It’s not every day that you encounter a new zombie film in Australia, and it’s even less often that you encounter one actually made in Australia. Nonetheless, the other night I did just that when I saw Undead, the first feature from Michael and Peter Spierig.
Undead is set in the small Queensland town of Berkeley. There’s been a shower of meteorites, and an outbreak of some disease that causes people to turn into zombies has ensued. There’s only six people left to fight the hordes of the living dead: a down on her luck beauty queen, a nice young couple expecting their first child at any minute, a police constable enjoying her first day at work, her superior officer with his impossibly foul mouth and dictatorial attitude, and the village lunatic who’s been through all this before and who has a seemingly inexhaustible supply of guns. And as well as the zombies, there’s also aliens, acid rain and killer fish.
You’re quite possibly thinking all of this sounds very silly indeed, and to a certain extent you’d be right, but it’s silly in a good way rather than in a “bad Italian horror exploitation film from the 1960s or 1970s” way. While the Spierig Brothers take a good deal of inspiration from George Romero’s zombie classics (which you can see reflected in scenes set in a supermarket and an isolated farmhouse), Peter Jackson’s early films seem to have been an influence on the Spierigs’ decision to go for comedy in Undead as much as anything else. The story is ludicrous, the performances are broad, and the gore effects are hilariously excessive.
This is not a film for people who are offended by the sight of blood and guts, but then again they’re not the sort of people who’d be watching a zombie film anyway. Undead is, instead, targeted pretty squarely at the cult horror audience, who should be pretty impressed with it. Basically it’s a low-budget genre film with lots of splatter and computer graphics generated on an ordinary laptop, and with seemingly few pretensions to be anything more than that.
The most remarkable thing about this film, perhaps, is that not only is it getting released in this country at all, it’s actually getting a cinema release in Australia (September 4th being the due date); it has, therefore, already been more successful in that regard than similarly-minded Australian low-budget trash films like Dawn of the DMFs (a film that hasn’t even had a video release yet). And while I think the small screen is actually probably the natural home for this sort of film, I like the idea of it getting shown on the big screen. At any rate, I’m fairly sure Undead is unlike any other Australian-made film you’ll see this year. It’s had rave reviews overseas already, it pretty much lives up to the hype, and if you like this sort of thing, it’s definitely one to check out.