The JOE-DOWN Reviews ‘Dead Alive’

Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “Dead Alive.”

The info:

The Movie: “Dead Alive”

Starring: Timothy Balme, Diana Penalver, Elizabeth Moody

Director: Peter Jackson

Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A young man’s mother is bitten by a Sumatran rat-monkey. She gets sick and dies, at which time she comes back to life, killing and eating dogs, nurses, friends and neighbors.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 86 percent

Our take:

Brown: Enough with the spooks. Bring on the gore!

Last week, we got a mind (REDACTED) of a movie in “Mother!” And I think I can speak for Froemming here by saying that was an uncomfortable movie because it was essentially the worst house party ever.

For the final movie of Halloween Month, I wanted to go with a movie I’ve been meaning to watch for a long time in “Dead Alive.”

As I mentioned in the “Killer Klowns From Outer Space” review, this movie caught my attention as a kid while going to the creepy video store (read: had a backroom FULL of porn) because of the weird cover, which features a skull in a woman’s mouth.

Then as an adult, it grabbed my attention for being a horror movie made by Peter Jackson. The (REDACTED) “Lord of the Rings” director. Thankfully, this wasn’t a nine-hour horror movie involving a ton of walking.

Instead, it was a schlocky horror movie. Made by one of the most revered directors of our time.

I think Maggie Simpson said it best.

I’m gonna get the custard ready for dessert. While I do that, Froemming, give us your initial take of “Dead Alive.”

Froemming: I saw this movie many, many years ago when I was in high school. And the only thing I remembered was the crazy priest yelling about how he kicks ass for THE LORD. That line just stuck with me and my friends ever since.

I am not a fan of the “Lord of the Rings” stuff (nine hours of walking is a bit much to ask of me for a trilogy of films), in fact I was downright shocked when I learned the guy who did this and “Meet The Feebles” (we will review that one day) somehow snagged a billion-dollar property that would go on to earn Academy awards.

Yes, Academy Award-winning director Peter Jackson made a zombie movie where two undead people bump uglies and make a zombie baby.

We are truly in the darkest timeline.

Anyway, while I gas up the old lawnmower, why don’t you kick this off?


Brown: The year is 1957 (apparently. I didn’t catch that until we see a headstone later). And we are on Skull Island, which I’m sure is full of harmless animals and a bountiful harvest of tropical fruit.

Instead, it’s an island with a terrifying animal called the Sumatran rat-monkey, which is the most terrifying claymation creation ever.

Froemming: Fun fact: Skull Island is also where King Kong lives, a movie Jackson would reboot with a disturbing love twist between woman and ape.

Brown: The JOE-DOWN: Here for your useless knowledge.

So this Indiana Jones ripoff captures this animal and is being chased by island natives because what’s an expedition without some blatant racism. Although, I don’t know what constitutes as racist in Australia, I’ll just assume it’s racist.

Froemming: It’s New Zealand.

Brown: Yes, part of the continent of Australia. Part of the Oceania region.


Brown: Thank you Aziz for simultaneously making myself feel worse and better about this exchange.

Anyway, the explorer escapes the natives but gets attacked by the rat-monkey, forcing the explorer’s crew to amputate both his arms before seeing a scratch on his neck and decapitating the explorer while screaming “Zendaya.” Guess they don’t like actresses in “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

Also, every time I see something involving the rat-monkey, I immediately think of Dennis Hopper.

Froemming: Rat-monkey is now sent to the zoo, where WHY IN GOD’S NAME WOULD THEY PUT THAT THING IN A ZOO?

Now we meet our two love-birds, Paquita and the pharmacist. Well, that is until Paquita’s mom tells her, in the back of the store where they practice witchcraft, that her true love will be announced via mystical symbols.

There’s a reason I will never visit this part of the world. This movie and the show “Lost.” Life is too complicated in these parts.

Brown: Tarot cards are such bull (REDACTED). Especially after my grandma sees me flirt and decides “No, the vague cards say your love will be this!”

Also, did you ask yourself what Miss Cleo was up to when this scene came up?

Froemming: This will be your gypsy curse for saying that.

So in comes in our bumbling hero, Lionel, who is getting groceries for himself and his mother. But he is a klutz, knocking fruit over and because this poor girl’s grandmother has her thinking in riddles, as soon as she sees the symbol and this doofus, she is suddenly in love.

