Small town, hapless folks, average day, and a comet. All of which are the menu for a brutally satirical zombie film known by horror fans as “Undead.” The low budget Aussie production has become renowned among horror fans as one of the better zombie films to come around in years, and they’d be right. Aside from the masterpiece “Shaun of the Dead,” The Spierig Brother’s film manages to be both creepy, and utterly twisted a concept hard to accomplish with zombie fare now an utterly tired genre. What occurs in “Undead” is the typical, yet unpredictable. A bunch of comets crash in a small town, and now all the residents have become brain eating zombies—don’t you hate when that happens? Now, the remaining survivors, a bunch of officers, a model, a pregnant nurse, and a bayou hunter, have to find their way out and figure out how to stop the epidemic.
One of the most interesting ambiguous plot twists is not just having acid rain that mounts with the zombies, or zombie fish that can jump out of water to bite its victims, but also having a stalwart from a John Woo film appear in the guise of a bayou Aussie. Marion has a long rimmed had, a goofy beard, and suspenders, but he also has spurs and kicks all sorts of zombie ass. Hell, he can flip, he can fight, he appears at the right times, and knows what to do in a really bad situation. How Marion came to be, how he built a fortress out of his small cabin, and how he was able stock his ammo remains a mystery, but if you’re looking for the most unusual horror heroes of the genre, look no further than Marion, played by Mungo McKay. If you’re expecting a straight up zombie flick, you’re in for a disappointment.
The Spierig brothers go into this film with tongue planted firmly in cheek, and that’s what makes “Undead” so much fun. One of the biggest problems from “Undead” is the often ambiguous plot devices that are utterly irritating, even to an audience who enjoys using their imagination. For example, we never do find out where Marion comes from, we never find out how he learned martial arts, how he obtained such advanced fire arms, and how he learned to combat the zombies. This man has much knowledge of the technology and strategy taken in consideration with the alien siege, yet we never get the complete logic behind his knowledge. Beyond that, the characters we have to sit with are morons.
Rather than shooting with their weapons, they just stand there screaming most of time as the zombies lay siege to them. I’d be screaming like Frankie Vali on helium too, but shit you have guns in your hand, use them until you’re out of ammo! And the Spierig brothers vainly attempt to add a sense of characterization by often forcing dramatic situations down our throats to connect with them. And it’s often very weak and utterly grating on the audience. The fact the characters are trapped by flesh eating zombies and decide to argue about a lost beauty contest is utterly horrible writing, and the missed opportunity for true focus that’s never touched on in the first half of the film.
What’s interesting about the Spierig’s film is the pure sense of unease from the get go, but that’s undercut by the zombie fish trying to bite someone’s face off. The atmosphere is fun, with a story that’s both creepy, and utterly moronic, but also features some of the most ridiculous but fantastic stunts accomplished by our hero Marion. Beyond his outlandishly fun character, The Spierig Brothers give us a fun and often creepy little zombie entry into the genre, and I had more fun than I thought I would. At the end of the day it’s no “Shaun of the Dead,” or “Dead Alive,” but damn is it ever an entertaining tongue in-cheek zombie comedy. “Undead” is very flawed, but its also pretty entertaining, with some over-the-top gore that will please the horror hounds. For an equally entertaining experience, check out “Evil Aliens.”