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Braindead (film): Wikis


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Braindead German theatrical poster
Directed by Peter Jackson
Produced by Jim Booth
Written by Stephen Sinclair (story)
Stephen Sinclair &
Fran Walsh &
Peter Jackson (screenplay)
Starring Timothy Balme
Diana Peñalver
Elizabeth Moody
Ian Watkin
Music by Peter Dasent
Cinematography Murray Milne
Editing by Jamie Selkirk
Distributed by United States Trimark Pictures
Release date(s) New Zealand August 13, 1992
Canada September 17, 1992
United Kingdom January 16, 1993United States February 12, 1993
Running time Theatrical:
104 min.
U.S. Unrated:
97 min.
Country  New Zealand
Language English
Budget $3,000,000 (estimated)
Gross revenue $1,627,955 (NZ)
$242,623 (USA)

Braindead (New Zealand 1992), released as Dead Alive in North America, is a zombie comedy splatstick horror film directed by Peter Jackson.



The first scene of the movie sets up the danger of the Sumatran Rat-Monkey, a hybrid that (according to legend) resulted from the rape of tree monkeys on Skull Island by plague rats: Stewart (Bill Ralston), an explorer returning from the depths of the island with a rat-monkey in a cage, is stopped by his native guides. Seeing the mark of the monkey's bite on his right hand, they immediately hold down the infected explorer and amputate the appendage. A bite mark is then seen on his left arm, which swiftly results in the removal of that limb. Finally, they see a set of bloody scratches on Stewart's forehead and kill him. The title screen follows the man's dying scream, and as the opening credits roll the captured rat-monkey is shipped to Wellington Zoo in New Zealand.

Wellington, 1957, Lionel Cosgrove (Timothy Balme) lives with his domineering mother (Elizabeth Moody). To his mother's dismay, Lionel falls for a local shopkeeper's daughter, Paquita (Diana Peñalver), and while snooping on the two during a visit to the zoo, Lionel's mother is bitten by the Sumatran Rat-Monkey. The animal's bite slowly turns her into a ravenous zombie. Lionel is horrified, but, ever the dedicated son, is determined to care for her.

Despite his efforts to keep her placated with periodic doses of veterinary anesthetic, his mother starts murdering other townspeople, turning them into zombies. He tries to keep them locked away in the basement, while simultaneously trying to maintain his relationship with the completely oblivious Paquita. His mother escapes, however, and is run over by a tram.

As the townspeople assume she is dead, Lionel tranquilizes the still-kicking zombie for her funeral. After she is buried, he returns to the graveyard to administer more anesthetic, but is accosted by a gang of hoodlums. His mother bursts from her grave, resulting in more deaths, and zombies.

As their numbers grow, Lionel manages to keep the zombies under relative control with repeated injections, and tries to keep them concealed in his home. However, Lionel's uncle Les (Ian Watkin), arrives to try and wrangle with Lionel over his mother's estate. Uncle Les discovers the "corpses" and blackmails his nephew into giving up his inheritance in return for his silence.

Lionel reluctantly administers poison to the zombies ("killing" them) and buries them, just as Uncle Les and a crowd of his friends arrive for a housewarming party. However, the "poison" turns out to be an animal stimulant, and the zombies burst from the ground to attack and infect the party guests in a gory finale.

Lionel, Paquita, Rita and Les are now fighting hundreds of zombies, animated intestines, severed heads, and disembodied legs. Despite Rita and Les being killed in the process they successfully destroy all the zombies until Lionel's mother, who has become a gargantuan monster, pursues Lionel and Paquita to the rooftop, where Lionel finally confronts his mother about the truth regarding his father's demise. She picks him up and stuffs him back into her womb, and in an over-the-top Freudian "rebirth", he cuts his way out of her grotesquely changed body and she falls into the fiery house below. Lionel and Paquita escape the burning building, and walk away arm-in-arm, covered in gore.

Production notes

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 Peter Jackson's previous film Meet the Feebles (1989).


The film was released in a number of different versions.

  • In some nations, such as Australia and the United Kingdom, 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, while the unrated cut is 97 minutes. Worth noting is that the 97 minute version is Peter Jackson's preferred version, as he was given the opportunity to "apply some additional spit and polish" to it.[1]


The film was subject to a lawsuit. In Bradley vs. Wingnut Films Ltd [1993] 1 NZLR 415, it was alleged that the comedy horror film Brain Dead 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.[2]


  • Tim Balme as Lionel Cosgrove
  • Diana Peñalver as Paquita Maria Sanchez
  • Elizabeth Moody as Mum (Vera Cosgrove)
  • Ian Watkin as Uncle Les
  • Brenda Kendall as Nurse McTavish
  • Stuart Devenie as Father McGruder
  • Jed Brophy as Void
  • Stephen Papps as Zombie McGruder
  • Murray Keane as Scroat
  • Glenis Levestam as Nora Matheson
  • Lewis Rowe as Mr. Matheson
  • Elizabeth Mulfaxe as Rita
  • Harry Sinclair as Roger
  • Davina Whitehouse as Paquita's Grandmother
  • Silvio Famularo as Paquita's Father
  • Daniel Sabic as baby zombie
  • Bill Ralston as Zoo official Stewart


External links

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