31 Days of Halloween Hysteria: “Undead”

Three barrels, no waiting...
Three barrels, no waiting…

 

There must be something in the water down under.

Following in the proud tradition of New Zealand’s patron saint of DIY splatter, Peter Jackson, Australia’s Spierig brothers made their feature debut in 2003 with the demented zombie comedy, “Undead”.

Whereas Peter Jackson started in the low-budget trenches with horror comedies like “Bad Taste” and “Brain Dead”, before helming a few films you might have heard of, the Spierig brothers have remained in their native land, developing their own projects like 2009’s vampire sci-fi “Daybreakers” and the forthcoming “Predestination”.

“Undead” is every inch the debut feature.  It’s a little baggy around the mid-section, it has way more ambition than budget and goes for broke from the get-go, lest the makers never have the chance to make another feature.   Focusing on the inhabitants of small Aussie fishing town Berkeley, “Undead” shows us how a very typical community rapidly goes to literal pieces when mysterious asteroids bombard the town and turn the townsfolk in blank-eyed, intestine-hungry, shambling zomboids.

A handful of people escape the carnage – chief amongst them is disgruntled beauty queen Rene (Felicity Mason) who is all for getting the hell out of her small town after the bank forclose on the farm her grandparents bequeathed her.  She finds refuge with mysterious hick Marion (Mungo McKay), who previously had an unwanted close encounter with visitors not of this earth and has been outfitting his farm with enough firepower to blow a whole in the ozone layer.

It’s fair to say that this doesn’t represent the more thoughtful end of the zombie sub-genre.  This is very much a calling-card feature, showing prospective studios and producers what this pair of self-starting hypethenates could achieve with modest means – which is a nice way of saying that the plot and characters play distinctly second fiddle to gory kills, creative camera work and quick-fire editing.

The gun fights, seemingly, go on for at least five minutes each and at least one or two of them could have been trimmed to move the story along.  The reason for the zombie infection and the eventual resolution of the A-plot are so quickly romped through that you might have to head to IMDB to check and see if what you think happened actually occurred.

A quick and bloody caper through the greatest hits of Peter Jackson, Sam Raimi and John Woo, “Undead” is probably only for fans of the Spierig’s later films who want a look at where they started.  It doesn’t add anything of substance to the zombie sub-genre, isn’t quite memorable enough to rank as a cult movie and is notable solely for the underused setting and some inventive staging when our heroes escape from the farmhouse.

Any comparisons made by critics to “Shaun of the Dead” are very much flattering this film, which doesn’t have the wit or poignancy to justify the correlation.  It’s a fun diversion if you absolutely can’t get enough zombie action, but not a film which will live long in your memory.

 

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