Viking Night: Dead Alive
By Bruce Hall
May 19, 2015
You won't believe me when I say this, but there wasn't always a zombie everything everywhere all the damn time. As I write, there are approximately eight billion zombie movies, zombie TV shows, zombie video games, zombie books, commercials, magazines, clothes, social events, and (obviously) breakfast cereals. And after breakfast, if you think you can make it to your next meal without someone wanting to ruin it by regaling you with stories of undead, cannibalistic hell-creatures, you have completely lost your damn mind.
Probably because it's been eaten by zombies.
I'm not sure where all this came from. Fads come and go, badly wearing out their welcome and then coming back again with bigger budgets and better special effects (Miami Vice will one day rise again...you'll see...you'll ALL see). But by my count, there have been roughly 7,000 zombie films greenlighted for development since I started writing this paragraph. After the (brain) salad days of the ‘60s and ‘70s, followed by a brief resurgence in the 1990s, we seem to be enjoying the golden age of movies about spoiled meat that kills you from the outside in.
If you enjoy movies about partially eaten people who eat other people who then eat even more people until there are no more people, then this is truly a glorious time for you to be alive.
But at one time, the best zombie movies were about something. They were cautionary tales about consumerism, politics, or humanity’s general tendency to be inhumane toward other humans. These days, zombie movies are all self-aware irony and snark, just like the demographic they’re made for. But where, I ask, is the zombie movie about feral plague rats brutally raping helpless tropical monkeys, unleashing a horrific wave of slaughter on a sleepy New Zealand town, indirectly forcing a mild mannered young man to confront his unhealthy relationship with his domineering mother? Where is that movie?
You’ll be glad to know that Peter Jackson already made it. Long before he blew your mind and numbed your ass with his Lord of the Rings trilogy, he dabbled a bit in slapstick, allegorical splatter-horror with a little movie called Braindead. Or as we know it here in the States, Dead Alive. They’re equally horrible titles, and in either case the film might take some getting used to if you’re not an aficionado of the genre. But it’s kind of fun. It’s kind of stupid. It’s ridiculously gory. Plus, it’s got some delightfully warped mommy issues, an unusual take on zombie warfare, and an ass kicking kung-fu priest.
You’ll never look at zombies or sexually deviant rodents the same way again.
It begins in a place called Skull Island, which sounds like the kind of place Indiana Jones hangs around, and looks like the kind of place you’d film a Lord of the Rings movie. There, a shortsighted adventurer tries to abscond with an extremely rare Sumatran Rat Monkey, whose unholy origins we’ve already covered. It’s a physically repulsive, extremely bad tempered creature whose defining characteristic is that it tries to viciously kill and/or ravenously eat everything it sees. Also, thanks to that unspeakable ancestry we talked about, it’s carrying a super deadly murder-plague that gives its bite an immediately zombifying quality. Because humanity is foolish, the creature is brought back to New Zealand and put on display in a monkey enclosure at an unspecified zoo. Put a pin in that for now; we’ll come back to the Murder Monkey in just a moment.