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Film / BrainDead

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"Think of the most horrifying, grisly, bloody, sick fuck of a movie you can possibly think of. Then look at Braindead. Now whatever you were just thinking of looks like the Care Bears."

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.

Set in 1950s Wellington, 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 Watkin) 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.


  • Action Survivor: Both Lionel and Paquita are meek individuals with no combat training, but they manage to survive the zombie onslaught at the end thanks to their wits and improvisational abilities.
  • Advertising by Association: As seen on the page image above, this film is "From The Director of Lord of the Rings PETER JACKSON".
  • Amputation Stops Spread: When the explorer's assistants discover that their boss has "the bite" on his hand, they kick him out of the jeep, hold him down, and lop off the hand with a cane knife. Then they find another bite on his other arm... and on his forehead...
  • An Arm and a Leg: At the beginning of the movie, when the explorer's 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 ribcage 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.
  • 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.
  • Autopsy Snack Time: The disastrous embalming of Vera’s body is capped off by the mortician’s assistant grabbing his sandwich off her goo-covered body and taking a bite.
  • Badass Preacher: Father McGruder, the Kung Fu Priest, with the immortal line "I kick arse for the Lord!" Subverted in that his being badass causes his downfall. He kicks a zombie's head off. The zombie head lands right on his shoulder. He gets bitten.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: Thinking Lionel's found his dad's old stag films, Uncle Les is particularly keen to view the one "with the chambermaid and the donkey."
  • Belly Mouth: Vera during the climax.
  • 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 Patient Zero, 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 zombie/rat monkey monstrosity and regains some of her sentience, and it's revealed that she drowned Lionel's father and his lover many years ago.
  • Bittersweet Ending: On the bitter side, Lionel is now orphaned, another family member is dead, all the years of blaming himself for his father's death were a complete lie and a waste, and half of his very large house is on fire after already sustaining significant damage thanks to the zombies. On the sweet side, he and Paquita are finally together with no more meddlesome Cosgrove family members to get inbetween them, Uncle Les' death means all of Vera's money and the house are Lionel's once again, and the firetrucks arrived soon enough that there is still a good chance the house can be saved and restored.
  • 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.
  • Calling the Old Woman Out: Lionel finally stands up to his zombified, mutated mother and confronts her about what really happened to his father in the climax.
    Lionel: You don't scare me, Mum! All my life... you told me nothing but lies! That stuff about Dad? None of that was true! You drowned them both, Mum! Dad and that blonde woman, you caught them together and you killed them, didn't you?!
    Zombie Vera: How dare you speak to me like that!
    Lionel: DIDN'T YOU?!
  • The Cameo: Science fiction magazine editor Forrest J. Ackerman appears as a tourist at the zoo.
  • 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: "Singaya!"
  • 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.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • Father McGruder vs the blonde zombified greaser; first, McGruder easily rips one of the arms off before ripping the second off during a flip, then an underkick takes off both the zombie's legs as well and finally a swing kick sends it's head flying... only for it to land on and bite McGruder in the neck.
  • 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.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: 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...
  • Enfant Terrible: Baby Selwyn. Who was conceived after its parents' zombification and was born apparently about a day later.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Once Uncle Les blackmails Lionel into giving him the house, he's quick to show that he may be a greedy lecher, but even certain things are too much for him to stomach.
    Uncle Les: I don't know what kinky shit you're into, but I want those things BURIED!
    • Void and his fellow greaser delinquents may be no-good booze-swilling hooligans, but they strongly frown upon grave-robbing and, presumably, necrophilia.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Good God, Uncle Les. He's a greedy, self-absorbed lecher who threatens to expose Lionel's secret in exchange for his "fair" share of Vera's estate, being all of Vera's money and the house, and even attempts to force himself on Paquita, but Ian Watkin's demented performance makes Uncle Les the biggest ham in the movie. At first playing the typical boisterous loudmouth back-slapping uncle with enough scenery-chewing gusto that it's no surprise Les is a heavyset fellow, once the zombies crash the party, Uncle Les barely speaks any dialogue below a bellowing holler and takes great relishing delight when he has to take on zombies, swinging, hacking and chopping with a pair of cleavers hard enough that not a single part of his body stays still.
