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Undead
3/5
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig
with Felicity Mason, Mungo McKay, Rob Jenkins, Lisa Cunningham, Dirk Hunter, Emma Randall, Steve Grieg, Noel Sheridan, Gaynor Wensley, Eleanor Stillman, Robyn Moore, Robert Jozinovic
release Aus 4.Sep.03,
UK 31.Dec.04, US 1.Jul.05
03/Australia 1h44

They're coming to take you away: Mason (above); Hunter and Randall (below)

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Undead This gonzo horror film is absolutely unhinged in a way only Australian filmmakers can ever get right. Scary and hilarious at the same time, it taps into several genres (most notably zombie and alien-invasion) while giving us memorable characters and situations, plus a thoroughly outrageous storyline.

Former Miss Catch of the Day Rene (Mason) has had it with life in isolated Berkeley. But her escape is hampered by a meteor shower that starts turning the townsfolk into the walking undead. She takes refuge in the home of the gun-toting hermit Marion (McKay), and they're soon joined by a young couple (Jenkins and Cunningham), a control-freak cop (Hunter) and his rookie partner (Randall). As these six people take a stand against the marauding zombies, they begin to realise that an alien invasion is underway.

Refusing to let the low budget hamper them, the Spierig brothers go for broke with lots of gore and knowing references to everything from Night of the Living Dead to Dirty Harry. They even create some fairly impressive effects on their home computer. But the thing that makes the film work is its characters--vividly written people who continually subvert and combine cliches. They're performed by the game-for-it cast with energy and deadpan wit that makes the dialog and banter take on hilarious subtext. (Marion to Rene: "Are you a fighter, Fish Queen? Or are you zombie food?")

And the plot is so insanely fantastical that you can't help but love it, even though its twists and turns get a little overwrought by the time the jaw-dropping climax hits us. The Spierigs are obviously having a great time lampooning small-town Australia, with all sorts of quirky people and petty jealousies that grow into something completely uncontrollable when combined with zombies and aliens. The film barely pauses to catch breath as it hurtles through a complicated series of cleverly staged set pieces that are both hilarious and grisly at the same time, full of odd details and telling asides. It's a jittering, tense, surprising and consistently funny film that isn't afraid to be ludicrously gruesome. In other words, it's pure joy for horror fans.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, gore 11.Nov.04

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2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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