Before he became justifiably famous for The Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson made several wildly inventive horror comedies, the most wildly inventive of which was Braindead (also known as Dead Alive).

The film is set in Wellington in 1957 and centres on Lionel Cosgrove (Timothy Balme) whose overbearing mother, Vera (Elizabeth Moody) is bitten by a Sumatran Rat Monkey. She deteriorates quickly, and rather disgustingly falls apart — quite literally. Not long after she dies, and promptly returns.

If you’ve ever seen the sitcom Keeping Up Appearances, and can imagine Hyacinth Bucket as a zombie, you’re pretty much there.

And then things begin to get really silly.

Lionel, still the downtrodden son, tries to cope as best he can without letting on the truth of his mother’s condition. Inevitably enough, things quickly spiral completely out of control and we are treated to an escalating stream of utter insanity.

Braindead is pitched as a horror-comedy and, while it is undeniably gory, the film is much more a comedy than a horror film. It’s a slapstick comedy with plenty of blood and some cracking one-liners that still have me laughing out loud every time I watch it.

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