Saturday 14 January 2023

Shudder Saturday: Undead (2003)

I have owned Undead for many years, and have enjoyed it since I first saw it back in the early 2000s. I want to say that I first saw it on VHS, but I'm not exactly sure. It's been about twenty years, cut me some slack. What I always remembered about Undead was the visual style and the quirky humour. There are certain elements of it that I always forget though, and they end up leaving viewers with a mixed bag, in terms of the viewing experience.

An avalanche of meteorites end up turning a small Australian town into the epicentre of what could be labelled as a standard zombie outbreak. René (Felicity Mason) finds herself caught up in the middle of some undead awfulness, but there's a silver lining to the cloud when she encounters the sharp-shooting skills of Marion (Mungo McKay). Others soon join them as they hide out in an isolated house, and it's soon time to come up with a proper escape plan.

The feature debut written and directed by The Spierig Brothers (Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig), Undead is a fun horror comedy that takes a familiar premise and adds one or two fun twists (which I won't spoil here). The special effects, mostly created by the brothers on home equipment, hold up well, with a great mix of practical gore and VFX helping to present a realistic world in which the unrealistic carnage is unfolding. The whole movie has a specific visual style, and The Spierig Brothers have retained that trademark, variations on their rather unique look, throughout their entire filmography (from the superior Daybreakers to the disappointing Winchester).

Mason is a good female lead, showing a core of strength and intelligence even when relying on the skills of McKay's character, while McKay himself does a great job of being the typical strong and silent "hero" of the piece. Dirk Hunter and Emma Randall are fun, playing a pair of confused and nervous police officers, and Rob Jenkins and Lisa Cunningham are a young couple, the latter also pregnant, who take a bit longer to, let's put it politely, show how useful they might be in a scenario that doesn't allow a lot of room for error.

I have to end on a slightly negative note though, sorry. Undead is never as good as I remember it being. It feels a bit overlong, mainly due to a wealth of scenes that simply focus on people shooting hordes of the undead, the humour isn't as consistent as it could be, and that cool visual style makes it feel like one scene just bleeds into another, which also seems to make each sequence feel stretched out, once again affecting the energy and pacing of the film.

Worth your time, but more for the small moments of inventiveness than the other things you might expect from a movie, like tighter plotting, a good sense of momentum, and fleshed out characters.


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