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Braindead (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Dead Alive (1993).png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPeter Jackson
Screenplay by
Produced byJim Booth
CinematographyMurray Milne
Edited byJamie Selkirk
Music byPeter Dasent
Distributed byOro Films
Release date
  • 13 August 1992 (1992-08-13) (New Zealand)
  • 12 February 1993 (1993-02-12) (United States)
Running time
104 minutes[1]
CountryNew Zealand
Budget$3 million[2]
Box office$242,623 (United States)[2]

Braindead (also known as Dead Alive in North America) is a 1992 New Zealand comedy horror directed by Peter Jackson, produced by Jim Booth, and written by Jackson, along with Fran Walsh and Stephen Sinclair. It stars Timothy Balme, Diana Peñalver, Elizabeth Moody and Ian Watkin. The plot follows Lionel, a young man living in Wellington with his strict mother Vera. After Lionel becomes romantically involved with a girl named Paquita, Vera is bitten by a hybrid rat-monkey creature and begins to transform into a zombie, while also infecting the other townsfolk.

Made on a budget of $3 million, Braindead was Jackson's most expensive film up to that point. Although it received positive reviews from critics, it was a box office bomb. It has since received a cult following, and is now widely regarded as one of the goriest films of all time.[3][4]


In 1957, explorer Stewart McAlden and his team smuggle a captured Sumatran rat-monkey, a hybrid creature that resulted from the rape of tree monkeys by plague-carrying rats, out of Skull Island. During the team's escape from the island's warrior natives, who demand the return of the creature, Stewart is bitten by the rat-monkey, resulting in his dismemberment and killing by his crew, who fear the effects of the bite. The captured rat-monkey is then shipped to Wellington Zoo in New Zealand.

In Wellington, Lionel Cosgrove lives in a Victorian mansion with his domineering mother Vera. When he was a child, Lionel's father drowned trying to save him at the beach, and the incident has haunted him into adulthood. To Vera's dismay, Lionel falls in love with a Spanish Romani shopkeeper's daughter, Paquita María Sánchez, who is convinced the two are destined to be together. When the two visit the Wellington zoo together on a date, Vera follows them and is bitten by the rat-monkey. Over the following days, she grows increasingly more decrepit; her skin begins to peel and her ear falls off during lunch with friends. She appears to die before reanimating as a ravenous zombie and killing the attending nurse Mrs. McTavish, who also returns as a zombie, before Lionel locks them both in the basement and keeps them sedated with animal tranquilizers. While visiting Paquita, Lionel is given a pendant for luck by her grandmother. Vera is able to break out of the basement and is apparently killed when struck by a tram.

At her funeral, Lionel tranquilizes Vera to keep her from attacking the mourners. Later, while returning to the graveyard to administer more of it, he is accosted and beaten by a group of hoodlums who presume him to be a necrophiliac. Vera suddenly bursts from her grave and attacks the hoodlums. In the ensuing commotion, the gang leader "Void", as well as the local priest Father McGruder, are bitten and become zombies, so Lionel has to keep them locked in the basement too. After the nurse and priest copulate and produce a zombie baby, Lionel breaks up with Paquita to keep her safe. Shortly afterward, Lionel's uncle Les arrives to wrangle with Lionel over Vera's estate. Discovering the zombies, which he believes to be dead bodies, in the basement, Les blackmails his nephew into giving up the house and his inheritance and invites his friends over for a housewarming party despite Lionel's objections.

During the party, Paquita arrives to try to make amends with Lionel. She discovers the zombies in the basement, and Lionel explains to her all that has occurred. She is able to convince Lionel to administer poison to the zombies to finally kill them, but after injecting the zombies with it, he discovers the poison is animal stimulants, which revives them. They narrowly escape the now-enhanced zombies, who burst into the house upstairs and slaughter the party guests. The guests subsequently reanimate and begin to attack the survivors. Lionel enters the house with a lawnmower and proceeds to mow through a horde of zombies, while Paquita tries to dispose of zombie body parts in the blender. Les enters the basement, where he is beheaded by Vera, who has now grown to monstrous proportions. Vera erupts from the basement and pursues them both to the rooftop as the house catches fire from a burst gas pipe.

