The effects of a zombie bite vary. In most cases, a bite results in the rapid onset of feverlike symptoms, followed closely by death. Shortly thereafter, victims reanimate with an insatiable hunger for human flesh. Usually, they shamble slowly. Sometimes, they're instilled with Herculean strength and the speed of Usain Bolt, despite that whole rigor mortis thing.
Lately, though, there has been a tragic side effect: The humans around them become humorless dullards.
Blame The Walking Dead for the zombie emocalypse. Or Brad Pitt and his stupid haircut in World War Z. Zombie films have lost their hilarity.
Since George A. Romero defined the genre with 1968's Night of the Living Dead, humor has been key to the zombie experience. NOTLD is dark, sure, but from that first indelible line—"They're coming to get you, Barbara"—it's littered with winks. Romero, who's bemoaned Walking Dead's super-serious approach, went on to give us one of the funniest zombie images ever, with his parade of corpses wandering aimlessly through a mall. The great Return of the Living Dead featured the undead sending for ambulances full of paramedics as if ordering pizza. In 2004, Shaun of the Dead became the ultimate (and most reverential) zombie comedy. Last year's Warm Bodies was the only widely embraced entry since Shaun to enjoy itself…and it was a bloodless teenybopper romance.
Now that AMC has finished its most recent season of child murder and brooding, it's an ideal time to revisit 1992's Dead Alive (Hollywood Theatre, April 14-17), perhaps the nastiest, slapstickiest and most insane zombie comedy ever.
Peter Jackson broke through with the story of a woman bitten by a Sumatran rat monkey and transformed into a pus-gushing, man-eating nightmare—an affliction her son sees as temporary. What follows is a nonstop barrage of lunacy: Zombie babies aren't just born, they're taken for strolls in the park. A horny priest busts out some kung fu mayhem. A lawn mower turns a house party into blood-and-sinew oatmeal.
Those who only know Jackson as architect of the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films might be flabbergasted to learn he cut his teeth on this hysterical zom-com, but amid the flying limbs and spewing bodily fluids, you can see the beginnings of a man enamored with cinematic violence, overkill and sprawling action. Sub the orcs for zombies and the swords for a lawn mower, and it all makes perfect sense.
Yet for all its nastiness, there's nary a shade of seriousness in Dead Alive. Fans of Walking Dead would do well to give it a look. Maybe the showrunners should, too. It might inspire Rick and his crybaby crew to bring a priest under their wing. His kung fu skills could save the day. Or at least let them crack a fucking smile once in a while.
- The Mississippi Records Music & Film Series presents a two-part Visionary and the Vision program focusing on folk artists, radicals and other creatives who collide art and music. Hollywood Theatre. 7 pm Wednesday-Thursday, April 9-10.
- KBOO screens Modulations, which gives a history of electronic musicâ¦up to 1998. So get ready to have some shitty Moby song stuck in your head! Clinton Street Theater. 7 pm Thursday, April 10.
- Towering over Forrest Gump as the best story about the cross-country adventures of a mentally challenged man-child in a gray suit, Pee Weeâs Big Adventure taught us a lot of things, most importantly that the Alamo is the worst possible shelter during a tornado. 5th Avenue Cinema. April 11-13.
- There are dozens of reasons to hit up the annual H.P. Lovecraft Film Fest, but the most compelling might be to attend a Saturday afternoon screening of the bizarre Clive Barker classic Hellraiser with Pinhead himself, actor Doug Bradley. A close second: spaghetti dinner. Because Cthulhu fuckinâ loves his sketti. Hollywood Theatre. April 11-13.
- Last year, Hollywood lost special-effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen. 1963âs Jason and the Argonauts stands as one of his coolest achievements because, well, stop-motion skeletons. Laurelhurst Theater. April 11-17.
- Hopefully, a loving digital restoration of Casablanca is enough to sate some jackass suitâs desire to remake it. Probably not. Hollywood Theatre. 7 pm Monday-Tuesday, April 14-15.