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UNDEAD (2005) (R)

Lions Gate Films

Official Site

Directors: Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig

Producers: Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig

Written by: Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig

Cast: Felicity Mason, Mungo McKay, Rob Jenkins, Lisa Cunningham, Dirk Hunter, Emma Randall


Chaos theory, as Jeff Goldblum tells us in Jurassic Park, supposedly can explain a causal relationship between a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon and monsoons in Southeast Asia. Now I can’t vouch for that, but I can elucidate a much more direct causal relationship between Shaun Of The Dead, a funny zombie film from England, and The Undead, a decidedly unfunny zombie film from Australia.

If you haven’t figured out yet zombies are hot right now, maybe not “Dancing With The Stars” hot, but hot nonetheless. This is my second zombie movie review in as many weeks, no lie (the other being George Romero’s excellent new Land Of The Dead). Just as werewolves were briefly in vogue in the ’80s—American Werewolf In London, The Howling, Teen Wolf—zombies have caught the national zeitgeist. 28 Days Later made them scary, and Shaun Of The Dead made them funny. And now Undead makes them tedious.

Like Shaun, Undead is a zombie comedy. While it would be unfair to suggest that it’s a rip-off since Undead was in fact made a year before Shaun Of The Dead (Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive is the clearest influence), it certainly has followed in Shaun’s wake. I guess distributors are thinking zombies and funny accents can’t miss. Well I doubt it. Undead is about as far from funny as anything I’ve seen all year.

Brothers Peter and Michael Spierig were clearly hoping to make a cult classic with this self-consciously strange mixture of zombies, aliens, and Australians. The story takes place around a backwater fishing village in the Outback. There we find the reigning Miss Bait Queen trying to catch a ride out of town after losing the family farm. Unfortunately for her, a meteor shower and accompanying acid rain gives birth to a plague of zombies. She and a colorful batch of locals decide to hole up at the home of an eccentric fisherman, who talks like Clint Eastwood and fights like Neo in The Matrix. He has a feeling these zombies might have something to do with his recent alien abduction, and he ain’t wrong.

The problem with deliberately trying to create a cult comedy film is that the contrived quirkiness is often so strained that it’s usually rather grating. Talented filmmakers like Tim Burton and the Coen Brothers have had trouble going down this path, and from what I can tell the Spierigs aren’t exactly the Coens. Their film is a mess, the story is exasperating, the castmembers give highly affected, extremely obnoxious performances, and the score is a dreadfully chintzy faux-Elfman assault on the ears. To their credit, the film actually looks better than their minuscule budget would seem to suggest. And amid the comedy carnage there are a few funny ideas, too bad they’re buried amidst the rubble that is Undead.

—Edward Rholes

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