Before the traditional zombie film revival that began in the mid-2000s and still won’t go away, one of the few good things the 90s brought the horror genre is two of the most over-the-top zombie gorefests we could worship…that I would say are both hugely inspired by Evil Dead.
DEAD ALIVE (1992)
Peter Jackson made a major leap forward going from the crapfest Bad Taste to one of the most icky, awesome zomcoms ever. Production value alone makes all the difference here, but his equally wacky yet more coherent plot demonstrates how much he grew as a horror director in a few years.
Our main man is a reminder of just how much of an archetype Hitchcock created with Norman Bates and his relationship with his mother. He starts dating a young woman who works at a local store, but when they go on a date to the zoo, mother shows up…and gets bit by an exotic rat-like creature that is cheesy stop motion perfection.
Before long, mother’s skin starts to fall off in one of the most disgusting dinner scenes ever, with some putrid closeups of mouths eating more than just food.
Because the main guy tries to hide the rotting problem instead of immediately calling for medical help, it is quickly established that this is a farcical film.
It’s also an ooey gooey, bloody good time. Along with awesome undead, there’s a campy ninja priest battle, grave robbers, plenty of zombies drenched in neon light, a goofy zombie baby, gut munching as well as reanimated guts, and the most awesome lawnmower zombie splatterfest scene ever.
The lawnmower scene.
Indeed, when our main man goes on a zombie killing rampage, he is intent on one-upping Bruce Campbell’s blood soaked battle against Deadites in Evil Dead 2.
And taking it an even more to the extreme, there’s the unforgettable return of…mother.
CEMETERY MAN (1994)
When Cemetery Man first hit the shelves back in the early 90s while I was working in the video store, it was a refreshing break from all the American crap being released and absolutely ruining the horror genre.
it’s no surprise this comes to us from the director of The Church, The Sect, and StageFright, because it definitely has that quirky, surreal Euro horror tone and style. Watching it again reminded me of how quickly it made me an immediate fan of Rupert Everett, who is sizzling hot here. This film is basically also where that fandom stopped once he transitioned into mainstream Hollywood films.
What surprises me is that Cemetery Man never got slapped with an Evil Dead 4 title in any markets around the world. I simply can’t watch this movie without thinking it could easily be an alternate timeline in the Ash saga in which he becomes guardian of the dead, living in a cabin in the cemetery and re-killing Deadites as they are resurrected after seven days. Hell, first time I saw the film, Everett totally gave me young Bruce vibes.
A visually gothic and macabre treat, the film begins right in the cemetery in the heat of Everett’s ghastly job of returning the dead to the grave…in only a towel. He has a corpulent sidekick who doesn’t speak, and local rumor is that Everett is impotent.
This really is a weird movie, especially because it’s essentially entirely about necrophilia. Everett falls in love with a grieving widow and they have sex on her husband’s grave. The dead hubby comes back to teach his bitch a lesson. Then she comes back to resume her fuck session with Everett.
Meanwhile, his assistant is off falling in love with a disembodied head he digs up. And…another woman awaits the return of her man, who died in a splatastic motorcycle accident.
it’s gory, campy, and keeps going more and more off the deep end as it progresses, but I definitely prefer the first half of the film over the second half. Making it even more odd (and confusing) is that Everett ends up falling for two other women before the film is over…and the same actress plays all three girls.