Ever wonder how some of today’s biggest directors got their starts? Horror movies, that’s how. Sam Raimi did it by making “The Evil Dead” series (which incidentally gave the world Bruce Campbell) and Peter Jackson did it by creating “Dead/Alive.” The movie takes place in New Zealand in 1950s, which came as a surprise to me because I didn’t know the country even existed back then. You learn something new every day. Anyways, it tells the story of Lionel, who is the physical manifestation of the term “mama’s boy” and his romance with the charmingly-Spanish Paquita. After Paquita’s grandmother reads her fortune and tells her some omens to look for when finding the man of her dreams, Lionel strolls into her life and fits the bill. The two of them go to the zoo on an adorable date, which comes to a gruesome, unadorable end when Lionel’s mother, who has been following them, gets bitten by the Sumatran Rat Monkey.
The beginning of the movie told us that the Rat Monkey is very, very bad, and that getting bitten will lead to awful things. Sure enough, Lionel’s mother soon starts rotting and oozing all sorts of things, and eventually she gets hit by a trolley. Oh well. After the funeral, Lionel has to dig up his mother and bring her back home because he knows she’s not dead, and this leads to my favorite scene in the movie. While digging up the grave, Lionel gets accosted by some New Zealand punks (another thing whose existence shocked me) and one of them starts to pee on her grave. Looks like someone needs to drink more water! Sure enough, a rotted hand bursts through the ground, grabbing the guy’s no-no and dragging him down to the dirt. Then some blood sprays everywhere and he gets launched through the air. Awesome. Next we see Lionel’s mom rampaging, turning a few of the other bikers into zombies, who proceed to surround Lionel. Just then, we see Father McGruder standing atop a nearby tomb, smoking jacket blowing majestically in the wind as he announces, “The Devil is amongst us! Stay back, boy! This calls for divine intervention!” He then leaps into a karate kick and starts beating the shit out of the zombies. To add even more awesome to the scene, he shouts “I kick ass for the Lord!” moments before getting killed.
As the body count rises and Lionel has to hide more and more zombies in his basement, his relationship with Paquita is strained, and the two break up. Then Lionel’s evil Uncle Les blackmails him into giving up his house, and throws a totally awesome 50s party. Except for them it was just a regular party without a trace of college “post-irony.” Mistakes are made, and the zombies all recieve a ridiculous dose of animal stimulant, and hilarity ensues. Lionel and Paquita must band together to defeat the zombie hordes and save New Zealand!
Yes, this movie is ridiculous and corny and completely over the top. But in case you haven’t noticed yet, I love that. At no point does this film ever become serious, which is one of its many, many saving graces. From start to finish it has a sense of humor about itself, and it even has a lawnmower. Mmm…that’s a scene for the ages. If you’re into goofy, low-budget horror movies that have since become cult classics, or are even mildly interesting in seeing what Peter Jackson was doing before he was winning Academy Awards (for other examples of people who inexplicably won real honors, see the Three-Six Mafia’s pre-“Hustle and Flow” career, starting with the song “Slob on My Knob”) then this may be the movie for you. I’ve always had a big soft spot for it, so you know it’s at least worth checking out.