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Promotional release poster
|Directed by||Peter Jackson|
|Produced by||Jim Booth|
|Story by||Stephen Sinclair|
|Music by||Peter Dasent|
|Edited by||Jamie Selkirk|
|Box office||$242,623 (US)|
Braindead (also known as Dead Alive in North America) is a 1992 New Zealand splatstick zombie film directed by Peter Jackson, produced by John Booth, and written by Jackson, along with Fran Walsh and Stephen Sinclair.
The film follows Lionel, a man who lives with his mother Vera and constantly gets in trouble for his relationship with Paquita. When a rabid rat-monkey bites his mother, she in turn gradually converts the residents of the town into a zombie horde.
Since its release, Braindead has received acclaim from contemporary critics, with many filmmakers and critics calling it the goriest "splatter film" in history. Although a bomb financially at the time of its release, the film since gained a cult following, with more attention after Jackson's success with The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
In 1957, explorer Stewart McAlden (Bill Ralston), leads his team out of Skull Island with a captured Sumatran Rat-Monkey — a hybrid creature that resulted from the rape of tree monkeys on the island by plague-carrying rats. The team is stopped by warrior natives, who demand the return of the creature. Stewart gets bitten by the Rat-Monkey during their escape to a waiting jeep. Seeing the bite mark on Stewart's right hand, his men hold him down and amputate it. A bite mark and scratches are then seen on his left arm and his head, respectively, and those parts are also removed. The captured Rat-Monkey is shipped to Wellington Zoo in New Zealand.
Lionel Cosgrove (Timothy Balme) lives with his domineering mother, Vera (Elizabeth Moody). To Vera's dismay, Lionel falls in love with Spanish Romani shopkeeper's daughter, Paquita María Sánchez (Diana Peñalver). While snooping on the two during a visit to the zoo, Vera is bitten by the rat-monkey. The animal's bite turns her into a ravenous zombie. Lionel tries keeping her locked in the basement while simultaneously trying to maintain his relationship with the oblivious Paquita. Vera escapes and is hit by a tram.
As the townspeople assume she is dead, Lionel tranquilizes her to keep her still for the funeral. After she is buried, he returns to the graveyard to administer more anesthetic, but encounters a gang of hoodlums. Vera bursts from her grave, and kills the hoodlums, creating more zombies. As their numbers grow, Lionel conceals them in his house, and struggles to keep them under relative control with tranquilizer injections. Lionel's uncle Les (Ian Watkin) arrives to wrangle with Lionel over Vera's estate. Discovering the "corpses," Les blackmails his nephew into giving up his inheritance.
Lionel reluctantly administers poison to the zombies to "kill" them and buries them. However, the poison turns out to be a stimulant. Meanwhile, Les invites his friends over for a housewarming party. The zombies burst from the ground to attack the party guests. Lionel informs Paquita and Les of the zombie outbreak. Les escapes through a window while Lionel distracts the zombies from Paquita. Les goes into the basement, where he encounters Vera, who has turned into a giant zombie. She kills Les.
Lionel kills most of the zombies with a running lawnmower. He and Paquita fight dozens of zombies and animated body parts. During the conflict, an open gas pipe ignites, setting the house ablaze. Lionel manages to kill all of the zombies in the house. Vera, who has become a gargantuan monster with a grossly distorted head and huge breasts, emerges and pursues Lionel and Paquita to the rooftop. Paquita is left hanging on to the edge of the roof while Lionel confronts his mother. During the confrontation, it is revealed that Lionel witnessed Vera killing his father and his father's lover. Vera causes Lionel to fall toward her as she opens her womb, engulfing him. Vera then tries to kill Paquita by removing her hands from the roof. Lionel cuts his way out of his mother's body, causing her to fall into the burning house. Lionel and Paquita escape the building and walk away arm-in-arm as the fire department arrives.
- Timothy Balme as Lionel Cosgrove
- Diana Peñalver as Paquita María Sánchez
- Elizabeth Moody as Vera Cosgrove
- Ian Watkin as Les Kalkon (Lionel's uncle)
- Brenda Kendall as Emma McTavish
- Stuart Devenie as Father Jon McGruder (The Fighting Priest)
- Jed Brophy as Thomas Jacob "Void" Randell
- Stephen Papps as Zombie Jon McGruder
- Murray Keane as Pete "Scroat" Otis
- Glenis Levestam as Nora Matheson
- Lewis Rowe as Albert Matheson
- Elizabeth Mulfaxe as Rita Bridell
- Harry Sinclair as Roger Tryton
- Davina Whitehouse as Mary Sanchez
- Silvio Famularo as Slaver Don Sanchez
- Daniel Sabic as Baby Zombie Selwyn Matheson
- Bill Ralston as Zoo official Stewart McAlden
- Forrest J Ackerman as Forry (Tourist at Zoo with Monsters of Filmland magazine)
- Peter Vere-Jones as the Undertaker
- Tony Hiles as the Zookeeper
- Peter Jackson (cameo) as the Undertaker's assistant
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Principal photography took place over eleven weeks on location in and around Wellington, New Zealand on a reputed budget of around $3 million. The nighttime cemetery scene was filmed at the Karori Cemetery in the Karori neighbourhood of Wellington.
