’s insane. Then in the next scene, a completely different woman screams a couple dozen times, and it’s that same effect again. Damn, Blood Freak. You crazy.

This is a clumsy production, make no bones about it. Blood Freak is marred by many nagging technical shortcomings, it’s full of actors who aren’t very good, and bogged down with outdated tropes that betray the film’s attempt at delivering a more visceral, Euro-style horror gore fest, but as I mentioned before, the greatest folly of Blood Freak is how maddeningly confused it is in it’s very bones. It really seems to think that it’s preaching from the side of spiritual piety, like it’s somehow going to please a super-devout Christian audience, and yet the vin diagram overlap for “goes to church” and “would watch Blood Freak” has gotta be just the teensiest sliver you could ever imagine. This renders Blood Freak more or less unwatchable to it’s target demographic, and that’s a pretty serious problem. For non-churchy audiences, it’s not at all a deal-breaker, but it makes it a lot harder to take Blood Freak seriously, and honestly, a movie about a turkey headed oaf who drinks junkie blood didn’t need another reason for you to not take it seriously. Today, surprisingly, this is why we remember Blood Freak, this mortal wound is now the film’s single most important redeeming quality. After all, in the realm of psychotronic cinema, “insane,” and “great” are synonymous, and Blood Freak is totally bonkers.

For the right audience, this movie is a good time waiting to happen, but it’s a little further down the path than say, Killer Klowns From Outer Space, or Dead Alive. Blood Freak might suck a little too hard for you if you’re not pretty well acclimated to this sort of celluloid nonsense, so you really just need to take a hard look at yourself before you decide if this is a movie you need to see. If, after some reflection, you decide that this is just a little too rich for your blood, don’t fret, they’ll probably remake it sooner or later.



Versus– 2000, Ryuhei Kitamura


At some point, someone in Japan said “Hey- I really liked The Matrix! Let’s do that! Only, we want zombies. And blood. And swords. And we only have 11 dollars. And we aren’t really very talented. Also, the zombies can do karate sometimes. Now go!”

And with that, Japan crapped out Versus. This formula apparently works for a lot of people, and the film does have a large following. I was misled into first viewing Versus after a blitz of positive buzz from some of its fans, who assured me that if I like sword films, Evil Dead, Dead Alive, or zombies in general, I would LOVE Versus! Think again, friend. This movie is live action anime, first and foremost. Just because something works as a cartoon does not mean it should be brought into reality. Did none of you see Cool World?! If not, don’t.

The biggest issue with Versus is that it lives in eternal pursuit of the cultural construct we call “The bad ass.” For many, being “a bad ass” is the single highest honor a fictional character can achieve. Idiots especially worship the Cult of Bad Ass, because to them, the bad ass is in direct contradiction of subtlety, which they despise and do not understand. To them, a Bad Ass can do anything cool that it wants to, and it completely ignores boring things like “motivation,” “depth,” or  “not having a learning disability.” Therefore, when a moron generates media (Paul W.S. Anderson), in this day and age it is overwhelming how often they will strive to create a “bad ass” for their piece. Since they don’t understand what actually makes someone a bad ass, this usually means taking a douche bag, tossing him in some wrap-around sunglasses, maybe a tank top, a trench coat, or both, and asking him to speak in a low, raspy voice and act like he can’t be bothered by explosions or impending death.

The characters in this movie want to be bad asses so, so hard. Everyone wears black exclusively. It’s like the costume designer showed up with dark blue once and the director punched them in the throat for insulting his mandatory and entirely monochromatic wardrobe demands. These black clad dopes spend a lot of time slowly and laboriously sleazing through shots, just basking so hard in how much of a bad ass they want to be, techno music doing it’s part to confirm that yes, in case you missed the wrap-arounds and black clothes, these guys are total bad asses, seriously, you guys.

Here’s an example of the sort of blatant, towering douchebag colossus you will see in Versus:

photoBehold! This is possibly the most flamboyant of Versus‘ childish, “bad ass” characters. As you’ll notice, he has a black belt in over-compensation, and the term “understated” ain’t in his dictionary. Every single aspect of his personage has to just tug on your sleeves and plead with you to believe that he is a bad ass. Let’s break it down;

  1. ponytail
  2. sunglasses
  3. no sleeves
  4. fingerless gloves
  5. leather pants
  6. a damn motorcycle

All of which are black. If douchebag/faux-badass spotting was birdwatching, this would be like spotting a bald eagle soaring above the Rocky Mountains with an American flag clenched in it’s talons.

Here’s another fun “bad ass” character- this magical flying Kung Fu zombie (I hate you so much, Versus…)


First off; if your hairstyle could be described as “The Ronald McDonald,” you are not a bad ass. EVER. PERIOD.