Lionel sure did Forrest Gump his way into love in this movie, that’s for (REDACTED) sure.

Brown: Well, who would want to fall in love with this world where everyone looks like that terrifying neighborhood from the “Black Hole Sun” music video?

Also, why would Paquita be attracted to a man who is clearly in his Norman Bates origin story? If this wasn’t a movie with zombies and diseased rat-monkeys, Lionel would definitely wear Paquita’s skin as a cardigan by the end.

But because tarot cards are this world’s Tinder, Lionel (reluctantly, I must add) takes Paquita to the zoo for a date. While Lionel seems to have to hide his erection whenever holding Paquita’s hand, he goes into this trance when he comes across a body of water. According to Lionel, he’s afraid of water because his father drowned trying to save him at the beach as a child.

Froemming: We learned that Lionel’s mother is one of those control freaks, to the point she stalks him at the zoo with his lady friend. While hiding in the bushes, we see that a monkey at the zoo gets attacked by the rat-monkey, which I bet the children just love the nightmares after seeing this thing.

Brown: We saw the rat-monkey KNOCK THE (REDACTED) OUT of a neighboring monkey with a jab to the head. I haven’t laughed that hard in a while.

Froemming: Early Peter Jackson movies are great! So schlocky, so stupid, but not as stupid as nine-hours of walking with a stupid ring to throw in a volcano.

I hate those movies. I saw the first one and was bored stiff by all the walking and quirky accents and lack of interesting plot. Vowed never to watch the others.

I’ll let Randal explain:

Brown: I remember watching those movies back-to-back-to-back and I retained nothing from them. NOTHING. I’d like to take this moment to apologize to my high school girlfriend for ignoring her for six of these nine hours for something that had no actual impact on my being.

Medieval stuff doesn’t stick with me. It’s why I haven’t gotten into “Game of Thrones.” Well, that and I don’t have HBO.

Froemming: “Game of Thrones” has a lot of violence and interesting plot and no quirky accents and pointless walking for hours on end. I just binged it last year, easy when I have no social life.

So, the rat-monkey bites Lione’s mom and she does perhaps the most American thing I have seen a non-American do: She stomps the thing’s skull until pink ooze comes out of its eyes. I’m surprised she didn’t follow that up with downing a Monster Burger and a 9-gallon Coke.

Brown: This is a friendly reminder that nature is (REDACTED) scary.

So Lionel’s mom, Vera, (REDACTED) blocks her son and forces him to take her home. While Vera sleeps, Paquita sneaks into Lionel’s room and they make out a lot. Look, I think the movie implies they are having sex but Lionel is such a man-child that I can’t believe he (I assume) lost his virginity that night.

And while this passionate make-out session takes place, the bite on Vera’s arm starts getting realllllll gross. When Lionel checks it out the next morning, the damn thing is squirting out pus.

This is where I’ll reveal something I think a handful of people know about me: I’m one of those weirdos who gets a weird satisfaction of seeing zits get popped. It’s very lizard brain. But the whole pus thing in this movie, no thanks. The practical effects are so well done. Body horror will always creep me the (REDACTED) out.

Also, call a hospital, Lionel. Your mom got bit by a (REDACTED) animal.


Froemming: Lionel covers it with a bandage, so she is all good.

Brown: A flap of skin also comes off of Vera’s face and he super glues it. CALL A DOCTOR.

Froemming: They have a lunch with guests, Brown! Don’t be rude!

At lunch, with her face glued on and her making zombie noises, we see that Vera is decomposing before our eyes. Her ear falls off and lands in her pudding — and she eats it. Holy (REDACTED) that was both disgusting and awesome at the same time.

Brown: The pus flying into the dude’s dessert and he eats it…

Froemming: Brown hates body parts falling off, me I hate when food is messed with. Just grosses me out. I have to look away when they do food jokes on “Impractical Jokers.”

The guests leave vomiting, and now Vera is so bad that Lionel finally calls an ambulance. Paquita goes upstairs to get the old woman’s stuff for the hospital while Vera becomes a zombie and now attacks her son and literally rips apart the nurse there to help.

It is a gorefest. This whole (REDACTED) movie is a gorefest, but Lionel gets the two zombies in his basement and sends Paquita off.

