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"Think of the most horrifying, grisly, bloody, sick fuck of a movie you can possible think of. Then look at Braindead. Now whatever you were just thinking of, looks like the Care Bears."
James Rolfe, Cinemassacre's Monster Madness
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Released in 1992, Braindead (also known as Dead Alive in North America) is Peter Jackson's third feature film, a gory comedy in the vein of Bad Taste and Meet the Feebles.

It is about a young man named Lionel (Timothy Balme) whose life takes a turn to the worse when his overbearing mother Vera (Elizabeth Moody) is bitten by a rat-monkey of Sumatra, infecting her with a strange disease that rapidly turns her into a hungry zombie that starts infecting every unlucky fellow that she comes across. If having a zombie mom wasn't enough of a problem, Lionel also has to deal with his opportunistic uncle Les (Ian Watkins) and hide his deadly secret from his girlfriend Paquita (Diana Peñalver).

It is a squicktastic gore fest. Intentionally hilarious in all its splattery glory. That's all you need to know. Not to be confused with the 2016 dramedy series of the same name.

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Tropes:

  • An Arm and a Leg: At the beginning of the movie, when the explorers assistants discover that their boss has been bitten by the rat monkey, they chop off his right hand, then his left arm, and then his head once they see he got bitten on the forehead.
  • And Show It to You: Happens to a couple of the poor party guests when the zombies break out of the basement. One guy gets trapped under a door and gets his rib cage ripped out. Another girl gets pinned up against a wall, whereupon a zombie punches into her stomach and pulls out her heart.
  • Animalistic Abomination: The Sumatran Rat Monkey. It looks like a monkey with a rat's head, but the fact that its bite can turn people into the living dead (and over time, even those turn into twisted abominations) implies that it's more than just a simple animal.
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  • Asshole Victim: Uncle Les, the thugs that assault Lionel in the cemetery... and then Lionel's mom as we learn that she murdered Lionel's father and his mistress.
  • Badass Preacher: Father McGruder, the Kung Fu Priest, with the immortal line "I kick arse for the Lord!" Subverted in that his badass causes his downfall. He kicks a zombie's head off. The zombie head lands right on his shoulder. He gets bitten.
  • Big Bad: Vera Cosgrove, Lionel's domineering mother, falls into this even before she's bitten, as she bullies Lionel relentlessly and sabotages his social life. After her zombification, she gets worse. As the first major infectee, she starts off the chain of events that gradually causes other townsfolk to become zombies as well, and Lionel spends most of the film struggling to keep her and the rest of the zombies under control. She truly settles into her Big Bad role at the end, where she mutates into a horrifying monstrosity and regains some of her sentience, and it's revealed that she drowned Lionel's father and his lover many years ago.
  • Black Eyes of Evil: Those who have been infected long enough develop these.
  • Black Comedy: It's essentially a Boy Meets Girl story... with demonic zombies and a My Beloved Smother. And it's one of the funniest things you'll ever see.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Compared to every other film. This one holds the record for goriest film ever. There's a lawnmower and a room full of zombies... you can guess what happens next.
  • Blood Knight: Uncle Les becomes one when he gets his hands on a pair of cleavers.
  • Bloody Hilarious: The gore is so over the top that it gets to be this way.
  • Break the Cutie: Happened to Lionel years before the film began when his father died in a swimming accident. Turns out that was a lie made up by his mother. The real moment came when Lionel witnessed Vera drowning both his father and his mistress in the bathtub.
  • Chainsaw Good: Lawnmower better. There is a very good reason the lawnmower-vs.-room-of-zombies scene set the record for Most Fake Blood Used In A Movie.
  • Chased by Angry Natives: The explorers running away from Skull Island with the captured Rat Monkey are chased by angry tribesmen with spears. Perfectly justified as said natives know exactly what the Rat Monkey's bite does: "Shangaia!"
  • Church Militant: A priest proclaims "I kick arse for the Lord!" before he starts brawling with a couple zombies.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • Jackson appears as the undertaker's bumbling assistant.
    • Fran Walsh — Jackson's wife, who co-wrote the film with him — appears as the loving mother who Lionel tries to emulate in the "Selwyn in the park" scene.
  • Creepy Basement: Lionel keeps dumping the zombies downstairs despite it being easier to kill them all.
  • Delinquents: Lionel meets a group of these while he goes to the cemetery to certify that his zombie mom won't raise from the grave. It doesn't end well for all of them.
  • Disappeared Dad: Lionel's dad drowned at the beach while trying to save him. But it turns out that his mother murdered him after catching him having an affair.
  • Enfant Terrible: Baby Selwyn. Who was conceived after its parents' zombification and was born apparently about a day later.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: Lionel and Paquita certainly think so when they look at some monkeys in the zoo...only to change their minds once they see their rather gruesome neighbor, the Sumatran Rat Monkey.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: After Vera turns into giant bloated thing, she regains some lucidity and the ability to speak with a very deep and not-so-feminine voice.
  • Everything's Deader with Zombies: The zombies seem to be on the Evil Dead level of demonic.
  • Excrement Statement: A punk urinates on a grave, and instantly comes to regret it.