  • Evil Is Visceral: The monsters are all horribly mutilated man-eating zombies in various states of decay, so this is only natural. It becomes quite literal when one of the zombies' own intestines gains a mind of its own and spends its time trying to kill Lionel, all the while displaying a greater amount of intelligence and self-awareness than the full zombies.
  • 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.
  • Eye Scream: Lionel's mom being almost-but-not-quite-dead proves to make embalming her rather difficult. An aloof mortician's assistant stepping out of the room results in a "cranial blowout" with embalming fluid spewing out of Vera's nose, mouth, ears, and even her eyes, though with such force they're pushed completely out of her head.
  • 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.
  • Gardening-Variety Weapon: Lionel uses a lawnmower to great effect against a horde of zombies.
  • Genre Savvy: Uncle Les knows how to hold his own against the zombies because he's "read the comics".
  • Gorn: Holds a reputation as one of the goriest, if not the goriest movie ever made. And for good reason.
  • 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!
    • Earlier than that, Paquita bites his dick when he tries to force her to fellate him during his Attempted Rape.
  • 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 when Vera chooses that moment to awaken, claw herself out of the ground, and seize the most obvious target.
  • 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 to escape from several zombies and two people try to pull him through as the zombies start going to town on 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 pulls hard 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. She then lied to her traumatized son and made him think he was at fault for his father's death, filling Lionel with a sense of guilt over something he wasn't responsible for. 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. Exaggerated with a complete set of bowels becoming animate and chasing Lionel.
    • Can't reach the choke 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 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was the same location as this film's opening scene.
  • Hope Spot: Lionel arrives home with more tranquilizers, only to find the door leading to the basement is wide open. Fearing the zombies have escaped, Lionel rushes over. Upon seeing the corpses are still sedated and restrained, Lionel leans against the wall, relieved... only for Uncle Les to turn the corner with a smirk, having found the zombies, and the jig is up.
  • I Love the Dead: Lionel is accused of this by Void and his band of greasers when he shows up at the cemetery dressed and equipped to dig up a corpse, and by Uncle Les after the tied up sedated bodies of Vera and her victims are discovered in the basement.
  • 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.
  • Infant Immortality: Subverted, in that Selwyn was born as an undead baby to two undead parents, but he is last seen crying while surrounded by fire, stuck inside the burning house.
  • 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.
  • Jerkass: Both Uncle Les and Vera. The latter is emotionally abusive to her son and determined to keep him under her thumb, and the former is an unpleasant, womanizing jackass all around who's trying to seize what Lionel rightfully inherited.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Les is quick to want to kill a woman Paquita has teamed up with once he notices she has a bite wound. He's ruthless and unfeeling, but also correct as she is doomed to eventually turn into a zombie herself.
  • 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.
  • Kill It with Fire: One zombie has her head impaled on a wall-mounted light socket, causing the head to light up continuously until eventually the electricity causes the head to burst into flame, finally killing it. Paquita then rips open a natural gas line, setting the room on fire. The fire quickly spreads and presumably kills all of the zombies by making them go up in smoke.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Vera trying to spoil Lionel and Paquita's date and break up their relationship is what leads to her getting bitten by the Rat Monkey and turning her into a zombie. Her attempt to engulf Lionel inside her body also leads to her death thanks to the holy symbol he was carrying on him.
  • Last Disrespects: When the punks catch Lionel getting ready to dig up his mother, the leader takes the opportunity to piss on Vera's grave while his mooks beat him up, making sure to whizz plenty on the tombstone itself, only for Vera to let him know exactly how she feels about it by grabbing him by the offending organ.
  • Let the Past Burn: The film ends this way, presumably destroying the remaining zombies.