Secondly, look at this asshole’s face. Where does he get the gall? Look how cool he thinks he is. Let’s talk about this. That asshole went in to a salon and paid to get his hair dyed. This means he had to sit quietly in one of the little caps while it bleached, and then wait in the lobby wearing a little towel on his head, and then lean back in one of those sinks, ALL of that shit this guy did- OR he had to go to a store, buy a dye pack, and do it at home, probably with a friend to help him. Not very bad ass. It’s important for you to visualize anyone who will pass themselves off as unflappably cool primping their balls off on the regular like a high school sophomore to remind yourself that this guy did a lot of really, really, really not cool stuff to look this way, so you shouldn’t just take his word for it. Do you think he wore those sunglasses and kept his eyebrows cocked throughout his entire barber shop experience? Do you think he went to one of those trendy salons? And then he gelled it. Every morning. Think about that. Try to imagine anyone looking like a bad ass while they painstakingly primp their hair so that it looks just spiky enough. A bad ass doesn’t care if his hair is combed!!! Fuck you, Versus! Fuck you, these people are not cool! All your characters are total dorks!!!

THE PLOT- In a veritable “clash of the bad asses,” two bad ass escaped prisoners rendezvous with some yakuza bad assess for some reason. I’m not sure. However, this bad ass cocktail turns out to be a little too bad ass, and the deal goes south, leading to a massive yakuza bad ass karate throw down, which, according to movies, is  customary in Japan. Things are further complicated when we discover that, holy smokes, this is some kind of fancy zombie forest! You die here, and you get back up. Get ready for some techno.

So, the gangsters brought a woman with them, and apparently, the plan was to sacrifice her in some ritual. The yakuza boss, who arrives a little later in the film, is some sort of black magic practitioner bad ass who hopes to open some magic portal, which is hidden somewhere in the forest. This is the cliched, boring plot Versus has to offer, but it’s buried underneath a big, stupid heap of stylized violence, so you might have a hard time following it. Or giving a shit. Guys, I know that on some level this sounds awesome, but trust me, it sucks so hard.


Do you think this guy was thinking “yeah, I’m such a bad ass!” while he gelled his fucking hair and shaved his little goatee just right in his bathroom mirror that morning? It had to be perfect. He got up early to do it.

Almost no one in this movie has a name- details like that are deemed trivial by Versus. The identities of these characters are throwaway, all that matters is their actions and the role they play in this story. That’s really reflective of two tenets of Versus‘ theology; one; the rejection of anything too boring to hold the interest of today’s youth culture (Translation: “Uuhhhhh, who cares what his name is? Fred- No! Master Chief! Look, he’s a bad ass, okay?!”), and two; the notion that throughout history there are cyclical patterns caused by the reincarnation of key individuals, an idea central to Versus’ plot. The film takes place mostly in present day, but also features brief scenes set in Feudal era Japan, as well as the distant future; and in all three eras our character’s roles remain identical. These people are reincarnated again and again and forced to carry out the same battles throughout history, so their individual histories at any given point in the timeline are unimportant next to their roles in the grand scheme. I can recognize that this is a cool idea, but that’s really the only thing going on here that I respect. Beyond that, Versus is a vapid thing, and it’s saddled with stylistic choices that are childish and annoying. And stupid. They are. They really are.

Here, look, some stupid; these yakuza hop into a nifty little trio pose before blasting a zombie.

12345678910Isn’t that cute? While the man on the bottom, or “the power bottom,” as I believe they call him, holds in place, the two men on the outside edge of the screen run to the opposite sides of him, do little gun twirls and freeze into some choreographed yakuza power pose so they look extra bad ass while shooting. What the fuck?!? Is this a shoot out or a chorus line?!?? Attention; people who like Versus; THAT is in your movie. Who is going to argue with me over this?! Are you kidding me? I can’t believe the shittiness of this movie is disputed!!!

And don’t you dare pull that “you’re thinking about this too much” shit with me. When an artist does their job well, you will appreciate their work more and more once you start to analyze it. If spacing out and drooling happily to the noises and moving shapes is required to appreciate your art, then you suck and you’ve done a horrible job, and also you are an idiot and I hate you.


One legitimate boast for Versus; it’s gory. Lots of blood, lots of violence, and that’s going to win over a lot of people. However, it’s no Dead Alive. There’s also nothing to anchor the gore that isn’t stupid and totally void of substance, so unlike Dead Alive’s goofy RomComZomDram hero’s quest, Versus comes out feeling like a goofy snooze fest full of losers and dorks. On this one I must differ with popular consensus, Versus sucks, and it can fuck itself.

Fuck you, Versus.