Dead-Alive (1992)

Peter Jackson’s gory opus is truly one of a kind. From the opening frames, it’s obvious we’re in for something special and distinct: The pace is snappy, the music is imaginative and zany, Jackson’s camera moves along with its characters, and the combination makes the goings-on immediately notable. Overall it has a tone that’s closer to family-friendly sitcoms than gross-out horror, which is what makes the downright punishing makeup effects so effective, like Jackson is putting an exclamation mark after every gory set piece by accentuating the movie’s wholesomeness otherwise. In the last 30 minutes, the movie takes a turn for the oppressive, because while the tone doesn’t change much, the horror and gore are cranked up, and you can practically feel the makeup team’s giddiness over their imaginative distortions of the human body. Luckily, leads Timothy Balme and Diana Penalver are perfectly cast and both give comedic, physical performances, and they have enough chemistry to make the central narrative poignant. It’s unlike anything else out there, and for that reason alone it should be seen at least once by every cinephile.

Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)

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