Braindead Review

On a trip to the Zoo, a young man's mother is transformed into a flesh eating zombie. At first he tries to cover up her "change", but with the body count mounting, it's clear someone will have to take action...

by Kim Newman |
Published on
Release Date:

01 Jan 1992

Running Time:

104 minutes



Original Title:


Set in a genteel 1957 NEW ZEALAND, where a strain of rabies-like zombiehood is imported by a Sumatran rat-monkey, this is one sick, sick horror comedy.

While spying on her intimidated son (Balme) and his "unsuitable" ethnic girlfriend (Penalver) as they take a trip to the zoo, an interfering and snobbish Elizabeth Moody is bitten by the truly repulsive beast, turning into a ravenous cannibal creature. Initially Balme tries to conceal his mother's infirmity, but the plague spreads and soon he has to deal with a zombified nurse, priest and juvenile delinquent.

In the early stretches, Jackson juxtaposes grotesque comedy - Moody eats her own ear with custard, the nurse has a china bird embedded in her forehead, a splattery conflict is played out against an episode of The Archers - but, like Balme, loses control entirely when the nurse and the priest mate to produce a hideous zombie baby who needs barbed wire over his pram to keep him down.

The gore comedy of Romero's Living Dead trilogy and Raimi's Evil Dead is here plagiarised and taken to a point of no return, yielding a parade of comic atrocities which is astonishing, but eventually monotonous. It has trace elements of a plot in Balme's well-intentioned but disastrous attempts to look after his monstrous mother, but Jackson soon jettisons characterisations and story development in favour of an orgy of tasteless effects.

Unfortunately, the film works best in its occasional, almost subtle touches, such as the squirming pile of constricting intestines seen preening itself in a bathroom mirror.

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