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Undead

Directed by The Speirig Brothers

Written by The Speirig Brothers

Starring Felicity Mason, Mungo McKay, Rob Jenkins, Lisa Cunningham

Produced by The Speirig Brothers

Rated R

104 minutes

****

“Undead” was probably the most longed for, most sought after, most eagerly anticipated zombie movie on the face of the earth after The Grand Old Man, George Romero’s, “Land Of the Dead” pretty much flopped at the box office.

Where WERE you people? Romero’s first zombie movie in fifteen years and you stayed at home. Honestly.

Recriminations aside, there’s a reason everybody and his mother wanted a shot at this one. Lions Gate ran an aggressive program of promotions and trailers aplenty on just about everything they put out for the two years prior to “Undead’s” wide release on DVD.

That and Peter “Brain Dead” Jackson gave it a truly killer plug, elevating “Undead” to the land of the cult classic faster than Paris Hilton on crystal meth. And I don’t mind telling you, that’s fast.

So what we have here is the story of a small sleepy town that is suddenly attacked by zombies due to something that was going on out in the middle of space. A nice big hunk of space rock carrying zombie juice of some kind (probably radiation—zombie movies run on radiation the way Meg Ryan movies run on cuteness and probably animal sacrifice—slams into the small town of Berkeley one bright sunny day.

Berkeley is, for some strange reason, Australian—at least it sounds Australian. You never heard “No worries, mate” so many times in one movie.

And man, does it ever start out with a bang! Not ten minutes in, and we get people getting chunks of space rock blasted through them, and a guy gets his head taken off in a scene so obviously CG and yet so solidly done that it’s almost impossible, even with frame advance, to tell that it’s been faked. Really, you can’t—try frame advance at the seven minute forty seven second mark. The head actually blurs out at the moment it separates from the neck, making conclusive identification nigh-impossible.

Even better is the comedic moments implanted into “Undead,” and there are plenty of them. Naturally I won’t pin them all down, but there are a great walloping lot of them.

Plus, there are homages aplenty—check out the shotgun around the thirteen minute mark. If you aren’t at least vaguely reminded of the quad-barrelled death bringer from “Phantasm 2” then you haven’t been paying close enough attention. The plotline at least vaguely resembles the original “Night of the Living Dead.” And when Tony Timpone compared this to “Dead Alive,” he wasn’t making idle chit-chat…there are plenty of sequences that remind one of that great comical zombie movie. Plus, there’s even a nice handful of “Evil Dead” franchise homages in the way the zombies move.

The really amazing thing about “Undead,” and I mentioned this previously (as it turns out it holds true for most of the movie), is that the effects are positively seamless. No matter what—whether someone’s getting a head taken off or their entire sternum cut in two by a Club (the ACTUAL Club, folks—the one you put on the steering wheel) it is fantastically hard to spot the wires. In fact, in many cases, you can only just distinguish that they did SOMETHING. Frequently it’s hard to tell just what it was they did, but you know they did something. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s the mark of positively fantastic special effects work.

But I have to ask one rhetorical question I’m sure everyone will pose before the end—how many guns are in that man’s overalls?

The ending is an unbelievable combination of spectacular and baffling. When you see it you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Plus, there’s an incredible twist ending that you wouldn’t believe if I told you about it.

The special features include a behind the scenes featurette, extended and deleted scenes, artwork and design sketches, three different trailers for “Undead,” and in a move that’ll surprise most horror mavens, a preview of “Saw II.”

All in all, there’s a damn good reason everybody’s been looking forward to “Undead” since 2003. It’s fantastic. That’s why, and that’s really all you need to know.

Steve Anderson is a film critic who collects action figures so he can dress them up as his favorite horror villains. He lives somewhere in the United States.


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