As Vera corners them on the roof, Lionel confronts his mother and reveals that he witnessed Vera drowning his father and his lover in the bathtub as a child, and proclaims that he is no longer afraid of her. Vera becomes enraged and swallows Lionel with an opening in her stomach before trying to kill Paquita. Lionel cuts his way out of his mother's body with the good luck pendant, causing Vera to fall back into the burning house. Lionel and Paquita escape the burning rooftop as the fire brigade arrives. They kiss and then walk away arm-in-arm.



Principal photography took place over eleven weeks on location in and around Wellington, New Zealand on a reported budget of around $3 million. The film had its origins while Jackson was filming his feature film debut, Bad Taste (1987). He met with writers Fran Walsh and Stephen Sinclair, who were also interested in creating a zombie film, and the three spent the next several years conceiving the project.[5] The film's special effects were crafted by Bob McCarron and Richard Taylor, with some miniature models being created by Jackson himself.[5] For the film's climactic scene, wherein Lionel massacres a horde of zombies with a lawnmower, a reputed 300 litres (79.2 gallons) of fake blood was used.[6]

Filming locations

Putangirua Pinnacles (left) and Karori Cemetery (right), two filming locations used in Braindead

The film was mostly shot in and around Wellington, New Zealand. Some filming locations include:


In Bradley v WingNut Films Ltd [1993] 1 NZLR 415, it was alleged that Braindead had infringed the privacy of the plaintiffs by containing pictures of the plaintiff's family tombstone. After reviewing the New Zealand judicial authorities on privacy, Gallen J stated: "the present situation in New Zealand ... is that there are three strong statements in the High Court in favour of the existence of such a tort in this country and an acceptance by the Court of Appeal that the concept is at least arguable." This case became one of a series of cases which contributed to the introduction of tort invasions of privacy in New Zealand.[16]


Braindead released on 13 August 1992 in New Zealand. It was subsequently released in the United States on 12 February 1993 under the title Dead Alive and grossed $23,765 in its opening weekend. It eventually grossed $242,623 in the country.[17]

Alternate versions

The film was released in a number of different versions. In some nations, such as the United Kingdom and Australia, the 104-minute film was shown in full.[18] In fact, the UK's classification board the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) found the film's gory content so light-hearted and comical that there was consideration on giving the film a 15 certificate, which would have granted it to be seen by a much younger audience. They ultimately decided to give the film an 18 rating because the amount of gore confounded the expectations of a 15 rating.[19]

In countries where the censors balked at the extreme gore, the film was initially banned or left unrated before being heavily cut. In Germany, a 94-minute version was seen with major cuts to some of the film's grislier scenes but was widely ignored. A FSK 16 rated version was released in Germany under the American title Dead Alive, omitting almost the entirety of the violence. The uncut version, as well as several cut versions, are banned in Germany.[20] It is also illegal to publicly exhibit the film in Germany.[21] The gory violence has also caused the film to be banned in South Korea, Singapore and Finland.[5] However, the film was unbanned and released uncut in the latter country in 2001.[22]

In the United States, the film was released as Dead Alive, because of another film with rights to the practically identical title Brain Dead. There were two versions released in the country; the unrated cut is 97 minutes, and the R-rated version is only 85 minutes with many of the gore scenes removed.[23][24]


Braindead (Original Soundtrack Recording)
Soundtrack album
Stage & Screen
LabelMana Music

The film's music was composed by Peter Dasent. The soundtrack was released in 1992 by Mana Music.

