The small fishing town of Berkelely is hit by a shower of meteorites, bringing with it a deadly infection. The dead have risen to life and are seeking human flesh. While attempting to flee an unhappy past in Berkeley for life in the city, local beauty queen Rene (Felicity Mason) is trapped in this nightmare of marauding zombies. Shotgun-wielding Marion (Mungo McKay), who believes the source of the infection is alien, is regarded as a lunatic by the townsfolk, rescues Rene from the living dead and takes her to his isolated farmhouse. When four other survivors arrive, the group bands together to battle the undead.
Review by Richard Kuipers:
Easily the best zombie film since Peter Jackson's Braindead, Undead is the amazingly assured debut feature by Queensland brothers Michael and Peter Spierig. Remember those names - you'll be seeing plenty more from them. Inspired by their in-depth knowledge of the living dead genre, these talented twins also bring a wealth of fresh creative touches to a film that is destined for commercial success and automatic cult status. A high-class, low-budget production (it looks five times bigger than the $1 million spent), Undead is a cheerfully gross exhibition of splatter and humour that hits the mark most of the time. Visually, it does not falter for a moment. The 300-odd special effects shots created by the brothers are the main talking point but equally impressive is their control of mise-en-scene. Generating pace through multiple camera set-ups rather than rapid camera movement, the Spierigs’ coverage and razor-sharp editing generates a pulsating rhythm that barely lets up as the legions of the undead close in. It's exciting and thrilling to watch such assured handling of classic exploitation material by directors who pull off this ambitious project with the style of seasoned veterans. You can feel in every frame that these boys love what they're doing. The cast, too, play it for all they're worth although the results are more uneven. In Felicity Mason the film has a gutsy, appealing heroine (she's fleeing the fishing town that crowned her 'Miss Catch of The Day') and the expectant young couple played by Rob Jenkins and Lisa Cunningham contribute neatly to the comedy but performances are overheated or underplayed elsewhere. These shortcomings don't detract too heavily from the film's success but do prevent some amusingly written dialogue from reaching its potential. I admire Undead because it delivers what the killer poster art promises. Loads of gore, plenty of laughs and it also has the imagination to incorporate major science-fiction elements into a story that could so easily have settled in at the besieged farmhouse for the duration. While we're accustomed to criticising our censors for their conservatism, they should be given a small round of applause in this case - awarding Undead an MA when an R certificate might easily have been given.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Australian low budget genre filmmaking comes alive, as it were, in Undead, an all out, style packed zombie movie with major science fiction elements to set it well apart. The newcomer brothers Spierig exploit the power of the cinematic frame and its attendant soundscape possibilities (including the crafty score) to breathe blood-spurting life into this genre, of which Australia’s cupboard is almost totally bare. The screenplay and production of Undead is more accomplished than its performances, but zombie fans won’t complain. Hell, they won’t even notice, what with a three-barrel shotgun as the major weaponry to halt the slow but relentless march of zombies who feasts on human brains. As for trademark images … there are two shots of zombies who have been cut in half by the defenders, their legs still upright and jerking, with a bloody spinal column sticking up out of the trousers. This is classic stuff, ensuring a long life for the film on the zombie cult curcuit. The only negative I can see is the failure to satisfy expectations from the mood of poster for that character: the classic loner who has the guts and the guns to beat the zombies needs a more intense characterisation, or some audiences may be left disappointed with it. Not the film, just the character. But that aside, Undead is an imaginative splurge into cross-blended genres – and it works. Meticulously made with every element carefully planned - and creatively driven by the Spierigs – Undead is a great calling card to gain the filmmakers bigger budgets and higher profile cast.
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SPIERIG BROS INTERVIEW by Andrew L. Urban
CAST: Felicity Mason, Mungo McKay, Rob Jenkins, Lisa Cunningham, Dirk Hunter, Emma Randall
PRODUCER: Michael & Peter Spierig
DIRECTOR: Michael & Peter Spierig
SCRIPT: Michael & Peter Spierig
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Andrew Strahorn
EDITOR: Michael & Peter Spierig
MUSIC: Cliff Bradely
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Matthew Putland
RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Imagine Entertainment
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 4, 2003