Dead Alive | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader
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New highs (or lows) in free-flowing gore and nonstop, torrential splatter are reached in this modest-budget comic horror extravaganza from New Zealand by Peter Jackson, originally and more appropriately known as Braindead. The standard-issue plot, with all the usual steals from Psycho and Night of the Living Dead, emanates from the poisonous bite of a rat monkey from Sumatra in a Wellington zoo circa 1957. Yet the only meaningful bill of fare here is deliberately stomach-turning showstoppers involving dismemberment, disfigurement, disembowelment, countless gallons of spewing blood and bile, and related gross-outs--more the stuff of animated cartoons than live action. Ordinarily I don't care for this kind of thing at all, but something must be said for the endless reserves of giddy energy and the general absence of the calculated mean spiritedness of more prestigious directors like Spielberg and Renny Harlin (perhaps because this is so clearly meant to be silly). I was also charmed quite a bit by Diana Penalver as the Spanish heroine. This clearly isn't for everyone, but the preview audience had a ball; with Timothy Balme, Elizabeth Moody, and Ian Watkin; cowritten by Jackson, Stephen Sinclair, and Frances Walsh. Music Box, Friday through Thursday, July 16 through 22.

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