Track listing
1."The Stars and Moon" (Composed by Jane Lindsay, performed by Kate Swadling)3:27
2."Sumatra 1957"3:20
3."Braindead Theme"2:31
4."Grandmother's Kitchen"1:54
5."At The Zoo"1:54
6."The Throb"1:50
7."Uncle Henrich"0:52
8."Funeral Suite"4:33
9."A Walk in the Park"2:37
10."Heat of My Thoughts"3:05
11."The Death of Mum"1:32
12."29 Steps to My Baby's Front Door (But I Lose Count at 24)" (Composed by Fane Flaws and Stephen Hinderwell, performed by Fane Flaws)2:21
13."Void's Got Guts"1:37
14."Uncle Les Loses the Plot"2:10
15."Zombie Romance"1:10
16."The Masport Waltz"0:53
17."Come to Mummy, Lionel!"1:00
18."The Hero Gets the Girl"2:19
19."The Stars and Moon (Extended version)"4:09
22."Sodomy (from Meet the Feebles)"2:12

Critical reception

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 88% based on 42 reviews, with a weighted average rating of 7.50/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "The delightfully gonzo tale of a lovestruck teen and his zombified mother, Dead Alive is extremely gory and exceedingly good fun, thanks to Peter Jackson's affection for the tastelessly sublime."[25] Metacritic rated it 54 out of 100 based on 7 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[26]

At the time of its release, David Stratton, writing for Variety, gave a positive review, calling it "Jackson's best film to date" and praising its humour, acting, and technical qualities (gore effects, makeup). He stated "Kiwi gore specialist Peter Jackson, who goes for broke with an orgy of bad taste and splatter humor. Some will recoil from the gore, but Braindead wasn't made for them."[27] Peter Rainer of the Los Angeles Times enjoyed the film, stating that it "is the most hilariously disgusting movie ever made. It makes something like Re-Animator seem like a UNESCO documentary about Mother Teresa."[28] The film received a negative review from The Independent writer Quentin Curtis, who complained that "it never decides whether to make you tremble with laughter or fear, and has outstayed its welcome long before the last limb has been severed and entrail spilled."[29] For Entertainment Weekly, Owen Gleiberman wrote that the film was "breezy and good-natured", giving praise to the gore special effects.[30]

Braindead placed at number 91 in a top 100 list produced by Time Out after conducting a poll with several authors, directors, actors and critics who have worked within the horror genre.[31]


Year Award Category Subject Result Ref
1992 Fantafestival Best Actor Timothy Balme Won [32]
Best Special Effects N/A Won
Sitges Film Festival Best Film Peter Jackson Nominated [33]
Best Special Effects Bob McCarron and Richard Taylor Won
1993 Amsterdam Fantastic Film Festival Golden Scream Award Peter Jackson Won [34]
Fantasporto Best Film Peter Jackson Won [35]
Best Special Effects Steve Ingram Won
New Zealand Film and TV Awards Best Film Jim Booth Won [36]
Best Male Dramatic Performance Timothy Balme Won
Best Director Peter Jackson Won
Best Screenplay Peter Jackson, Stephen Sinclair and Fran Walsh Won
Best Contribution to Design Richard Taylor Won
Saturn Awards Best Horror Film Peter Jackson Nominated [37]
Best Special Effects Bob McCarron and Richard Taylor Nominated
1994 Saturn Awards Best Genre Video Release N/A Won [38]

Home media

The film has had several releases on VHS, Laserdisc, and DVD around the world.[39] It was first released on Blu-ray as Dead Alive by Lionsgate in October 2011, with the US 97-minute cut.[40]

In December 2018, Peter Jackson announced that he plans to restore Braindead, along with his previous films Bad Taste and Meet the Feebles for a possible 4K release.[41]


Simon Pegg, actor, comedian, and friend of Jackson, wrote in his autobiography Nerd Do Well: A Small Boy's Journey to Becoming a Big Kid that Braindead is one of the main influences on his 2004 zombie film Shaun of the Dead.[42] In Jackson's 2005 version of King Kong, the cargo hold of the ship contains a box reading Sumatran Rat Monkey—Beware the bite!, in reference to the animal from Braindead.[43] The Sumatran Rat-Monkey appears in the tunnels in the 2007 PC game Hellgate: London released by Electronic Arts.[44]

