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Some things won't stay down... even after they die.
Directed By
Peter Jackson
Produced By
Jim Booth, Jamie Selkirk
Written By
Stephen Sinclair, Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson
Screenplay By
Stephen Sinclair, Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson
Story By
Stephen Sinclair
Timothy Balme, Diana Peñalver, Elizabeth Moody, Ian Watkin, Brenda Kendall, Stuart Devenie, Jed Brophy
Edited By
Jamie Selkirk
Murray Milne
Music By
Peter Dasent
WingNut Films, New Zealand Film Commission, Avalon/NFU Studios
Distributed By
Trimark Pictures
Flag of the New Zealand svg.png
English, Spanish
Release Date
13 August 1992 (New Zealand)
Filming Location
Botanic Garden, Wellington, New Zealand
104 Minutes
$242.623 (USA)

Braindead released as Dead Alive in North America, is a 1992 New Zealand comedic zombie movie directed by Peter Jackson. The film is widely regarded as being one of the goriest films of all time.


The first scene sets up the danger of the "Sumatran rat monkey" hybrid creature that "according to legend" resulted from the rape of tree monkeys on Skull Island by plague-carrying rats. Stewart, 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 lives with his domineering mother, Vera. To his mother's dismay, Lionel falls in love with a local shopkeeper's daughter, Paquita, and while snooping on the two during a visit to the zoo, Vera is bitten by the Sumatran Rat-Monkey; she subsequently crushes its 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, Vera 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. Vera 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. Vera 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, 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.

Some of the guests are running, and some are being eaten by the zombies. Lionel goes into a room where he saw Paquita fighting with Uncle Les, and informs them of the zombie outbreak, which horrifies them. Uncles Les manages to get out through the window, while Lionel pulls out a large hanger with clothes, which distracts the zombies and gives Paquita a chance to escape. He later kills the zombified Void by splitting his body in half, but his intestines come to life and try to kill him. He escapes into the attic where he finds a vault containing a corpse. He notices that it is his real father. He stumbles down from the attic upside down while a rope hangs on his feet. Paquita, Rita, and Mandy barricade themselves in a room. A man was being eaten on the window and they try to help him, but when they pull him inside, his body is half eaten. Mandy screams and a zombie knocks her down and crushes his hands on her mouth, killing her. Paquita hides in a cabinet where finds Rita. They go to the kitchen and barricade themselves there, but the zombified Mandy is there with the baby. The baby bites Rita's neck, and the two see Uncle Les screaming for help. They save him by pulling him inside, but the room was damaged so the zombies were able to get in. As the girls run upstairs, Uncle Les is bullied by the baby zombie as he follows it. He goes into the basement, where he sees Lionel's mother, who has turned into a giant zombie. She pulls him up and separates his spinal cord and head from his body.

As Paquita and Rita are chased by the zombies, Lionel appears and holds a running lawn mower, bottom outwards, with which he kills some of the zombies. The group are now fighting with hundreds of zombies, animated intestines and spinal cords, severed heads, and disembodied legs. As Paquita fights some of the zombies, she notices something is wrong with Rita, and as she talks to her, a baby's hands appeared on her ears and split her head in half, revealing the baby had killed Rita. Just as it attacks Paquita, Mandy's head (impaled on a bulb) ignites, and manages to blow a gas pipe, which sets the house ablaze, and the zombified Rita is killed in the fire. Lionel manages to kill all of the zombies, until his mother, who (assumedly because she was the one originally bitten) has become a gargantuan monster, pursues Lionel and Paquita to the rooftop. Paquita almost falls and hangs onto the edge of the roof, while Lionel finally confronts his mother about the truth regarding his father's demise and his real mother. It is revealed that she's only his stepmother. She picks him up and stuffs him into her womb, as Paquita screams in terror. Lionel's mother now tries to kill Paquita by removing her hands from the pole she's holding, and in an over-the-top "rebirth", Lionel cuts his way out of her grotesquely changed body using the lawnmower, and she falls into the fiery house below. Lionel and Paquita escape the burning building, and walk away arm-in-arm covered in gore, as the local fire department arrives on the scene to put out the flames.


  • Timothy Balme as Lionel Cosgrove
  • Diana Peñalver as Paquita Maria Sanchez
  • Elizabeth Moody as Vera Cosgrove, Lionel's mother
  • Ian Watkin as Uncle Les Kalkon, Vera's brother
  • 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 Mary Sanchez, Paquita's grandmother
  • Silvio Famularo as Slaver Don Sanchez, Paquita's father
  • Daniel Sabic as Baby Zombie Selwyn Matheson
  • Tommy Dee Jacy as Sumatran Rat-Monkey/Various Zombies (voice; uncredited)
  • Bill Ralston as Zoo official Stewart McAlden
  • Forrest J. Ackerman as Forry (Tourist at Zoo with Monsters of Filmland magazine)

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 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 $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 favorite scene and the funniest in the whole movie.


The film was subject to a lawsuit. In Bradley v 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.[1]


The film was released in a number of different versions:

  • In some nations, such as the United Kingdom and Australia, 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.[2]

Critical reception

Braindead received positive reviews, earning a Rotten Tomatoes approval rating of 86%.


  • 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).

Home media

The film has had several releases on VHS and DVD around the world. It was released on Blu-ray with the US 97 minutes cut for the first time on 4 October 2011 by Lions Gate Entertainment.[3]


  • In Jackson's version of King Kong (2005), the cargo hold of the ship has a box reading Sumatran Rat Monkey — Beware the bite![4]
  • 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 film.
  • Actor, comedian, and friend of Jackson Simon Pegg talks in his book nerd do well that Braindead is one of the main influences on his film Shaun of the Dead.
  • In the film The Adventures of Tintin which is directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Jackson, there is a brief scene where Captain Haddock mistakes Snowy for a "Giant Rat of Sumatra". It should be noted, though, that this is also a reference to a famous Sherlock Holmes story.
  • The Sumatran Rat-Monkey appears in Hotel Transylvania. The Sumatran Rat-Monkey is referred to as It.




External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations from or about:
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Braindead. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with MOVIEPEDIA, the text of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.