Dead Alive (Blu-ray)
Director - Peter Jackson
Cast - Timothy Balme, Diana Penalver
Country of Origin - New Zealand
Discs - 1
MSRP - $19.95
Distributor - Lionsgate
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
The Film (4.5/5)
The early 90's were a pretty desolate time in the land of horror films. Jason and Freddy had gone to Hell and had pretty much taken the 80's slasher boom with them. Scream and it's pathetic clones were a few years away, for a kid who was looking for the next great gory (or just plain scary) fix it wasn't looking too good. There were a few bright spots, my friends and I found and were plain obsessed by Sam Raimi's Evil Dead sequel Army of Darkness, and then there was Dead Alive.
If anyone ever asked our opinion (rarely ever) we would tell them there was "No Film Gorier!" We would quote it religiously (Still do!), it became more than a movie, it became an obsession. It was comedy, it was horror, granted it was more silly than scary, and I doubt a single person has ever been scared by any moment in the film, but that didn't matter because above all it was sheer unadulterated FUN.
The film stars Timothy Balme as Lionel Cosgrove, a real Mama's boy who long into adulthood is still stuck living with his overbearing Mother. One day while on an outing to pick up some groceries he falls for the grocers daughter Pacquita (Diana Penalver), and agrees to take her on a date to the zoo. Well, Mama finds out, and is none too pleased about this, and follows them. While stalking the duo, she gets bit by the cursed Sumatran Rat Monkey, and begins to turn into a crazed zombie.
Lionel at this point takes her home, boards the house up, and does everything he can to keep her inside, and away from the world. Unfortunately, this is not as easy as it sounds, and soon she is zombifying other members of the community culminating in a zombie killing house party that may be one of the goriest moments ever committed to screen.
When the Blu-ray was announced even in it's American unrated form, of course, I knew I had to see it. I hoped for a restoration by today's post- Lord of the Rings Peter Jackson restoring the film in such a way that it would look like it did the day it was first projected in theaters. It has also been a good 4 or 5 years since my last viewing, that last viewing which was the Trimark DVD didn't hold up as well. I had just gotten my first HDTV, and it looked ugly on that TV.
Did I get that restoration?
The Blu-ray for Dead Alive looks like it was sourced from the same transfer as the prior Trimark DVD. Which just by default makes it look a little better, and definitely more film like, and definitely improves on color and fine detail, but takes all the softness, and print damage that was visible on that transfer and makes it infinitely more noticeable. On top of that the film is presented in a 1:78:1 transfer when Jackson's ratio on Dead Alive was 1:66:1.
The audio is presented in a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track in English. This track is serviceable, nothing spectacular, but it works. The dialogue, music, and the films myriad amount of noise effects are mixed very well. There does not appear to be any audio imperfections (pops, hissing, etc) that I could detect during my viewing.
Nothing, but the films theatrical trailer.
Dead Alive is one of the greatest horror films of the 90's, and one of the all-time classics of splatter cinema. It's director has gone on to become a huge name in cinema history with the Lord of the Rings films, seeing that as the case it is such a shame to see his early films (you should see the horrible Meet the Feebles DVD) get treated so badly on home video. It appears Jackson does have an affinity for these early films, and does make little nods to them even in some of his latest.
The video quality of this release is a definite step up from what existed before, and honestly, my DVD of Dead Alive went kaput a long time ago so I cannot remember if that releases was even anamorphic. If it isn't, and you're Blu capable, this is a good chance to upgrade. If it is, and you're willing to wait, maybe something better will come along. The movie is highly recommend, the disc, not so much.