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Its zombie time again as yet another batch of living dead are unleashed onto DVD. But this time they are from down under and no amount of XXXX can save us.

Undead
Film
Peaceful, Rustic Berkley is a charming fishing community where life is sweet and the people are friendly. All that is about to change. After losing her childhood farm to the bank, local beauty René decides to leave town and head for the big city. Suddenly, an avalanche of meteorites races through the sky, bombarding the town and bringing an otherworldly infection. Departing is going to be much more difficult than she had planned. The dead are reawakening and René is caught in a nightmare of zombies hungry for human flesh. She manages to find salvation in a small isolated farmhouse owned by the town loony, Marion. There she is met with four other desperate survivors. Together they battle their way through a plague of walking dead and discover that there is more transpiring than just infection.

Undead is one of those movies that’s been a labour of love for its creators, twin brothers Peter and Michael Spierig. It’s taken them nearly twenty years to get to this stage and have spent most of their lives making short films and commercials. It’s a triumph of talent over money as the film looks and feels much more expensive than it actually was. Shot on 16mm and transferred to high definition (known as digital intermediate process) from which this print is scanned, the brothers spent their life saving and even sold their car to finance the shoot and even produced the smart CGI effects themselves on a machine that would crash fifteen times a day.

But have their efforts been really worthwhile? Well, in short, it’s a resounding yes! Undead is one of those movies destined to become a huge cult hit and go on to gain a loyal audience much in the same way Evil Dead and Bad Taste did in the eighties. Though far from original to start with (hey, there’s little difference between most zombie movies) this one does try its best to steer away from being just another stumble and stalk gore fest. And it does have a twist that I shan’t mention as it would spoil the surprise.

It starts off strongly with a brief SFX sequence that’s way above what’s expected, and from here in it rarely disappoints. The jolly, upbeat start reminds me of Carry On… movies instead of Day of the Dead and puts you in that false sense of security section. Just check the old lady seven minutes in.

The actors also impress, I was expecting wooden performances that would make the Woodentops look human, but the cast are great and really get into the bizarreness and darkness of the whole piece. Mungo McKay as Marion is Clint Eastwood meets Grizzly Addams. Marion knows exactly what’s happening and it’s more than just the dead getting up and walking around. His sharp shooting skill will raise laughs instead of shivers but it’s designed this way. Rene, played skilfully by Felicity Mason adds a streak of reality through the piece and ends up being a far stronger character than you originally think.

Undead
The script is pin sharp and crammed with black humour and shocks, getting this very difficult balance perfectly pitched. I hasten to bet that if Raimi was still making low budget horror, it would look something like this. There’s some great camera work on show with plenty of strange angles, slow motion action and over the top grue on show for the gore hounds out there.

Best line comes from the foul mouthed Sergeant: “When I was a kid we respected our parents we didn’t fucking eat them.” A classic for the future I think.

Obviously it does nod its rotten head to past horror movies such as Evil Dead and Night of the Living Dead, but its original twist and very strong and sharp ending help it to retain some originality. There’s plenty of blood on show, well gallons actually which helps hammer home the over the top feeling the movie constantly promotes.

Video
Image is slightly soft, I wasn’t expecting high definition transfer as the source wasn’t the best available (see explanation at the start) with colours being a little subdued at times. For me, this adds to the movie as it creates interesting colour hues, which reflect the tone of each sequence. The slight grain retains the films indie roots and is never intrusive. Colours are deliberately garish and unnatural in tone, but never have artefacts or break up. Blood is very dark in colour and most scenes use deliberately bizarre lighting to full effect, all replicated nicely here.

Audio
The surround sound mixes are very interesting and continually use the rears to very good effect. Both contain huge dollops of bass and retain clarity of dialogue throughout. The DTS version keeps the voices directly in the middle of the set up and is slightly louder then the DD 5.1 mix, but the 5.1 version does feel the more natural during the whole movie. In stereo the film also has plenty to offer and is far more effective than you’d imagine. Cliff Bradley’s score is quite magnificent and huge in its scope, I’d have liked a ‘Soundtrack Only’ option, but hey I’m getting greedy here.

Undead
Extras
This release is filled to the rotting gills with excellent extras. ‘The Making of Undead’ is a fun and informative look at the creation of this tight budgeted movie. It shows the ups and downs and the many frustrations encountered. This is followed by footage from the Toronto Film Festival. Undead was the closing midnight movie and the last ever to play at the legendary (their words not mine) Uptown Theatre. This is a short question and answer session that re-creates the marvellous atmosphere from this event. Eight ‘Deleted and Extended Scenes’ are next and contain the alternative credit sequenced which is really poor. Thank heavens they changed their minds as it looks like something off Scooby Doo.

‘Camera and Make-Up Tests’ is an excellent section displaying exactly how some of the more intricate make-up designs and camera effects were achieved. The bizarre ‘Home Made Dolly Construction Video’ is exactly what it says on the tin! The ‘Zombies Internet Feature’ is a quick training piece for those acting as zombies and at two minutes is far too short to be really interesting.

The ‘Production Notes and Still Text’ section quickly describes the hows and whys the Spierig brothers set out to make this movie. It’s illustrated with loads of behind the scenes snaps. ‘Artwork and Design Sketches’ is another large selection of material which goes to show just how well the brothers planned very scene of this movie. The evolution of the Alien species is of particular interest.

The ‘Theatrical and Internet Trailers’ arrive next on the list and sell the movie incredibly well. The first pitches the humour perfectly. Whilst the other relies on dramatic teasing! The ‘Animatic to Film Comparison’ section will interest all of those looking to making their first feature. A biography section contains small snippets of information for the six main actors and the Spierig Brothers. Nothing really enlightening here I’m afraid.

There are two audio commentaries to enjoy here. The first is from Michael and Peter Spierig, Andrew Strahorn and Special Effects Artist Steven Boyle, the second from cast members Mungo Mckay (Marion), Dirk Hunter (Harrison) and Emma Randall (Molly). These were recorded two years after the movie was completed and are very interesting and full of good humour. Obviously the Directors give the more technical of the two but both are worth listening to and they do mention a sequel.

One thing I did notice on the packaging is spelling mistakes. OK, I know no one is perfect (believe me I have a dictionary on hand, always!) but when a product from Anchor Bay has them, you feel slightly let down.

Undead
Overall
Summing up, Undead is one of the goriest and funniest 15 certificates I’ve ever seen and one of the best independent horrors in ages. Here’s to the brothers’ next project, whatever it is.


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