Undead - R2 (United Kingdom)
R2 - United Kingdom - Anchor Bay Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Adrian Busby (5th June 2005).
The Film

Let's start by saying that anyone who objects to the 'F' word should avoid this film! If you thought Gordon Ramsay's bad language was constant and OTT then think again.


The film is set in a quiet Australian fishing town called Berkeley - but it doesn't stay quiet for very long. Rene has had enough of money troubles and decides to try her luck in the big city. As meteorites fall from the sky, infecting locals and turning them into zombies, she encounters a road accident and when zombies loom from the wreckage she finds a hiding place in an isolated house. Soon she's joined by the occupier, other terrified residents and the local police. They have little choice but to form an impromptu living dead taskforce and battle for their lives...


To write any more synopsis would spoil the film but suffice to say that the film isn't confined to the house and within the first hour this fine zombie horror gains a sci-fi slant.


To me, the film plays like an Australian zom-com version of a Braindead/Dead Alive and Night Of The Living Dead cross-breed. Others have also compared it to Bad Taste so I think it's fairly safe to assume that there must have been some influence from Peter Jackson's early film-making career. It's certainly a good yarn from a pair of film-makers who are definitely ones to watch in the future.

Video

The film is presented as an anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen transfer, which would appear to be the original aspect ratio.


The majority of the film is set either at night, under dark foreboding clouds or in very dark locations such as basements and bomb shelters. These dark scenes are presented with a distinct blue hue throughout the film, while the few lighter scenes that exist have a warm orange glow. The commentaries confirm that the Spierig brothers chose these colour schemes as a specific statement on style and tone. In fact, the blue hues immediately take over from the orange when the first zombie is seen and the sky fills with bubbling clouds. Much of this was achieved with post-production colour grading.


In terms of 'picture problems'; well, they are certainly minimal. Film grain is the only noticeable issue and is only in some of the lighter scenes. This is certainly understandable given the use of 16mm film stock. Fortunately it is not at all distracting.

Audio

The disc only contains English language tracks but in typical Anchor Bay fashion, the essential variations are covered. The original audio is included (a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track) but there are also two 'remixed' audio tracks available: Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1.


I watched the film with the Dolby Digital 5.1 track selected (as I don't have DTS facilities). There were a number of examples of good use of surround - yet further proof of what can be achieved with little money. The score is often orchestral so it's a surprise when the documentary reveals that it's mostly sample libraries with only minimal use of live instruments and singers - recorded "in mum's front room". The brothers also reveal the deliberate intention to create an action/adventure score, rather than a "traditional" zombie/horror score.


A single subtitle option is available, an English Hard of Hearing track.

Extras

In Brief:As with many Anchor Bay DVDs, the extras line up is pretty exhaustive. These start with two wonderful audio commentary tracks, one with members of the crew and the other with 3 cast members.


The next substantial extra is a very insightful documentary, The Making of Undead and this is followed by footage from the Toronto International Film Festival. A number of deleted and extended scenes are presented and then the extras move onto a number of short featurettes which cover various behind-the-scenes aspects of the production: Camera & Make-up Tests, Homemade Dolly Construction Video and The Zombies - Internet Featurette.


A couple of trailers are next up and then a lengthy comparison of an animatic and the final version of the film's climax.


The disc is rounded off with Production Notes & Stills, Artwork & Design Sketches and Cast & Crew Biographies.


In Detail
Audio Commentary with the Cast: This is a very lively chat track with three of the lead actors (Mungo McKay, Dirk Hunter and Emma Randall). Of particular interest (well at least to me) is that, at the time of recording, Emma is a cinema projectionist and is able to give many examples of audience reactions to the film - an insight I've never experienced on a commentary before. It's quite clear that these people really enjoy each others company and are keen laugh and joke throughout.


Audio Commentary with the Crew: This is a very technical commentary in which Writers/Producers/Directors Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig, Cinematographer Andrew Strahorn and Special Make-up Effects Artist Steven Boyle reveal almost everything you could want to know about the making of the film. It certainly not as entertaining as the cast commentary but is a good listen for anyone who, like me, is interested in the whole film making process.