See also


  1. ^ "BRAINDEAD (18)". British Board of Film Classification. 10 November 1992. Retrieved 20 October 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Braindead". The Numbers. Retrieved 4 March 2015.
  3. ^ "10 of the Goriest Horror Films Ever Made". Beyond The Void Horror Podcast. Retrieved 19 June 2021.
  4. ^ Bond, Nick (21 April 2019). "10 Goriest Horror Movies You Need to See From the Last Three Decades". Dark Universe: Horror Database. Retrieved 19 June 2021.
  5. ^ a b c "Braindead (1992) - Background". NZ On Screen. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  6. ^ "One of the most disgusting horror films ever made". 20 October 2020. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  7. ^ a b c d "Braindead". Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  8. ^ "Local Film (12 Hinau Rd, Hataitai, Wellington)".
  9. ^ "House map 1 (no 12 Hinau Rd, Hataitai, Wellington)".
  10. ^ "house map 2 (No 12 Hinau Rd, Hataitai, Wellington)".
  11. ^ "Local Film (29 Sutherland Road, Melrose, Wellington)".
  12. ^ "Local Film (Botanic Garden Playground, Wellington)".
  13. ^ "Local Film (in Botanic Garden Playground, Wellington)".
  14. ^ "Local Film (Queens Drive, Lyall Bay, Wellington)".
  15. ^ "Local Film (Standen Street, Karori, Wellington)".
  16. ^ "Privacy in New Zealand case law - [1994] PLPR 32; (1994) 1 PLPR 48". Retrieved 21 February 2013.
  17. ^ "Dead Alive (1993) - Weekend Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  18. ^ "View Title - Braindead". Australian Classification Board. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  19. ^ "Case Study - Braindead". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  20. ^ "Alle Nach §131 StGB beschlagnahmten Filme in Deutschland (" (in German). Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  21. ^ Wihstutz, Benjamin; Fischer-Lichte, Erika (27 November 2012). Performance and the Politics of Space: Theatre and Topology. Routledge. p. 112. ISBN 9781136210266.
  22. ^ "Braindead" (in Finnish). Elonet. Retrieved 19 February 2020.
  23. ^ "Dead Alive". Everything2. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  24. ^ "Dead Alive Search Results" (Type "Dead Alive" into the search box). Retrieved 6 October 2020.
  25. ^ "Dead Alive (1993) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 6 January 2021.
  26. ^ "Dead Alive Reviews". Metacritic. 12 February 1993. Retrieved 21 February 2013.
  27. ^ Stratton, David (10 June 1992). "Braindead". Variety. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  28. ^ Rainer, Peter (14 July 1993). "MOVIE REVIEW: 'Dead': Head, Shoulders Above Its Genre". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  29. ^ Curtis, Quentin (16 May 1993). "FILM / For a few dollars, Moore". The Independent. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  30. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (12 March 1993). "Dead-Alive (1992)". Entertainment Weekly. Meredith Corporation. Archived from the original on 4 December 2009. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
  31. ^ "The 100 best horror films". Time Out. 1 October 2019. Retrieved 13 April 2014.
  32. ^
  33. ^ "25ED. FESTIVAL INTERNACIONA DE CINEMA FANTÀSTIC DE SITGES (2/10 - 11/10)". Sitges Film Festivial. Retrieved 28 December 2020.
  34. ^
  35. ^ "Past Winners Fantasporto". Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  36. ^ "New Zealand Awards : Film & TV Awards". Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  37. ^ 19th Saturn Awards at IMDb.
  38. ^ 20th Saturn Awards at IMDb.
  39. ^ "Dead Alive (1992) - Peter Jackson | Releases". AllMovie. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  40. ^ "Dead Alive Blu-ray: Braindead | Unrated US Cut". Retrieved 21 February 2013.
  41. ^ Brzeski, Patrick (10 December 2018). "Peter Jackson Returns to His "Naughty Years" With Restoration of Gory Early Films". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 1 February 2019.
  42. ^ Pegg, Simon (5 June 2012). Nerd Do Well: A Small Boy's Journey to Becoming a Big Kid. Avery Publishing. ISBN 9781592407194.
  43. ^ Wloszczyna, Susan (15 December 2005). "King Kong abounds with fun facts for fanboys". USA Today. Retrieved 21 June 2006.
  44. ^ "Hellgate: London Review". GameZone. Retrieved 1 February 2019.

External links

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