Undead (2003)

Undead is not your average zombie movie, but this is by no means a compliment. It is fun, but it is also stupid, bizarre, unscary and more than a bit senseless.

Rene (Felicity Mason) is leaving Berkeley fast. Her money has run out and she’s been forced to scarper her hometown and head to the city. What’s worse is that some zombie-making meteorites are falling from the sky, causing the fine folk of Berkeley to turn into brain-hungry lunatics. Forced to abandon her ride, Rene stumbles upon Marion (Mungo McKay), a beardy fisherman with a secret past and a tri-barreled shotgun. They band together with a bunch of town misfits and attempt to escape the hellish undead, only to find out there’s more than just a few walking corpses to worry about…

Undead is deliberately B movie-esque, endlessly silly and does a good job of using a limited budget to create a mayhem filled bloody festival of stupidity and gore. It features the usual array of Australian kooky humour, with odd awkward characters, silly names and funky, out-back twangy music. What it lacks in scares, it certainly makes up for in utter idiocy.

Sadly Undead’s convoluted plot and jarring script really let it down. “Those things you saw out there. They’re only the beginning,” Marion utters meaningfully. “Of what?” Rene asks nervously. “The end,” he replies, straight-faced. Marion spends the majority of the movie muttering this sort of cryptic babble that adds needless mystery to a character so mysterious you become immensely frustrated that no one asks the right questions. Some may find this endearing and happily fitting within this farcical zombie film, but some may just be infuriated by it.

As a comedy it is the facial expressions and actions of the characters in Undead that add comedic value to the film, and with lines like “I’ll finish you off quicker than a cake at a fat chick’s fucking party” it’s probably best they stuck to the po-faced seriousness throughout rather than rely on a truly awful script. Sadly the characters are not worth investing in either, including the main heroes – the flat broke town princess Rene and a mystery gun-toting fisherman Marion – who are humourless throughout. Apart from them, Undead features a laughing city berk, a rooky cop and her foul-mouthed partner, two small planes pilots and the bitter ex-princess of Berkeley, and although this certainly makes for an interesting array of characters you still can’t wait from them to turn into evil walking cannibals because they’re all so vastly unlikable.

This is in essence, however, a low budget zombie comedy, so it could be forgivable to have annoying characters as long as the mad gore and zombie killing is kept at the forefront. Sadly after the initial panic and attacks, the core group of misfits find a hiding hole and it descends into a very slow and shouty waiting game that goes nowhere and is brain-botheringly irritating.

On top of the huge lull half-way through, the direction is undisciplined and Undead features an intrusive score that is overly repetitious and genuinely annoying. The finale of the film also descends into a level of baffling sci-fi nonsense that is contradictory, idiotic and completely ludicrous.

Undead fails on a lot of levels, mainly not understanding its potential audience. For some reason during the first half of the film no one seems to be able to aim for headshots, and you find yourself screaming “shoot their heads!” over and over again until you realize it’s an actual revelation that head shots kill zombies. Well, duh! All sympathy for the characters is instantly lost right there. If the undead were after brains, they best avoid the Spierig brothers.

Undead features too many themes, ideas and a twisting bizarre plot that is wholly unrealistic and completely insane. Not only does it make no sense whatsoever, it’s contradictory and ugly in its execution. It is definitely fun, it is definitely stupid, but it’s about as scary as a game of cricket.

Rating: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆

3 Comments on “Undead”

  1. Aaron Gillott says:

    I agree, it’s not altogether unwatchable but it is a mess in the end. And I couldn’t help but feel that they were trying far too hard to deliberately create a “cult” hit, there were so many times it seemed to want to be Pete Jackson’s “Braindead” but misses the mark every time. Even the gun thing got on my nerves as it reminded me of Reg’s gun in “Phantasm II”.

  2. Jamie Carruthers says:

    I really liked this film when I watched a year or so ago. Although thinking about it now, I can only really remember the bad things.

    I think I am due for a rewatch.

  3. Sarah Law says:

    Yeah, I’m with Jamie. I remember really enjoying it at the time but you make a lot of good points so I may have to go back and revisit it with a more critical eye!

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