  • 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 ahold 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. There's a damn good reason those natives didn't want it out of their sight, as the Rat Monkey is an aggressive and hideous abomination that contains one hell of a zombie virus.
  • Market-Based Title: It is called Dead Alive in the US.
  • Mistaken for Masturbating: Downplayed; when Uncle Les springs by for a surprise visit in the middle of zombie lunchtime, loud moaning, groaning, and gasping sounds start coming from behind the door. Lionel tries to explain it away as the pipes making noise (actually, it's the zombified nurse and priest getting it on) but Les shoots this down, saying it's the sounds of people "doing the business" and assumes Lionel's found his dad's old stag films and tries to get a peek. When Lionel refuses, Les cheekily asks Lionel, "There's just some things a man prefers to do by himself, eh?"
  • 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.
  • My Beloved Smother: Vera controls every aspect of her son's life, keeping him serving at her beck and call and not allowing him to have a life outside of her.
  • Oh, Crap!: The most impressive one is when the (still "living") top half of a zombie head gets stuffed into a blender. It makes an expression of shocked horror moments before it is promptly gooified.
  • One-Winged Angel: At the end of the movie, Vera turns into a large, bloated monstrosity, bigger than a human and strong enough to rip one in half. Worse, she regains her sentience and ability to speak, and becomes even more evil than before.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: They're a combination of the Plague and Flesh-Eating variants. The zombies cannot be killed by destroying their brains, as their limbs and even entrails can develop minds of their own, like in The Return of the Living Dead. Instead, they must be completely mulched into bits. Furthermore, the zombies are shown to be capable of eating regular food, seem to retain a certain amount of human intelligence (very poor intelligence, but still), can reproduce, 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, the zombie nurse making love with the zombie priest and then having a zombie baby is wrong on so many levels.
  • Ridiculously Alive Undead: After two of the zombies, Father McGruder and Mrs. McTavish, have sex, Mrs. McTavish gives birth to a zombie baby.
  • 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.
  • Shaky P.O.V. Cam: After Uncle Les notices that Rita has been bitten and is going to turn into a zombie, he freaks out about it towards Paquita. Next time the action cuts back, a quivering meat cleaver is shown in front of the camera moving towards Rita, before it's revealed that Les is trying to kill her before she turns.
  • 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 and the zombies not being able to be killed by removing the head or destroying the brain, though nobody actually attempts that.
  • Slasher Smile:
    • Whenever Uncle Les finds himself having to deal with a zombie, you can bet the farm he'll sport one of these.
    • 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 lawnmower and a foyer 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.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: When Uncle Les mistakes the groaning, moaning and gasping of two zombies banging for Lionel having found his dad's old stag films, Lionel rolls with it.
  • 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.
    • Downplayed with the zombified Father McGruder; he and the zombified Nurse McTavish fall hard for each to the point where she kisses him so hard that Lionel forcibly separating them results McGruder getting his lips ripped off.
  • Super-Strength: For all the decomposition her body goes through, Vera becomes strong as a zombie!
  • The Tooth Hurts: Once Uncle Les has Father McGruder restrained in the tool shed, he takes the opportunity to use a set of pliers to rip out the zombie's front teeth.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: The veterinarian Lionel buys the tranquilizer from is one, 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 where they kill zombies by the truckload.
    • Rita was getting there. Too bad she got a splitting headache... literally.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: When Paquita finds Lionel's collection of stiffs in the basement after fleeing Uncle Les, she's quick to notice and recognize the disfigured bodies of the local matron and the town priest, but does not seem to be too bothered, even though it looks like he killed all those people.
  • 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 lungs 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, and she has no more mercy for the little bugger.
  • 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.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Dead Alive


I Kick Arse for the Lord!

When Lionel gets cornered by a gang of zombified punks, the local priest Father McGruder, who is trained in kung fu, steps in with some 'divine intervention'.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / AllMonksKnowKungFu

Media sources: