Mar 192010
 

UNDEAD1Act II scene 2 of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth ends with Lord Macbeth and his wife hearing a knocking on the gate of his castle in the middle of the night. They have just murdered King Duncan and are afraid that whoever is at the gate will come in and see that they are not in bed at such a late hour, and they will be found out to be murderers. They hurry off to bed, and scene 3 begins with Macbeth’s doorman coming on stage.

The action has just ended with the murder of a king, and the lord and lady murderers presumably covered with blood and right on the edge of being discovered, and Shakespeare has the doorman come out still woozy from a night of heavy drinking to tell sex jokes to the audience as he takes a ridiculously long, long time to answer the door. In the middle of the night, it’s a good bet that a late visitor would be carrying important news, but the doorman shuffles slowly to the door talking loudly to the audience wondering aloud who on earth could be knocking on the door. When he finally does open the door, it’s Macduff, a lord from a neighboring county, wanting to speak to Macbeth, and instead of going straight away to get his master, the doorman talks to Macduff about how difficult it is to have sex when you’re drunk. The conversation is so out of place, that it’s easy to see it as a cheap laugh or even a mistake in story-telling. Shakespeare is instead allowing the audience time to process the murder that has just happened, along with the melodramatic lines spoken by Lord and Lady Macbeth in the previous scene, by allowing nervous laughter. The trick is still used today. Great dramas like Gone With the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird use funny gags to make the characters a little more believable – to show they have real dimension. And when we see a character laughing, or being ironic, we know they have something to live for and something to lose. Horror as a genre has mastered the technique to such an extent that an entire new genre was born: the horror/comedy.

John Finch in Roman Polanski's Macbeth

John Finch in Roman Polanski's Macbeth

I have no idea what the first horror comedy was, but horror schlock dates back to the beginning of the atomic age. And from my personal view on movie history, I trace all horror comedies back to Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead. With next to no budget at all, Raimi and Bruce Campbell produced a perfect Platinum Horror Comedy that should be hanging behind glass in a French museum. And following in those footsteps Australian directors Peter and Michael Spierig come out swinging.

Undead opens with a Predator/Empire Strikes Back-style orbital view of the planet as a meteor begins raining debris into the atmosphere, headed straight for the tiny Australian fishing hamlet of Berkley, Queensland. But before all hell breaks loose, we meet our heorine (zombie movies always seem to do well when led by a strong female hero – see Night of the Living Dead, Resident Evil, etc.). Rene Chaplin (Felicity Mason of “The Sleepover Club”) is at the bank learning (from the banker with horribly thick face-cake) that the recent death of her parents has saddled her with the burden of their farming property and all their debt. Being an only child, she can’t possible afford it, so resolves to sell it all and go back to the city, as she’s just not cut out for country living (despite the homey music that’s either a shameless rip-off of, or a well-intentioned homage to John Williams’ “Out to Sea” motif played during the shark hunting scene of Jaws), what with the bright orange camera filters and drunk cricket playing, and as she’s getting on the road, the meteorites begin to fall.  

Queensland highlighted in pink

Queensland ... not really that interesting

Top 5 Coolest Things About Queensland
(the non-haiku edition)
:

5 – province capital: Brisbane

4 – the state color is Maroon

3 – the governor is still appointed by the ruler of England

2 – nicknamed the Sunshine State

1 – named after England’s Queen Victoria
(cunning flag-user)

Fresh from a visit to the corner store, a sweet old lady extra is whacked in the back by a meteorite that transforms her hole-ridden corpse into the walking dead, and let the decapitations begin! And the dynamic 40’s style opening credits start to roll. On her way out of town, Rene runs into zombie trouble that (of course) blocks the only road out of town, but is able to survive with the help of the town nutcase. Marion (Mungo McKay, Inspector Gadget 2, Daybreakers), looking very much like Val Kilmer, blasts a zombie in half with one of the coolest movie weapons ever, and allows Rene to high-tail it through the woods. Soon, rain begins to fall and the camera filter has changed to a darkish blue/gray reminiscent of the blue sun scenes from Pitch Black. Her skin now smoking from the mysterious precipitation, Rene seeks shelter at the nearby World of Weapons, washes herself off with bottled water and sees a grasshopper in the yard whisked up into the sky in a beam of white light. Hooray mystery!

Mungo McKilmer?

Mungo McKilmer?

 
The Human Nervous System

The Human Nervous System

A Note About Zombie Toughness

It’s fairly well-established, that severe cranial trauma destroys zombies. The logic being that because the brain is the command center of the body, if the brain were not able to function, the body would not be able to function. I submit to you, the brain is only the command center of the body during life – the entire central nervous system is responsible for the transmission of neurons. Therefore, I fully believe a zombie would still be within operational capacity without a head. Severe spinal trauma would no doubt immobilize the walking dead by erasing the possibility of the transmission of neurons to the legs and feet. You still, however, would need to be careful when in proximity to the non-ambulatory corpse, as the arms would remain hazardous.

As it happens, The World of Weapons, is really Marion‚Äôs World of Weapons, and Rene has unwittingly found the home of the one Australian badassed enough to take on an army of the undead (not to mention¬†fish)¬†… which he does. Naked.¬†Not too long after Rene shows up, minor characters Wayne (oh, he‚Äôs a pilot? Hope that comes in handy…) and his pregnant girlfriend come knocking as well as the foul-mouthed, fast talking constable, and his rookie partner, Molly. Having expertly assembled our cast of characters, the Spierig Brothers proceed to flesh out their zombie comedy survival flick with a host of homages to not only great zombie movies of the past (as a perpetually inexhaustible supply of zombies continue to pop their heads up arcade-game-style into to perfect eye-highlighting lighting techniques), but also John Woo actioners like The Killer and Hard-Boiled.

All in all, the special effects aim low. Heads and bodies are obviously blue-screened together right before a head pops off, and the cg structures all look fairly insubstantial. The zombie design is fun, however, stirring up memories of the Bad Ash make-up from Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn. There’s also some inconsistency regarding the consistency of the zombie bodies – in one scene, we have a zombie being given the Red Sea treatment by an extremely blunt object, and in the next scene, a zombie is punching through someone’s head. It seems to me, that any body that splits when hit with an iron rod ought to break all its fingers off when hitting something as hard as a human skull. BUT, since I’m all for the eating of brains, I wouldn’t say it detracts from the movie. In the genre, Undead is a cut above recent zombie comedies Shaun of the Dead and Dod Kalm and being a fantastic recent addition to Hollywood zombie lore, really ought to find its way into the movie libraries of dedicated fans.

The eponymous undead

The eponymous undead

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  • James

    Okay, okay. This sounds moderately better than most zombie movies.

  • Zack_S

    thank you for being the one person to comment on the post.
    the hammer is gonna drop

  • stormbrewer

    Ok, when i started reading this review i thought i was in English class again.. ugh horrible flash back, but alas i was not and believe i will have to venture out into this zombie world of the undead

  • stormbrewer

    Ok, when i started reading this review i thought i was in English class again.. ugh horrible flash back, but alas i was not and believe i will have to venture out into this zombie world of the undead

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