U: Undead (2003)

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undeadUndead was getting really good word of mouth back in 2003. Unfortunately, that was also the year I began my ten-year moratorium on zombie movies, engendered by the one-two punch of Resident Evil and House of the Dead. I reluctantly re-entered the zombie movie world last year, so there are a few – and honestly, only a few – I  need to catch up on.

The surprising thing is I managed to go that decade without any spoilers.

Undead starts with some standard horror movie boilerplate set-up: a comet collides with a meteor, and fragments streak toward the Earth, targeting Australia. The meteorites actually hit a few people in the small town of Berkeley, who immediately get back up as gut-munching zombies. If I complimented Return of the Blind Dead for giving us zombies at 16 minutes, I really have to think up new superlatives for  Undead doing the same thing at seven and a half minutes – less than half that time.

2003_undead_1_640That time is used to introduce most of our cast of characters, but the first is obviously the one we’ll be rooting for, local beauty queen Rene Chaplin (Felicity Mason) who is desperately trying to get out of town on what she only thought was the worst day of her life. A zombie-infested three car pile-up on the road out puts an end to that (and almost to her) when she meets Marion (the brilliantly named Mungo McKay), owner of what used to be the town’s gun shop and a man seemingly possessed of the skills and weaponry to survive a zombie apocalypse.

253Trouble is, Marion is also the town pariah, after an incident a while back when he was attacked by zombie fish and then abducted by aliens. His main mistake was telling the townsfolk about that. And given the zombies, the unusual cloud cover, and the shafts of light from that cloud cover lifting animals up into the sky, it looks like Marion is going to have his day in the sun. Four more people escape to Marion’s house, a pilot and his extremely pregnant wife, and a local cop who has seen too many American movies and his timorous partner, on her first day of the job. We quickly settle into zombie siege territory as this band is slowly driven down to Marion’s fallout shelter. Then the pregnant waitress’ contractions start.

SO just when we think we’ve settled into a submarine movie, our cast has to get out of the house and (again) out of town… only to find that the area is surrounded by a tall metal wall festooned with spikes.

undead-005149-501x282Even for a horror comedy, this is pretty out there, and is indicative of the charm of Undead. Just when you think you have the story pegged, it outfoxes you. Though the opening scenes are reminiscent of Brain Dead (or as we Yanks like to call it, Dead Alive) with its splattery comedy and extreme gore, as the story progressed I was reminded more of Dark City, by another Aussie filmmaker, Alex Proyas. That’s high praise, and it’s deserved. If, like me, you’ve managed to avoid spoilers, I am not going to go any further. Most of this movie is about the joy of discovery.

Made by two brothers, Michael and Peter Spierig, this movie defines the term labor of love. The cast was rehearsed for two months, because the budget was so tight, there were only one or two takes per shot. The interiors are all sets, and look incredible, and a movie could probably be made about the scavenging involved. The impressive special effects were done on the brothers’ home computers, over nearly a year of post-production.

undead3The result is professional in the extreme – honestly, this is the sort of thing that really makes you want to spit on stuff clogging the midnight movie circuit, stuff like The Room and Birdemic. Passion and talent together with a bunch of friends and (doubtless) a lot of support, created something that deserves views for its quality, dammit.

The Spierig’s follow-up didn’t happen for another six years, and that was Daybreakers. I was never interested in it… until I saw Undead.

Undead on Amazon

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