Braindead (film)


Braindead German theatrical poster
Directed by Peter Jackson
Produced by Jim Booth
Screenplay by Peter Jackson
Stephen Sinclair
Fran Walsh
Story by Stephen Sinclair
Starring Timothy Balme
Diana Peñalver
Elizabeth Moody
Ian Watkin
Music by Peter Dasent
Cinematography Murray Milne
Editing by Jamie Selkirk
Studio WingNut Films
Distributed by United States Trimark Pictures
New Zealand Nerigan Entertainment
Release date(s) New Zealand 13 August 1992
Canada 17 September 1992
United Kingdom 16 January 1993
United States 12 February 1993
Running time Theatrical:
104 min.
U.S. Unrated:
97 min.
Country New Zealand
Language English
Budget $3,000,000 (estimated)
Box office $1,627,955 (NZ)
$242,623 (USA)

Braindead (New Zealand 1992), released as Dead Alive in North America, is a cult zombie comedy splatstick horror film directed by Peter Jackson. The film is universally regarded as being one of the goriest films of all time.[citation needed]



The first scene of the movie sets up the danger of the Sumatran Rat-Monkey, a hybrid that, "according to legend", resulted from the rape of tree monkeys on Skull Island by plague rats: Stewart (Bill Ralston), an explorer returning from the depths of the island with his guide and team, is carrying a rat-monkey in a cage and is stopped by fierce warrior natives that demand the return of the monkey. Stewart escapes with the cage to the rest of his team and a waiting jeep, leaving his guide behind and the natives in hot pursuit. As the jeep takes off, Stewart's guide catches up and jumps on board. In the ensuing melee, Stewart gets bitten by the Rat-Monkey. Seeing the mark of the monkey's bite on his right hand, Stewart's men immediately hold down the infected explorer and amputate the appendage. A bite mark is then seen on his left arm, which swiftly results in the removal of that limb. Finally, they see a set of bloody scratches on Stewart's forehead and kill him. The title screen follows the man's dying scream, and as the opening credits roll the captured rat-monkey is shipped to Wellington Zoo in New Zealand.

Wellington, 1957, Lionel Cosgrove (Timothy Balme) lives with his domineering mother (Elizabeth Moody). To his mother's dismay, Lionel falls in love with a local shopkeeper's daughter, Paquita (Diana Peñalver), and while snooping on the two during a visit to the zoo, Lionel's mother is bitten by the Sumatran Rat-Monkey; she subsequently crushes his head. The animal's bite slowly turns her into a ravenous zombie. Lionel is horrified, but, ever the dedicated son, is determined to care for her.

Despite his efforts to keep her placated with periodic doses of veterinary anesthetic, his mother starts murdering other townspeople, turning them into zombies. He tries to keep them locked away in the basement, while simultaneously trying to maintain his relationship with the completely oblivious Paquita. His mother escapes, however, and is hit by a tram.

As the townspeople assume she is dead, Lionel tranquilizes the still-kicking zombie for her funeral. After she is buried, he returns to the graveyard to administer more anesthetic, but is accosted by a gang of hoodlums. His mother bursts from her grave, resulting in more deaths, and zombies.

As their numbers grow, Lionel manages to keep the zombies under relative control with repeated injections, and tries to keep them concealed in his home. However, Lionel's uncle Les (Ian Watkin), arrives to try to wrangle with Lionel over his mother's estate. Uncle Les discovers the "corpses" and blackmails his nephew into giving up his inheritance in return for his silence.

Lionel reluctantly administers poison to the zombies ("killing" them) and buries them, just as Uncle Les and a crowd of his friends arrive for a housewarming party. However, the "poison" turns out to be an animal stimulant, and since the zombies come from the bite of the animal (the Rat-Monkey), it only gives them even more energy. The zombies burst from the ground to attack and infect the party guests in a gory finale.

Lionel, Paquita, Rita and Les are now fighting hundreds of zombies, animated intestines and spinal cords, severed heads, and disembodied legs. Despite Rita and Les being killed in the process they successfully destroy all the zombies until Lionel's mother, who has become a gargantuan monster, pursues Lionel and Paquita to the rooftop, where Lionel finally confronts his mother about the truth regarding his father's demise. She picks him up and stuffs him back into her womb, and in an over-the-top Freudian "rebirth", he cuts his way out of her grotesquely changed body and she falls into the fiery house below. Lionel and Paquita escape the burning building, and walk away arm-in-arm, covered in gore.

Production notes

Jackson reused the song played on the organ as the mourners wait to enter the church prior to the embalming scene. It is Sodomy from Peter Jackson's previous film Meet the Feebles (1989).