  • Fan Disservice: That... THING that Lionel's mom turns into is completely naked, disfigured, mutated and bloated. If the gore killed your appetite for the next few days, then the image of her will kill your sex drive for the next few weeks.
  • The ’50s: The film takes place in 1957.
  • Final Boss: During the climax, after all the other zombies have been disposed of, Lionel refuses to let his guard down, telling Paquita, "Haven't seen Mum yet." Seconds after, Vera smashes her way out of the basement, revealing herself to have mutated into a gigantic, hideous, deformed zombie. She chases Lionel and Paquita to the rooftop for the final confrontation.
  • Gag Dub: The Italian dub adds all kinds of silly puns by having the zombies "talk" and not only make meaningless grunts and noises. It just makes everything even more hilarious.
  • Genre Savvy: Uncle Les knows how to defend his own against the zombies because he's "read the comics".
  • Gorn: Raised on a pinnacle and worshiped. Combined with Bloody Hilarious.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body:
    • Father McGruder kicks a zombie's ass using its own arm after he rips it off.
    • The zombie baby gives Uncle Les a Groin Attack using someone else's severed leg!
  • Groin Attack: Nearly every character in the movie hits Uncle Les in the groin at some point, once using a severed arm as a club. The lout urinating on a zombie's grave comes off even worse.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be:
    • During the House Party Massacre scene, one poor bastard tries to slip through a hole into the kitchen from various zombies and two people try to pull him through as Zombies start going for his lower body on the other side. When the two people finally pull him out, all that's left of his lower body is his bloodied leg bones, his pelvis and his feet still intact thanks to his shoes.
    • Zombie Void, who while trying to break through the bottom of the bathroom door, has his stomach impaled by Lionel stomping him into the broken wood splinters. Void then crawls enough to rip himself in two so he could get to Lionel.
  • Hate Sink:
    • Ever since her husband died, Vera Cosgrove has bullied her son Lionel into spending all his time with her. When he actually gets a date, she stalks the two and manipulates him into leaving her after getting bitten by an animal. The infection eventually turns Vera into a zombie, who turns several of the neighbors. As Lionel tries to deal with the zombie attack, he learns that Vera drowned her own husband along with his mistress. Soon after, she mutates into a giant monster and tries to force Lionel into her womb to be with him forever.
    • Uncle Les manages to be an even worse person than Vera. He blackmails Lionel into giving him the house and his half of Vera's fortune, attempts to rape Paquita, then leaves her and Lionel to die at the hands of the zombies. He proves himself to be a competent zombie killer, but enjoys the slaughter way more than he should, torturing the zombified Father McGruder by pulling his teeth and boasting about how he's going to dismember an infected woman. In the end, it's quite satisfying to watch Paquita smash his head to bits against the counter.
  • Helping Hands:
    • Even dismemberment doesn't completely stop a zombie, with severed limbs continuing to attack after being severed. Taken Up to Eleven with a complete set of bowels becoming animate and chasing Lionel.
    • Can't reach the starter for the lawnmower? Just grab a severed arm!
  • High-Pressure Blood: Braindead is one of the bloodiest movies of all time, with blood being pumped at five gallons per second during the lawnmower climax.
  • Homage:
    • The explorer foolishly brings a deadly primate back from Skull Island.
    • Jackson later gives a Shout-Out to Braindead in his "King Kong" remake: one of the crates coming back from Skull Island on the expedition ship is labeled "Sumatran Rat Monkey". And below that, the words "BEWARE THE BITE". In the accompanying book of the movie it is said that they live in chasms and ravines of Skull Island (AKA that scene with all the huge worms and bugs), one large picture in the book even has a hard-to-see Rat Monkey in it.
    • The Paths of the Dead in Jackson's Lord of the Rings was the same location as this film's opening scene.
  • Improvised Weapon: A lawnmower becomes a powerful weapon against zombies. Jackson has jokingly claimed that the lawnmower is the preferred murder instrument in New Zealand.
  • Ironic Echo: At the beginning of the film, Lionel's mother complains that her son doesn't even know how to use the lawnmower properly. As it turns out at the end, he most certainly does.
  • Just Eat Gilligan: So much could have been solved if Lionel had just killed his mother after she fully turned into a zombie. Or killed the zombies that she created rather than keep them all sedated. Or, when he finally did decide to kill them, to use some more traditional methods (like chopping them up or cremating them), instead of using what he and Paquita thought was poison (which was actually an animal stimulant). But alas, otherwise, there'd be no plot, and nothing to laugh at.
  • Let the Past Burn: The film ends this way, presumably destroying the remaining zombies.
  • Little Bad: Void, the leader of the punks at the graveyard. After getting infected, he becomes the most aggressive and persistent of the zombies. At the party, he gets some of the most brutal kills, and chases Lionel all through the house. He maintains the chase even after his body has been cut in half, with his legs and upper body moving separately, and even his intestines move of their own accord and pursue Lionel into the attic. Later on, he quite literally pulls himself together and attacks Lionel one more time after all the other zombies have been destroyed. Lionel is finally able to dispose of him too, just in time for "Mum" to show up...
  • Losing Your Head: A nurse who's taking care of Lionel's mother gets her head ripped off and it's only still attached by a flap of skin.
