The title Undead is fine, but it might mislead some audiences — something along the lines of “Zombies Ate My Brain!” definitely would have been more apropos, letting the more reluctant folks in on the joke. Unlike another zombie spoof, Shaun of the Dead, it’s harder to tell at first blush exactly what Undead is trying to do and that’s what might be its downfall in U.S. theatrical release. (It’s only going to run a limited engagement in New York and L.A., starting on July 1, then the big push will be for home video in the fall, where I suspect it will be greeted much more warmly.)
The Spierig Brothers (Michael and Peter) wrote and directed this quirky little love letter to Romero’esque zombies, new age aliens and The Evil Dead, which is set in their home base of Australia. The story opens on Rene (Felicity Mason), a young woman whose very bad day gets even worse when a mysteriously poisoned meteor shower rains down, turning her friends and neighbors into mindless, murderous zombies.
She and a few other untouched humans band together in the bunker-like abode of the local loony, Marion (Mungo McKay), until the tatty sanctuary becomes unsafe and they’re forced to go on the run. They are led by the muttering Marion, who, despite his sloppy overalls and long, bushy beard, seems to be channeling The Man With No Name, as directed by John Woo and helped out just a little bit by Forrest Gump.
Yeah, Undead is a weird movie.
The zombie aspect is well-done, there are some great little vignettes of horror and comedy, and the acting is fit for the medium, but… There are too many kitchen sinks in this script, especially towards the end where it all feels terribly rushed and overly cluttered — the simply movie isn’t humorous enough to carry it off. Muddy, pedestrian cinematography doesn’t help matters, and having certain characters yell constantly grates on the nerves.
Still, Undead does have its moments. The action sequences are choreographed with just enough off-kilter kick to make you buy them, the characters are stereotypical but well-rounded enough, the homespun special effects are mostly competent, and the brain-eating walking dead are a Down-under delight.
If your tastes run to the more posh, then stick with this year’s more slick offerings like Land of the Dead — but if you like your horror cheap and stark naked along the lines of Peter Jackson’s early shock-shlock, then by all means see Undead on disc when it’s available.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson