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Film / Undead

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Crazy has come to town for a visit.

Undead is a 2003 Australian zombie Horror Comedy, written and directed by The Spierig Brothers. The film is a love letter to low budget zombie and sci-fi B-movies, and launched the brothers' careers as Hollywood film-makers.

In the sleepy country fishing town of Berkeley, the arrival of a strange meteor shower leads to the outbreak of a virus that turns the townspeople into vicious zombies. A small group of survivors, including a local beauty queen who was trying to leave town prior to the outbreak, a slightly-crazy gun nut who believes that the survivors are “Chosen Ones” destined to fight for humanity, a pair of local police officers, and an expecting couple, are forced to work together to survive – not just against the zombie hordes, but also against an enemy of extraterrestrial origin...

Not to be confused with the 1957 Roger Corman film The Undead.

This film contains examples of:

  • Action Survivor: Pretty much all of the main characters are this over the course of the film.
  • Affectionate Parody: Of both zombie films and 50's sci-fi B-Movies. Much of the music especially emphasises the latter.
  • Alien Abduction: Many characters (and even some local wildlife) are abducted throughout the film. It turns out that the abductees are taken into the sky to be cleansed of the zombie virus, before they're returned to Earth at the end unharmed.
    • Marion's backstory is the first case of this, but he didn't know it at the time, assuming that he simply fought the aliens off and was returned to Earth for being too much of a badass.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: A rare example where, given that it's a zombie apocalypse, the surprisingly appropriate response is asking the question again:
    Wayne: That thing just punched through Aggie's skull, and started eating her brain!
    Marion: Was she dead?
    Wayne: Mate, it was eating her brain!
    Marion: Yeah, but was she dead?
  • Asshole Victim: Harrison.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Marion's signature weapon, which is three pump-action shotguns welded together. Sure, it looks badass, and is powerful enough to cut a zombie in half... but it's also a single-shot weapon that takes three times as long to reload.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Rene receives a small cut to her forehead early in the film, which is later healed by the alien rain.
  • Bloody Hilarious: A given in a zombie horror comedy.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Inevitable in a zombie movie, although it does take a while before the effectiveness of this is discovered.
  • Bottomless Magazines: And how.
  • Butt-Monkey: Poor Molly, a rookie cop suffering from severe asthma, who is treated like garbage by her superior officer Harrison, continually steam-rolled by the rest of the group, often freezes up when the zombies attack (to the point where other characters continually take her gun off her to fight them off), and is the first member of the group taken by the alien rain, before being horrifically killed by Wayne's plane slamming into her and crashing at the end. She's such a solid example that, when she attempts to read Marion his rights, all he does is smile.
  • The Cavalry: Subverted in-universe. The military do turn up to try and help, but are unable to cross the alien barrier that has been set up around Berkeley, leaving the characters to fend for themselves.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • Rene's talent portion of her Miss Catch of the Day entry was baton twirling. This comes in handy later when she takes on a group of zombies with a mop handle that has a circular saw blade wedged on the end.
    • Wayne's background as a charter pilot is the only reason he's able to escape Berkeley... which allows him to return and re-infect the town at the end.
  • The Chosen One: Marion believes that Rene is this in the end. She's dismissive, but considering that she ends up being the only main character uninfected, and responsible for containing the infected townspeople and looking after the small handful of survivors, he may have been on to something.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Practically every single line of dialogue that comes out of Harrison's mouth is this.
    Harrison: I'll fuckin' finish you off faster than a fuckin' birthday cake at a fat chick's fuckin' birthday party!
  • Crazy Survivalist: Marion has this reputation around Berkeley. Justified in that his previous encounter with the aliens and the zombie plague did seem to make him go a bit nuts.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Marion has quite a few moments of this.
  • Happy Ending: Subverted. The aliens cure Berkeley of the zombie plague before leaving peacefully, and Sallyanne gives birth to a beautiful baby boy. Unfortunately, Wayne is still infected, having managed to escape the town, and returns to Berkeley to swiftly infect everyone all over again. The movie ends with Rene protecting a small handful of survivors and keeping the infected townspeople quarantined in a giant pen, hoping that the aliens will return.
  • Dwindling Party: Played with. Whilst the characters are picked off one-by-one by the alien rain, the reveal that it's actually a cure for the zombie infection means that nearly everyone makes it to the end unharmed. And then Wayne, who was never cured, returns to Berkeley and swiftly re-infects the whole town, leaving only Rene uninfected.
  • Everyone Went to School Together: Rene, Sallyanne, Wayne and Molly are all implied to be this. Justified in that the setting is a tiny country town.
  • Final Girl: Rene.
  • Gender-Equal Ensemble: The main group consists of three men (Marion, Wayne and Harrison) and three women (Rene, Sallyanne and Molly).
  • Genre Blindness: Largely subverted with Marion, who knows straight away that the infected are zombies and has actually made preparations for the event. However, played straight with the fact that not even he knew at first that the zombies can only be killed via Boom, Headshot!.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Sallyanne really hates that Rene took her Miss Catch of the Day crown from her, both because of her pregnancy making her unable to compete, and because Rene doesn't care about the pageant at all, and was just doing it to make enough money to leave Berkeley.
  • Guns Akimbo: Marion loves doing this with his pistols.
  • The Gunslinger: Marion. Always keeps a gun on hand (even if there's no obvious place to hide one), is a cross between Quick Draw and the Vaporiser (with his triple shotgun). He even has spurs on his boots.
  • Heroic BSoD: Molly has one after Harrison's death.
  • Hidden Weapons: At one point, Marion - who had previously just been disarmed - is shown buck naked after the group strip off to get out of the rain. After they dress in clothes stolen from a shop, they're attacked by a group of zombies. Cue Marion quick-drawing two pistols out of nowhere. Instantly lampshaded by Wayne.
    Wayne: Where the hell have you been hiding them, eh?!
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Whilst it makes sense that Marion (a gun nut who owns a weapons store), Harrison and Molly (who are both cops) would all be gun proficient, both Wayne and Rene manage to hold their own surprisingly well for a pilot and beauty queen respectively.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Rene takes on a group of zombies with a mop handle... with a freaking circular saw blade wedged on its end.
  • Incongruously-Dressed Zombie: The tracksuit-and-sneaker-wearing Agent becomes this upon turning.
  • Irony:
    • The characters spend the whole film trying to avoid both the seemingly-acidic alien rain, and being abducted by the aliens themselves. However, it's revealed at the end that the aliens are actually there to cure the town of the zombie infection, with all of the abductees being returned at the end completely healthy (even those who were seemingly killed by the infected)
    • Wayne successfully manages to escape Berkeley in his plane... except, as he was never cured by the rain, it only allows him to infect the whole town once more.
    • At the start of the movie, Rene is desperately trying to get out of Berkeley, shunning her role as Miss Catch of the Day, who is meant to symbolically be responsible for the town's well-being. By the end, she chooses to stay in order to contain the renewed outbreak, becoming literally responsible for the town's well-being.
  • It Can Think: Generally subverted with every zombie except for the Agent - he clearly knows exactly what just happened when he gets shot in the nuts.
  • Jerkass: Harrison, by far.
  • The Load: Sallyanne, for the most part. Justified in that she is heavily pregnant.
  • Made of Plasticine: A given in a zombie movie, but bonus points have to go to Rene cutting the first zombie she encounters clean in half with a steering wheel lock.
  • Male Gaze: At one point, all of the characters strip out of their clothes out of the (mistaken) belief that the rain is acidic. The camera pretty much keeps the focus on Rene, both as she's disrobing (and washing herself off with bottled water) and (later) getting dressed when she gets new clothes.
  • Off with His Head!!: Happens to the first zombie attack victim at the start.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Rene's reaction to seeing her first proper zombie.
    • Marion gets a huge one when all the zombies the main characters have spent ages mowing down suddenly reanimate as one (due to nobody shooting any of them in the head).
  • Rule of Cool: Pretty much Marion's MO. From his triple shotgun, to the scene where he uses the spurs on his boots to hang upside down from a doorway in order to blast zombies from both sides, everything about the guy screams this trope.
  • Running Gag: The characters love taking Molly's gun off her.
  • Shout-Out:
    • When the newly-zombified Molly is first revealed, it's executed the same way the Evil Dead movies did it, with a jump scare, shaking camera, and wind ripping through her hair.
    • A blink-and-you'll-miss-it example, when the characters are running to get into the house from the shelter, you can just hear a zombie whisper "Join us".
    • One of the film's main characters is a gunslinging, spur-wielding, badass cowboy type named Marion.
    • The cause of the zombie outbreak is radiation from a meteor shower, possibly a reference to Night of the Living Dead (1968).
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Harrison seems to be going for some kind of record with his continuous use of the word "fuck".
  • Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror: Skirts the line a little, but generally, even the film's more horror-driven moments are played for laughs.
  • Slime Ball: The talent agent, who's driving Rene out of Berkeley at the film's start, ostensibly to help her in her performing career. One shudders to think, if it wasn't for the zombie apocalypse breaking out, how that particular trip would have gone...
    Agent: All the way, Rene. All the way.
  • The Stoic: Marion.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Harrison. Deciding to climb a giant alien wall, without even knowing how high it is, is bad enough. Deciding to touch the weird, electrified alien cloud once he reached the top? Yeah, that was only ever going to end one way.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Whilst Rene does help fight the zombies and generally keeps her head, it's not until she utterly annihilates a group of them with a mop handle that has a circular saw blade on the end that she really steps up.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Wayne abandoning his heavily-pregnant wife in order to save himself near the end definitely qualifies.
  • Your Head A-Splode: Or punched to pieces in Aggie's case.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Played with. Whilst Berkeley becomes a total infection zone at the end, it's unknown if the virus spreads to the rest of the world (although it's implied that Rene may have managed to contain it to just the township).
  • Zombie Infectee: In a somewhat stealthy example, it's revealed that all of the characters are unknowingly infected, but are continually being cured by exposure to the alien rain. There's plenty of clues throughout the film, such as the characters gradually looking more ill and coughing a lot, before suddenly becoming fine after being caught in the rain.