Undead (2003)
By: Devon B. on February 21, 2010  | 
Imagine Entertainment (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1. 100 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Directors: The Spierig Brothers
Starring: Felicity Mason, Mungo McKay, Rob Jenkins, Lisa Cunningham, Dirk Hunter, Emma Randall
Screenplay: The Spierig Brothers
Country: Australia
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Because Digital Retribution is an Australian based website, we want to be at the forefront in promoting local genre efforts whenever we can. Whether it be giving a film a place in our news section, interviewing an up and coming director, or creating a buzz in our forum, we like attention being drawn to new Australian horror films. This is why, a mere eight years after its release, we are proud to review an independent Australian horror film called Undead.

A shower of meteorites fall to Earth in the Queensland area, but there's something bad on them there rocks because a zombie plague breaks out. A recently crowned beauty queen was trying to get out of town before the plague started, but gets attacked by zombies instead of making it to the big city. She's saved by a dude who must be a huge John Woo fan that's developed such a prowess with guns that Woo's regular leading man Chow Yun-Fat would be jealous. The guy's even gone so far as to put three shotguns together to make a mighty triple barrel. She follows the guy back to his house, and then some other people turn up seeking sanctuary. This sets up the familiar situation of a group of people hiding out in an isolated house and fighting off zombies. It's a normal zombie movie set up, to be sure, but there're some unexpected directions the plot will be taking.

The first time I saw Undead was years ago (about eight) at a film festival, and while I really enjoyed most of it, that previously mentioned unexpected direction in the plot put me off. When I re-evaluated the film about five years ago, I found knowing about that plot element in advance meant it didn't bother me at all, and I was able to enjoy the whole film. But even when I wasn't its biggest supporter, I knew Undead was a huge achievement for a low budget film. A few things are admittedly hampered by the budget, but directors Peter and Michael Spierig do a good job covering their limitations, and when you consider the sheer amount of work involved to put this FX heavy film together that is no mean feat. The gore is often just silly, but this fits with the film's overall cartoony style, and there're some fantastic, bloody gags on display.

Undead is brimming with homages, from the score that recalls older sci-fi/monster flicks to on screen nods to other zombie films like Dawn of the Dead. The directors/writers/editors/producers/FX guys the Spierigs clearly gave Peter Jackson's Braindead a few spins before production began and have lifted at least one idea from that film, but they make sure to keep Undead fresh and funny so even the more familiar elements don't seem stale. The main character, the beauty queen, is the only one that's even slightly realistic, the rest could've stepped out of a comic book and on to the screen. The best of the outrageous characters is an aggro cop that makes sure the letter of the law is followed at all times, and his pompous twit antics made me laugh and laugh.

Undead doesn't ever take itself seriously, and for those looking for a new spin on the zombie movie, Undead delivers in ways only the Spierigs could ever think of.
The film is sharp and clear. There's some grain, but it shouldn't distract the average viewer, and there're a few minor spots. The colours have been intentionally muted, but I think that was taken too far and the film looks a bit washed out at times.
The audio is a 5.1 English track. There're some nice subtle effects, like rain on a van roof, plus some nifty explosions and gooey body bursts. Most of the audio comes from the front and centre, but when the surround kicks in it's well done.
Extra Features
No skimping here. A 36 minute making of displays more tongue in cheek humour, such as the Spierigs' ultimate desire to have their movie be a $1 weekly rental. The making of does get into generic character stuff, but is otherwise good, and you get an idea of just how low the budget was. There's also a 10 minute featurette on the film playing the Toronto film festival which also features the directors' Q & A from the screening. A few shorter featurettes, each running about two minutes, cover the zombies, camera and make up tests, and the homemade dolly construction. An animatic comparison to the final scene is also available, as are deleted and extended scenes, teasers and the full trailer, production notes and stills, artwork and design sketches, and cast and crew biographies.

Just to make sure you get your money's worth, there're also two commentary tracks. The first one is with the Spierigs and cinematographer Andrew Strahorn and make-up artist Steven Boyle. The track is quite interesting, with lots of info on the making of a low budget film, and highlights the ingenuity everyone involved had to use to get so much on screen with so little money. They also try to figure out how to classify the film. The second commentary is with stars Mungo McKay, Dirk Hunter and Emma Randall and while they are sometimes amusing, a few of their jokes are real clunkers, and they seem a bit too enthralled with the film and the fact they're in it to really give much in the way of insight. Info does repeat in some of the special features, but that's to be expected when you get this much stuff.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Undead is a stylish film, but rarely lets the style get in the way of the pacing. The film is engaging and entertaining, with lots of repeat viewing value, and even if you hate that pesky plot direction, it leads to the movie's funniest line. If it hadn't been pipped by the flawless Shaun of the Dead, Undead would've been the best zombie film of the naughties.

Stay tuned for my review of Daybreakers, which should be online in early 2018.

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