Sunday, 7 July 2013

Review - Undead (2003 - Dir. Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig)

Alarm bells started ringing on this one as soon as I read the comment on the cover "...a cross between SHAUN OF THE DEAD and BAD TASTE" - LOADED. If the film's any good, it doesn't really need comparing to other half decent films. Plus would you really use a quote from LOADED? Consider the barrel well and truly scraped. 

Local beauty René (pictured above in a Fort Boyard style pose) lives in the peaceful town of Berkeley, when her world is thrown into turmoil by a strange meteorite shower. And amazingly, seeing as though this is a zombie film, the meteorites turn people into the living dead. She meets up with a small group of survivors and the usual zombie fun and games ensue.

After watching Undead, I got the distinct feeling that the Spierig brothers, the writer/directors, have got more talent in visual effects than they have in storytelling. The whole film seems to have gone wrong at the writing stage. It's the equivalent of a nil-nil draw on an overcast afternoon in February. And you've forgotten the half time cereal bars. Nothing much happens for the whole running time. The first half of the film consists of the characters being shunted from one cramped location to another. It all gets a bit Groundhog Day

The characters don't help. Saying that they're one dimensional is a stretch. Closer to one quarter dimensional would be more accurate. The two main offenders are the cop, Harrison, and the outsider Marion. The loop goes something like this: Harrison swears a lot in a frantic high pitched "I'm in charge" kind of way, Marion contradicts him in his unwavering deep voice. The other characters don't help. They occasionally chip in but don't have anything meaningful to say.

Does anyone care why people have become zombies? Radiation, strange insect repellent machines, rabid monkeys, are all just the means to an end. As seen in the Zombie Checklist I'd skip any explanation and get on with the munching action. So it doesn't help Undead that its main original idea is irrelevant. Although it does lead to one great visual moment where a van is picked up by a beam of light. It's also a pretty nifty effect.

The effects, considering the budget are fairly impressive. Climactic scenes involving an aeroplane and vast swathes of people are pulled off incredibly well. The gore effects meanwhile suffer from too much CGI. Compare the walking legs (sans body) with the ones in Braindead. No contest. The practical zombie make up is standard issue, but well done.

But there's no point having sugar sprinkles on your cake if you've got no cake. The Spierig brothers managed to make a watchable film in Daybreakers (again as writer/directors) so they obviously learnt a lot from making this film. (It wasn't good enough to make me look forward to their, now shelved, sequel to The Dark Crystal.) But Undead hasn't got nearly enough story content to make it worth watching. 

If you like this you could also try:
Braindead, The Return of the Living Dead.


  1. I've been reading a lot of negative reviews of this one... but I had really liked it... maybe I need to watch it again.

    1. Technically it was really good, especially for a low budget film. I think that if it doesn't tickle your funny bone then there's not much else to it. Maybe I need to watch all of the extras on the DVD, that normally makes me appreciate a film more.