This movie and “Shaun of the Dead” have taught me that Europeans are doomed in a zombie apocalypse because they rather be polite than, you know, SURVIVE!

Brown: This movie has a weird relationship with the strength of these zombies. LIke, when Vera fully turns, she’s able to put her fingers through the nurse’s face with no problem. But she struggles to choke out Lionel? Yeah, no.

Plus, Vera consumes a whole German Shepard. There’s no coming back from that.

Because he loves his mother so much and because he’s on the verge of keeping Vera’s dried-out husk of a body in an attic while he murders women in a hotel, Lionel goes to a vet to get some tranquilizers from what turns out to be a Nazi vet.

Why? Because why the (REDACTED) not?

Froemming:  That vet was a clear ripoff of Dr. Strangelove!

Brown: Never saw “Dr. Strangelove.” Don’t @ me.

Froemming: @WCT_JBrown YOU SUCK!

Brown: Lionel also gets a vague pendant for good luck from Paquita’s grandma. Hey dude, she just read a bunch of (REDACTED) cards and told you death is all around you. Don’t take random objects from her.

And right on cue, zombie Vera shows up and gets hit by a tram. So, time for a funeral.


Froemming: Well, Lionel’s plan is terrible. Keep using tranquilizers on his zombie mom so they can bury her. But, man, you going to do this forever? Call the authorities or something. This is not normal. NONE OF THIS IS NORMAL.

Now we meet my favorite character, Father McGruder the Fighting Priest. At the funeral, he is so annoyed by Lionel not being there, and life in general, that I found him hilarious. Dude has white, Steve Martin hair. It’s crazy.

The mortician needs the body, and we see there is trouble with the embalming process: Vera is bloated like an elephant with green slime coming out of her. If she had not turned into a zombie before this, I would have blamed the morgue for mixing in Worcestershire Sauce with the fluid like the time South Park was overrun by pink eye zombies.

Brown: Because Lionel won’t just mercy kill his mum, he keeps filling her with tranquilizers so she won’t attack anyone.

Well, didn’t quite work for the guys in the graveyard, did it Lionel?

He sneaks into the cemetery to try and administer more tranquilizers for, you know, a zombie under six feet of dirt. But, Lionel is confronted by a bunch of hoodlums who apparently hang out in a cemetery just because?

New Zealand, you’re (REDACTED) weird.  

Froemming: At first I thought it might have been Glenn Danzig and The Misfits, because they sort of looked the part and the legendary horror-punk band was known to graverob from time to time.

Brown: Naw. They were too tall to be Danzig.

Anyways, as they harass Lionel for thinking he is a necrophiliac, one of these ruffians starts urinating on Vera’s headstone. The dude gets attacked by zombie Vera and spouts blood like they struck oil, but honestly, with how yellow that man’s urine was, there was something gravely wrong with him. I think that was a mercy killing.

It’s then that we get three words that I never thought I’d see but something I now know I needed in my life: Kung Fu priest.


That…that’s just movie magic right there. Forget that hobbit nonsense, we need more of this in movies.

Brown: Between the tonal shift and the priest’s white hair, this is where I questioned if we were watching a “Naked Gun” movie instead of a zombie flick.

So now we have dead ruffians and a zombie priest. So what is Lionel to do? Why, make a zombie family! This whole movie may as well be scripted from lyrics in an Alice Cooper album.

And yes, at one point, two of the zombies start having sex. And there’s a zombie baby later on.


Brown: Seriously, this guy directed “Lord of the Rings.” How much drugs were the movie execs on when that choice was made? What animal tranquilizers did Peter Jackson give those people?!

Froemming: All of them if they gave him “Lord of the Rings” based off stuff like this.

Now, yes we have the zombie baby. And Lionel, because his grasp on the severity of the situation has all but evaporated, decides it is a good idea to take the youngster on a walk in a troller.

Lionel, your madcap decisions to put yourself in harm’s way in your own home is one thing, but now we have a zombie baby on the loose with a bunch of children at a park. And because you don’t explain things to people, they think when you are beating the crap out of this baby, they think it is a normal baby, not a hell spawn between a zombie priest and his zombie nurse lover.