  • Love at First Sight: Sort of. Paquita is initially not impressed by Lionel and finds both his presence and clumsy antics annoying... until he accidentally forms a star symbol, which she was previously told would be how to recognize her true love. It's then she gets interested.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: The last third of the film is much, much bloodier than the earlier scenes. And when Lionel gets a hold of the lawnmower...
  • Made of Iron:
    • Selwyn takes a lot of punishment over the course of the film and doesn't come out any worse for wear. Although being set on fire may have done him in.
    • Lionel definitely counts as well.
  • Maniac Monkeys: The Sumatran Rat Monkey is an aggressive and hideous abomination and the root cause of the zombie outbreak.
  • Market-Based Title: It is called Dead Alive in the US.
  • Momma's Boy: Lionel. Even after she is turned into a zombie, he doesn't kill her and instead confines her in the basement. He remains devoted to her mother until it's revealed that she drowned his father and his mistress in the bathtub.
  • Oh, Crap!: The most impressive one is when the (still "living") top half of a zombie head gets stuffed into a blender.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: They're a combination of the Plague and Flesh-Eating variants. Their limbs or even entrails can develop minds of their own, they can have babies, and after a while, may even mutate into bloated inhuman monsters.
  • Overdrawn at the Blood Bank: As other tropes on this page might suggest, this is something of an understatement. In the final act the amount of gore rises to utterly ridiculous levels.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: "Party's over!" and "I kick arse for the Lord!"
  • Refuge in Audacity: Almost everything. However, zombie nurse making love with zombie priest and then having a zombie baby is wrong on so many levels.
  • Rule of Funny: Peter Jackson finished the film greatly under-budget and ahead of time. He used the extra resources to go back and extend the scene where Lionel takes Selwyn to the park, for the sake of this trope.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Lionel being dragged back to his mother's womb and fighting his way out (The Other Wiki's plot summary even describes this as "an over-the-top Freudian 'rebirth'").
  • Scare Chord: The music makes a noticeable jump when Lionel discovers he injected the zombies with animal stimulant.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Paquita's first boyfriend, Roger. He's a bit of a Deconstruction; since he had no real common ground with Paquita, she broke it off with him in very short order. Her relationship with Lionel starts like this as well, but then they both develop genuine interest for each other.
  • Shout-Out: In addition to the reference to Skull Island, there's a Sherlock Holmes story that mentions "the giant rat of Sumatra, a story for which the world is not yet prepared. Not to mention, the whole My Beloved Smother subplot, as well as their house, are really not unlike Psycho.
  • Slasher Smile:
    • Paquita puts one on just as the zombie baby falls into the activated blender.
    • Once Lionel finally has the intestine monster at his mercy, he's only too gleeful to grind it up.
  • Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror: It is horrifying, but it is so over the top that it's funny.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: The head explorer, Stewart McAlden, who only appears in the opening scene and is abruptly killed after a few minutes. Nonetheless, it is his act of bringing the Sumatran rat-monkey from Skull Island that kicks off the main crisis of the film.
  • Splatter Horror: This is one of the more infamous "splatstick" movies, between the grotesque deterioration of Vera and her victims, attacks involving severed body parts and coils of mobile intestines, and a climax involving a chest-mounted lawn mower and a basement full of zombies.
  • Stop Motion: The Sumatran Rat Monkey, which somehow makes it even scarier. Especially in the scene where it bites Lionel's mother.
  • Tear Off Your Face: One of the victims of the zombie outbreak has his face torn completely off. Well, not just the face... It's at a minute and 43 seconds into the video.
  • Super Strength: For all the decomposition her body goes through, Vera becomes strong as a zombie!
  • Those Wacky Nazis: The veterinarian Lionel buys the tranquilizer from is one of those, with a poorly-concealed swastika under his lab coat.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • After being meek and submissive for most of the film, both Lionel and Paquita gain several levels in the final thirty minutes.
    • Rita was getting there. Too bad she got a splitting headache... literally.
  • Vertigo Effect: Used in the shot of Lionel's face when he sees the hyperactive zombies pop out of the ground.
  • Villainous Valour: Uncle Les takes out an entire swarm of zombies with only a pair of cleavers.
  • Villains Want Mercy: After Lionel has the Intestine-creature in his mercy, it smacks its kidneys together in a pleading motion, to no avail.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: When Paquita tries to dispose of Selwyn with a blender, she hesitates. Then it vomits a stream of bright-green puke on her face.
  • Womb Horror: In the climax, Lionel's zombie mother assumes a One-Winged Angel form and drags Lionel back into her womb, forcing him to fight his way out.
  • Would Not Hurt A Child: At first, Paquita hesitates to kill Selwyn as he wails pathetically in the zombie blender... until Selwyn barfs on her and laughs about it. Then she purées that little bastard (or at least tries to) right then and there.
  • You Killed My Father: Near the end of the film, Lionel finds out that his mother drowned both his father and a woman that he had an affair with in the bathtub.

Alternative Title(s): Dead Alive

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