Starring: Felicity Mason, Mungo McKay and Bob Jenkins
Anchor Bay Entertainment UK
RRP: 16.99
Certificate: 18
Available 16 May 2005

Rene is a local beauty queen in Berkley, a small fishing community. When the bank repossesses the farm she grew up on, she decides to leave town for pastures new. However, a meteorite shower hits the town, spreading a virus which effectively turns the victims affected by the impact into undead zombies. She finds sanctuary in an isolated farmhouse, only to discover it is the home of the local crazy man, Marion. A pregnant woman and her partner, as well as two cops, are also trapped in the house when it comes under siege by infected people. Under the cool leadership of Marion, who used to run an armoury store, they attempt to flee the town, only to find it is completely encircled by an impenetrable dark wall. It seems that aliens are somehow responsible for the plague, but could the survivors possibly be misinterpreting their intentions?...

When I first sat down to this film I quickly realised it was nothing but a clichéd second-rate zombie flick trying to ride on the back of the success of Shaun of the Dead. Let's look at the clues: a beauty queen who is forced by circumstances to turn tough, a somewhat quiet and aloof but perfect anti-hero (Clint Eastwood's Stranger, anyone?), a policeman who tries to exert his authority but is out of his depth, and a rookie cop scared witless by anything that moves. The thought of zombies grunting and groaning in Australian accents would have been the final straw. But then a strange thing happened. The movie started to grow on me.

Although I obviously realised this was supposed to be a dark comedy as well as horror, I began to realise that the clichés had been purposefully inserted. But that wasn't quite enough; it was necessary to get past the first 20 minutes of familiar zombie territory before beginning to enjoy the other aspects of the plot. There is a brief back-story, and we get a are-they-good, are-they-bad element to the alien presence, which exerts its influence whilst the main cast is actively involved in fighting-off zombies.

There are some genuinely funny moments too. Marion being attacked by zombie fish is great, as is one alien telling another to put its clothes back on, and receiving the reply, "I'm comfortable with who I am." And then there's the light plane hitting bodies which are hanging in the air.

The Spierig Brothers, who wrote, produced and directed the film, had apparently tried for several years to get this project off the ground, ever since they made three short films in a similar vein. The "Making of" documentary explains that this was an extremely low-budget movie. The brothers sold their car to help finance it, and transported their equipment in the same van the main characters use in an attempt to flee Berkeley. They couldn't afford a green-screen and so used a curtain instead. Ninety-five percent of the visual effects were completed by the Brothers on a Pentium III 600 computer, which crashed several times every day. I don't know how much of this is true, but it makes for a good story. Whatever the background, the effects look perfectly fine to me, and even bear close scrutiny.

If the film was so low budget, how is it that so much behind-the-scenes footage was shot? I shouldn't knock it though, because for a single disc this has plenty of extras. The aforementioned Making of, two commentaries, a zombie Internet featurette, the Toronto Film Festival screening, Camera and Make-up tests, Homemade Dolly Construction video, an interesting Animatic to Film Comparison, Deleted Scenes, Trailers, Production Notes, Artwork and Design, and Biographies. Nice packaging again too from Anchor Bay.

Undead is no Night of the Living Dead or The Evil Dead, or even Shaun of the Dead. But you do reach the end knowing you've enjoyed a decent film, well made.

Ty Power

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