Plot: After losing her family farm to debt, local beauty pageant winner Rene (Mason), decides to leave the small town of Berkeley. Strange meteorites fall to earth nearby, turning the inhabitants into zombies. Rene and some other survivors hide in the home of local gun nut and alien abductee Marion (McKay), and attempt to survive the plague of undead.
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- ...a refreshingly enjoyable odd mix of recent remake Dawn of the Dead and, surprisingly, Shaun of the Dead
After watching Saw (2004), I suddenly became a lot more interested in what Lionsgate had to offer – as did every other horror fan on the planet. So when Undead suddenly showed up at theaters from Lionsgate, my first impulse was to rush out and see it immediately…but I didn’t.
After all, couldn’t Lionsgate just be capitalizing on the new recognition they are getting, and using it to promote some lame House of 1000 Corpses (2003)-style dud? So, putting aside my first impulse, I waited. When it hit DVD recently without any fanfare, I was worried. Could it really be that bad that Lionsgate wasn’t throwing any more money into it to promote it’s DVD release? I took my chances and rented Undead anyway.
None of the actors are big names, which actually works very well for Undead. Having no real star power to distract them, the viewer focuses much more on the plot, and gets hooked almost immediately. The characters and viewers are both thrust into a confusing melee, and the characters take the viewers through the film with them. This builds a companionship for the viewer – hooking them in even deeper.
The characters all act like real people (at one point – as in almost all horror films – they are forced into a confined space. Unlike most horror films, these characters hesitate to keep going, but have no choice, as the hordes of zombies are hot on their trail), never once distracting the viewer away from the “reality” of the film.
Okay, now that zombies have been mentioned, there is most likely a movie that immediately comes to mind: Night of the Living Dead (1968) or Dawn of the Dead (2004) (the new version or the original), most likely. Actually, Undead rides the line between the recent Dawn of the Dead (2004) and, surprisingly, Shaun of the Dead (2004).
It doesn’t have quite the zaniness that Shaun of the Dead (2004) had, but it does manage to provoke a laugh or two out of the viewer (early on, a man and his pregnant wife watch as zombies advance. The man, scared out of his wits, takes off running for the hills – leaving his pregnant wife staring in shock. Only later, he realizes she isn’t running with him, and has to go back for her – so reminiscent of the man who rushes his pregnant wife to the hospital, only to discover partway there that he forgot to bring his wife). With this type of comedy splashed in, it turns Undead into more a horror comedy (horredy?) than the viewer initially expects.
The special effects follow this pattern also. Some, such as a woman sticking her hand straight through another person’s skull and then snacking on the brain, are eerily disgusting, while others are overdone (hopefully) for a comedic effect. It’s possible these gross (excuse the pun) exaggerations are done by mistake, but the viewer will hope they are done for the comedic effect. That way, it helps raise Undead out of the norm in the zombie pictures genre.
The plot itself is a little peculiar, and the ending seems to be done more for a sequel set-up than for anything else. While the last few minutes do seem totally out of whack, the rest of Undead is thoroughly enjoyable. Once the viewer gets used to the accents of the characters, they will get sucked into the film, and will follow it through right to the end.
Despite being an odd Shaun of the Dead (2004) / Dawn of the Dead (2004) mix (or maybe because of it), Undead is a thoroughly enjoyable film. Sure, little kids might get freaked out by it, but true horror fans will relish this new addition to the horror comedy field.
It definitely whets the appetite for more films from The Spierig Brothers, and helps keep Lionsgate a good company to go to when you’re looking for something refreshingly unusual – as long as you stay away from House of 1000 Corpses (2003).