Jackson reused the song played on the organ as the mourners wait to enter the church prior to the embalming scene. It is Sodomy from his previous film Meet the Feebles (1989).
The first scene to be shot and the opening scene, filmed on "Skull Island", was filmed at Putangirua Pinnacles, the same location he would later use for the Paths of the Dead in the film The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
Bob McCarron, recently known for his on-screen appearances as Dr Bob from the UK television show I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here! and its German version Ich bin ein Star – Holt mich hier raus!, designed the special prosthetic makeup. He was awarded at Sitges - Catalonian International Film Festival and nominated for Saturn Award (see below for all awards).
The final scene to be shot was the section in the park with Lionel and the zombie baby Selwyn. The film was finished one week ahead of schedule and with NZ$45,000 remaining, so Jackson used all this remaining budget to film the park scene over the course of two days. He has gone on to say that this is his favourite scene and the funniest in the whole film.
In Bradley v WingNut Films Ltd  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.
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.
- 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 is banned in Germany, though it is still widely available, also under the American title Dead Alive.
- In the United States, where the film was released as Dead Alive (because of another film with rights to the practically identical title Brain Dead), the R-rated version is only 85 minutes with most of the gore scenes removed, while the unrated cut is 97 minutes with the gore scenes mostly intact. The USA 97-minute version is Jackson's preferred version, as he was given the opportunity to "apply some additional spit and polish" to it.
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Although Braindead did not receive much critical attention at the time of its release, Jackson's fame with The Lord of the Rings led to more interest in his earlier films. The contemporary response to the film was positive: the film received an 88% rating of positive reviews based on 34 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. The website's consensus is: "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." Metacritic rated it 54 out of 100 based on 7 reviews.
At the time of its release, David Stratton of 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."
In 2016, Time Out conducted a poll with several authors, directors, actors and critics who have worked within the horror genre to vote for their top horror films. Braindead placed at number 91 on their top 100 list.
- Amsterdam Fantastic Film Festival – Silver Scream Award (1993)
- Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival – Grand Prize (1993)
- Fantasporto – International Fantasy Film Award, Best Film and Best Special Effects (1993)
- New Zealand Film and TV Awards – Film Award, Best Contribution to Design, Best Director, Best Film, Best Male Dramatic Performance and Best Screenplay (1993)
- Catalonian International Film Festival, Sitges, Spanien – Best Special Effects (1992)
- Fantafestival – Best Actor and Best Special Effects (1992)
- Simon Pegg, actor, comedian, and friend of Jackson, wrote in his 2012 book Nerd Do Well: A Small Boy's Journey to Becoming a Big Kid that the film Braindead is one of the main influences on his 2004 zombie film Shaun of the Dead.
- 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 eponymous animal from Braindead.
- The Sumatran Rat-Monkey appears in the tunnels in the 2007 PC game Hellgate: London released by Electronic Arts.
- "BRAINDEAD (18)". British Board of Film Classification. 10 November 1992. Retrieved 20 October 2012.
- "Braindead". The Numbers. Retrieved 4 March 2015.
- "Privacy in New Zealand case law -  PLPR 32; (1994) 1 PLPR 48". Austlii.edu.au. Retrieved 21 February 2013.
- "Dead Alive (Braindead)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 21 February 2013.
- "Dead Alive Reviews". Metacritic. 12 February 1993. Retrieved 21 February 2013.
- Stratton, David (9 June 1992). "Braindead". Variety. Retrieved 21 February 2013.
- "The 100 best horror films". Time Out. Retrieved 13 April 2014.
- NF. "The 100 best horror films: the list". Time Out. Retrieved 13 April 2014.
- "Dead Alive Blu-ray: Braindead | Unrated US Cut". Blu-ray.com. Retrieved 21 February 2013.
- Wloszczyna, Susan (15 December 2005). "King Kong abounds with fun facts for fanboys". USA Today. Retrieved 21 June 2006.
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