Brown: Well, who thinks to themselves, “You know who needs some fresh air? This satan spawn!” I almost expect Lionel to run after that baby carriage and get hit by a giant vehicle like Chris Elliott in “Get A Life.”

Froemming: A dirty Kiwi, that’s who! Good thing Donald Trump hasn’t seen this movie, he would have a ban on New Zealanders, what with their funny accents and pro-zombie stances.

Lost in the muck of Lione’s poor life decisions is the fact he is ghosting Paquita, which dude she is already out of your league so this is just nuts. Even worse, she catches him hiding behind a car trying to avoid her. The poor woman should not be taking dating tips from an old woman obsessed with palm readings, tarot cards and newspaper horoscopes.


Brown: Around this time, Lionel gets harrassed by his uncle, who is pretty much New Zealand’s Biff Tannen. Basically, he blackmails his nephew to give up his inheritance or else he’ll report the dead bodies in the basement and have Lionel charged as a necrophiliac or a murderer.

I know this would be cold, but at that point, I’d be like, OK, all yours. And then I get out of the country and let your douche uncle deal with the whole zombie situation.

To celebrate, the uncle throws a house party and orders Lionel to bury the zombies. Which he does after injecting each zombie with poison.

Only, it turns out it was animal stimulants and now the zombies are super-charged.

Look, I’m not faulting Lionel here. That’s the fault of whomever labeled the bottle, which was probably the Nazi vet. And Nazis deserve all our scorn.

Froemming: My thoughts on Nazis:

Now, Lionel’s basement situation is now looking a bit more odd to me: Dead bodies, animal tranquilizers and animal stimulants. RED FLAG RED FLAG RED FLAG

His uncle, by the way, is a creepy rapist. He leers at poor Paquita, and when she declines his advances, he forces her into another room to assault her.

This house should be avoided at all costs. This family is New Zealand’s answer to the Manson Family.

Brown: Now that we got a foursome of super-charged zombies right out of “28 Days Later,” this party gets a lot more gnarly. At one point, a dude’s rib cage is ripped out and he somehow is still alive after that for a spell. Yeah, that’s not going to happen.

And a movie that already had a good deal of blood splatter becomes a movie where this house is covered in viscera akin to someone loading up a blender full of strawberries and throwing on the “liquify” button.

It’s so over-the-top and so blood. And so, so much fun. I knew the lawn mower part prior to watching this but I thought heading in that this movie would be a little serious.

NOPE. This is full-on camp and I loved every moment of this climax.

I’ma just put the lawnmower scene here and let our readers enjoy.

Froemming: Oh yeah, intestines are moving around trying to catch people, heads are lopped off and Lionel discovers his mother killed his father and his lover when he was a child. This was a weird thing to dump on us in the middle of chaos, but whatever. This gives Lionel the resolve to take on the undead with his lawnmower and chop them all to hell.

Then his mother shows up…and she has evolved into a comically insane rat-monster with boobs.

Just when you think this movie has gotten crazy, it cranks it up to 11.

Vera chases Lionel and Paquita in the house, which is crazy because she is huge. They head to the roof where this monster grabs Lionel and saying he is a good boy, sucks him back into her (REDACTED) womb.



Brown: I know they were trying to run from monster Vera, but who thinks to themselves “The chimney, that’s the way to go!”

Froemming:  Santa Claus?

Brown: And yes, coming across a man being put into what amounts to a womb tomb… yeah, no. There’s not enough liquor or therapy in the world for Lionel after this moment.

Monster Vera falls back into the house that is aflame and I assume gets burned alive. The baby is in there, too, but I’m concerned it survived because that baby is the stuff of my nightmares.

Well, Lionel and Paquita are coated in what looks like mechanically separated chicken but love conquers the gore and blood-transmitted diseases and they walk off into the sunset.

I can only imagine how many showers those two had to take to get that zombie stink off.

I’ve gotta run and get some tranquilizers from my friendly neighborhood Nazi vet. So let’s head to recommendations.


Brown: Holy (REDACTED), yes. This was so much fun. I wish Peter Jackson had stuck to these kinds of movies instead of becoming a millionaire and an Academy Award-winning director.

Froemming: Oh yeah, this movie is awesome! It’s a little hard to find, but it is totally worth checking out.

Here is what’s coming up for the next Joe-Down:

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