Undead (2003) Movie Review

Is it possible to make a movie with only 6 main characters, and yet imbue all 6 with the most irritating, irrational, and annoying personality traits ever? Why yes! “Undead”, the new zombie picture from Australia, has a cast that not only tries your patience, but makes you wish they would all just hurry up and die already. And when not a single one dies for a very long time you begin to suspect that the movie’s title doesn’t refer to the zombies, but rather to the punishment being inflicted upon the viewing audience.

Dear reader, I say to you, without a shred of exaggeration, that in all my time of watching movies, my patience has never been tried for so long and so constantly as during “Undead”. Worst, this is a film that I was very anxious to see, and had hunted Heaven and Earth to find a copy. My enthusiasm has been repaid with insufferable garbage. “Undead” is a film composed of a single interesting segment repeated over and over. To wit: characters are cornered by zombies; Marion (Mungo McKay) saves them with great efficiency; having been saved, the characters kick sand in Marion’s face with verbal abuse and generally irrational behavior. Repeat sequence again and again and again.

“Undead” is awash in such nonsense, and not a single one of them comes from the zombies or the aliens that, as it turns out, are behind the invasion. You see, meteorites have fallen from the sky and turned a small Australian hick town into a sea of carnage. A group of characters join Marion at his farmhouse for sanctuary. There is Rene (Felicity Mason), the town beauty whose plans to leave town was cut short by the zombie plague; Wayne (Rob Jenkins), a cowardly something-or-rather who goes on the run with his pregnant girlfriend, who does little except threaten to have the baby and scream at people to do this and that. Rounding out the world’s most unlikable movie cast is mousy cop Molly (Emma Randall), who can’t seem to stop doing what her foulmouthed and insufferable superior (Dirk Hunter) tells her.

The biggest problem with “Undead” is its screenplay. In a movie about zombies and aliens, it’s probably too much to ask for a little common sense. But I don’t think it’s too much to ask that the characters don’t make you wish you could reach into the screen and smack them around, or at least sew their mouths shut so they can’t scream a barrage of obscenities at each other every other second. That is, if they can stop pointing guns at the one guy who keeps saving their lives over and over again for some strange reason. Alas, every other scene in “Undead” either involves one of the useless characters — take your pick — being saved by Marion, only to turn on him a split-second later, or they’re spitting obscenities at him. Worst, Marion, who apparently has guns hidden in every orifice of his body, takes every single abuse without nary an objection.

There are also no consistencies to the zombies, who seem to show up in closed rooms out of the air whenever the screenplay requires it. For creatures that can’t seem to move more than 1 yard per hour, these zombies have uncanny ninja-like abilities. And on more than one occasion, while having tricked themselves into believing they’re directing properly, the Spierigs fail to realize that a number of zombies in the background seem to be walking in place for, oh, the last 10 minutes or so while characters scream vulgarities at each other and act like senseless jackasses.

All of the above is made even more intolerable because the first 25 minutes of “Undead” is actually very good. The movie never really bothers with characterization, and the zombie action begins almost immediately. With homage to Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead”, zombies are soon all over the place, and the characters quickly take refuge in an old farmhouse’s underground bunker. But they don’t stay long, and are soon wandering all over the house shouting vulgarities at each other and pointing guns at Marion again. They also wander out to the town limit, where they discover a giant wall blocking their way. Soon, aliens appear, and “Undead” offers the most incomprehensible and illogical final 30 minutes in any sci-fi film in the last, oh, 50 years or so. In fact, “Undead’s” final moments are so bewildering, they make the alien/zombie combination of “Wild Zero” seem perfectly sane by comparison!

It’s not that “Undead” is bad, because I don’t think it’s actually that bad. Its problem is that the directing/writing siblings are unable to understand the need for sympathetic characters. Not a single one of “Undead’s” cast is likeable. Not a single one. Even Marion, who is supposed to be “Undead’s” answer to Ash, gets on one’s nerve with his passive stance whenever one of the characters invariably point their guns at him, or take away his guns, or bark orders at him. And yes, the irritation level quickly rises to unfathomable depths because Marion, who shoots like Chow Yun Fat in a John Woo movie, simply just…gives in.

Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig (director) / Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig (screenplay)
CAST: Felicity Mason …. Rene
Mungo McKay …. Marion
Rob Jenkins …. Wayne
Emma Randall …. Molly
Dirk Hunter …. Harrison

Buy Undead on DVD