Brain Dead


I am not an expert at zombie films. I have friends that are, or at least profess to be, but I myself know little of the genre. Zombies bore me, with their aimless trudging and dull moaning. You can’t talk to them, you can’t play mind games with them (well, only very basic ones). An average zombie film, it seems to me, is almost inescapably just going to be a long parade of mindless violence.

There’s a long parade of violence in Brain Dead. But it’s not mindless. It’s delightful.

Brain Dead1 would best be described as a gross-out comedy, if that term had not been sullied by the likes of American Pie and American Pie: The One with No One from the Original Film. Abandon your false gods; Brain Dead is the one, true gross-out. It’s not even a fair competition — zombies do provide a level of grossness unthinkable in a film where everyone’s extremities are firmly attached to their bodies.

The hero of the film is Lionel (Timothy Balme) — a quiet, nervous young bloke whose life is dominated by his demanding and controlling mother. While spying on her son finally having a date with a girl, she gets unwittingly zombified, and proceeds to start making other zombies. This is clearly the sort of behaviour that can provoke a reasonable man to get out the chainsaw and start decapitating, but not Lionel. He’s a nice boy, and so he tries to look after them, and to rehabilitate them into society.

Not only does this move seem wholly believable in context, but it builds up the tension very nicely for the violence to come. Part of you almost wants the zombies to shape up and start acting nicely. The only peculiar note is when Lionel tries to take a baby zombie out for a stroll.2 This scene was added at the end of the film, when the filmmakers noticed that they had thousands of dollars left over from their budget. It’s cute in places, but because all of Lionel’s actions have seemed resolutely sensible up to this point, it grates a little.

The plot is basic, the relationships simple and some of the dialogue is extremely ropey. However, the acting’s perfect — especially Timothy Balme, who makes a fantastic action hero. And the real world is so grotesque, even before the zombies attack, that the film strikes just the right tone — somewhere between farce and horror. If you can find it, you should watch it.3

  1. Or Dead Alive, in North America.
  2. As I wrote “baby zombie”, the cat in this house started retching and making a noise sounding like a guttural baby’s crying. Eeek.
  3. Well, the bloody version does anyhow. Make sure you don’t go near the edited-down version. It just can’t be as good. The unrated cut is 97 minutes long; 12 minutes of presumably the best stuff was removed for the R-rated American release.
That's my mother you're pissing on. — Lionel Cosgrove

9 Responses to “Brain Dead”

  1. This film is best watched in a group, so you’ve got someone to appreciate your witticisms on the poor quality of the film.

  2. Poor quality?

  3. The whole film isn’t poor quality, but they are poor aspects to the film; you mentioned the plot and the dialogue in your review.

  4. does this mean i can delete the pics and movie from my desktop?

  5. I haven’t seen it, but it does scream ‘B Grade’

  6. Delete away Matt. Jackson, stop pretending to be me.

    When you say “poor quality of the film” Andy, it sounds rather all-encompassing. As you and I said, there are poor aspects, but overall I think the film is of high quality.

  7. And, I wouldn’t say that B-grade = low quality in an overall sense. This film is a shining example of an awesome B-grade film.

  8. Oops. Sorry I’m not used to this computer being shared by everybody.

  9. You can’t just go around deleting other people’s posts Tom. If they want to try and sell as viagra, that’s their business.