The first scene, filmed on "Skull Island", was actually filmed at Putangirua Pinnacles, the same location he would later use for the Paths of the Dead in the film The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

Bob McCarron, recently known for his on-screen appearances as Dr Bob from the UK television show I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here! and its German version Ich bin ein Star – Holt mich hier raus!, designed the special prosthetic makeup. He was awarded at Sitges - Catalonian International Film Festival and nominated for Saturn Award (see below for all awards).

The final scene to be filmed was the section in the park with Lionel and the zombie baby Selwyn. The movie was finished one week ahead of schedule and with NZ$45,000 remaining, so Peter Jackson used all this remaining budget to film the park scene over the course of two days. He has gone on to say that this is his favourite scene and the funniest in the whole movie.


The film was released in a number of different versions.

  • In some nations, such as Australia and the United Kingdom, the 104 minute film was shown in full.
  • In countries where the censors balked at the extreme gore, the film was initially banned or left unrated before being heavily cut. In Germany a 94 minute version was seen with major cuts to some of the film's grislier scenes, but was widely ignored. A FSK 16 rated version was released in Germany under the American title "Dead Alive", omitting almost the entirety of the violence. The uncut version is banned in Germany, though it is still widely available, also under the American title "Dead Alive".
  • In the United States, where the film was released as Dead Alive (because of another film with rights to the practically identical title Brain Dead), the R-Rated version is only 85 minutes with most of the gore scenes removed, while the unrated cut is 97 minutes with the gore scenes mostly intact. The USA 97 minute version is Peter Jackson's preferred version, as he was given the opportunity to "apply some additional spit and polish" to it.[1]


The film was subject to a lawsuit. In Bradley vs. Wingnut Films Ltd [1993] 1 NZLR 415, it was alleged that the comedy horror film Braindead had infringed the privacy of the plaintiffs by containing pictures of the plaintiff's family tombstone. After reviewing the New Zealand judicial authorities on privacy, Gallen J stated: "the present situation in New Zealand ... is that there are three strong statements in the High Court in favour of the existence of such a tort in this country and an acceptance by the Court of Appeal that the concept is at least arguable." This case became one of a series of cases which contributed to the introduction of tort invasions of privacy in New Zealand.[2]


  • Timothy Balme as Lionel Cosgrove
  • Diana Peñalver as Paquita Maria Sanchez
  • Elizabeth Moody as Lionel's Mum (Vera Cosgrove)
  • Ian Watkin as Uncle Les Kalkon
  • Brenda Kendall as Nurse Emma McTavish
  • Stuart Devenie as Father Jon McGruder (The Kung-Fu Priest)
  • Jed Brophy as Thomas Jacob "Void" Randell
  • Stephen Papps as Zombie Jon McGruder
  • Murray Keane as Pete "Scroat" Otis
  • Glenis Levestam as Mrs. Nora Matheson
  • Lewis Rowe as Mr. Albert Matheson
  • Elizabeth Mulfaxe as Rita Bridell
  • Harry Sinclair as Roger Tryton
  • Davina Whitehouse as Paquita's Grandmother (Mary Sanchez)
  • Silvio Famularo as Paquita's Father (Slaver Don Sanchez)
  • Daniel Sabic as Baby Zombie Selwyn Matheson
  • Thomas Dee Jacy as Sumatran Rat-Monkey/Zombies/Zombie Vera Cosgrove
  • Bill Ralston as Zoo official Stewart McAlden
  • Forrest J. Ackerman as Forry (Tourist at Zoo with Monsters of Filmland magazine)


Braindead received positive reviews, earning a Rotten Tomatoes approval rating of 85%.


  • Amsterdam Fantastic Film Festival – Silver Scream Award (1993);
  • Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival – Grand Prize (1993);
  • Fantasporto – International Fantasy Film Award, Best Film and Best Special Effects (1993)
  • New Zealand Film and TV Awards – Film Award, Best Contribution to Design, Best Director, Best Film, Best Male Dramatic Performance and Best Screenplay (1993);
  • Catalonian International Film Festival, Sitges, Spanien – Best Special Effects (1992);
  • Fantafestival – Best Actor and Best Special Effects (1992).


In Peter Jackson's version of King Kong (2005), the cargo hold of the ship has a box reading Sumatran Rat Monkey — Beware the bite!.[3]

In the video game Left 4 Dead (2008), a room can be found (in the Blood Harvest campaign) containing an upturned lawnmower with a rope attached and a considerable amount of blood, referencing a particularly gory scene of the movie.

In the Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated 2010 episode "The Secret Serum", Velma Dinkley's mother references an order of "Sumatran rat-monkeys" from Skull Island.

Home video releases

It`s had several releases on VHS and DVD around the world. It was released on Blu-ray for the first time on 4 October by Lions Gate Entertainment.[4]


External links

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