Rewind film: Braindead, directed by Peter Jackson (1992)

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 December, 2014, 12:10am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 December, 2014, 12:24am

Timothy Balme, Diana Penalver, Elizabeth Moody
Director: Peter Jackson

Whatever happened to good old movie violence? Straight-to-DVD torture porn might still be there for the gore hounds, but there once was a time when cinematic violence had purpose. When it highlighted the era's zeitgeist or darkly poked fun at the times. When it was relevant and timely. When it was seriously funny.

Take Braindead, the 1992 cult classic and a strong contender for the bloodiest movie ever made. Helmed early in his career by blockbusting Hobbit filmmaker Peter Jackson, the film is outlandish, at times frightening and always hysterical - a deadpan horror-comedy classic that acts as a blood-soaked tribute to creative filmmaking at its finest.

In Wellington, New Zealand, lives mama's boy Lionel, a wet-behind-the-ears man-child living under the thumb of his domineering mother, Vera. One day, while spying on Lionel and his girlfriend at a zoo, Vera is bitten by a Sumatran rat-monkey that (naturally) turns her into a bloodthirsty zombie.

And soon enough much of their small town becomes infected, leaving it to Lionel to solve the situation by the only way possible: killing every single one of these undead horrors.

Like similar laugh-fests Evil Dead II and Re-Animator, Braindead is a genre send-up. A blood-soaked love letter that loads its 100-plus minutes with scare-conventions turned on their head, before tossing them into a blender and slamming down the "pulp" button.

The result is a hilarious mixture of intentionally bad acting, twisted dialogue ("That's my mother you're p***ing on!") and Jackson's manic directing style. This was his third movie and long before he was granted streams of cash to chronicle J.R.R. Tolkien's works, Jackson was a crazed, bearded man hailing from a small island and armed with ridiculously low budgets that gave him limitless freedom.

Braindead cemented his underground reputation through a passionately inspired filmmaking that is now quite rare in the horror world. Everything in his mind is put on full display: ass-kicking kung fu priests, pus-filled puddings, undead toddlers, full-frontal zombie sex.

It all comes to a red-eyed, fevered crescendo in its final act, as Lionel faces a never-ending swarm of zombies, armed with a chainsaw: blood flows, guts spill, limbs fly and brains splatter.

Jackson's Hobbit trilogy is now lurching its way to the finish line in cinemas: it's child-friendly and far from the sadistic thrills of his early efforts. But instead of forking out hundreds of dollars for some fantasy-filled 3D fest, take a journey into Jackson's past gory (sic).