The Making Of Undead (35:48): A very informative documentary, rather than your usual EPK of extended trailer garbage. It's a raw and honest account of a 2 year project which saw a dedicated team of people, all willing to make the hard graft, produce a big and ambitious feature film on a very low budget (less than 1 million Australian dollars) - having to beg for paint says it all! It's definitely a must for any budding film makers out there. To see the years of effort that went into the production is truly inspirational. It is unfortunate that there is an audio sync problem throughout the feature but it really shouldn't put you off watching such an insightful piece.


Toronto Film Festival (9:23): Footage from the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival where Undead was the closing midnight film and the last film ever to play at the Uptown Theatre. This short featurette includes a wonderful, amusing, question and answer session with the Spierig brothers. They talk about their short film trilogy: The Undead Trilogy (Attack Of The Undead, Rampage Of The Undead and Massacre Of The Undead) and it's a shame these were not included on the disc. Perhaps they will appear on a future release?


Deleted & Extended Scenes: I would guess that most of these were trimmed for timing/pacing reasons but it would have been nice to have an explanation from the directors, either as an introduction to each scene or an optional commentary.

- Extended Bank Scene (1:45). Further stereotypical, patronising dialogue from the Chip.

- Extended Agent On Phone Scene (1:14). Additional phone conversation from the sleazy agent which reveals he had to borrow his mother's car.

- Extended Cricket Scene (1:56). The extension is to the start of the scene and just provides further evidence to support the 'You prick' comment made to the batsman.

- Alternative Title Sequence (0:32). This is an interesting alternative which looks like it belongs to some sort of obscure cable channel "mysteries of the unknown" series.

- Deleted Basement Scene (0:29). Additonal zombie killings as the group move into the Bomb Shelter.

- Deleted Bomb Shelter Scene (3:06). Sallyanne uses the toilet, Marion notes the patterns of the rain and another arguement ensues.

- Deleted Action Moments (0:30). Simply aditional action footage.

- Deleted Wayne At Register Scene (0:41). Wayne helps himself to some money from the cash register.


Camera & Make-up Tests (2:11): Another interesting short featurette which shows some combined lighting, film speed, special effects and make-up tests. The variations of film recording and transfer speeds are freaky to say the least.


Homemade Dolly Construction Video (2:02): How make and test your own Dolly - further proof just how low budget this film was!


The Zombies - Internet Featurette (1:43): A short behind the scenes montage of the development of the zombies. Much of the footage is included elsewhere but it's still nice to have this promotional piece that was originally available on the internet.


Theatrical Trailer (2:29): A great trailer that sets up the story but doesn't reveal too much of the film itself, ending with the best quote of the film: "When I was a kid, we f***in' respected our parents - we didn't f***in' eat 'em!"


Internet Teaser Trailer (0:21): The very short 'words' teaser.


Animatic to Film Comparison (11:58): The complete animatic that was used to visualise the 12 minute end sequence is presented here along side the final version. It's interesting to see that the majority of the final sequence stayed very faithful to the original concept, despite the obvious problems the brothers had trying to render it in full film quality using their laptops - a point discussed elsewhere on the disc.


Production Notes & Stills (5 pages & 28 stills): A small section which starts with 5 pages of production notes (which were presumably written in a rush - "the 20003 Melbourne International Film Festival" anyone?) before showing a small selection of photographic stills taken throughout the production.


Artwork & Design Sketches (14 pages): Another small section which includes conceptual designs for the interior sets and aliens.


Cast & Crew Biographies: These detail the background of six actors and the Spierig brothers as follows:

- Felicity Mason (Rene) 2 pages

- Mungo McKay (Marion) 2 pages

- Rob Jenkins (Wayne) 1 page

- Lisa Cunningham (Sallyanne) 1 page

- Dirk Hunter (Harrison) 1 page

- Emma Randall (Molly) 2 pages

- Peter & Michael Spierig 5 pages

Overall

"Undead" is definitely a film to give inspiration to any budding filmmaker, the key message being that it's bloody hard work but worth it in the end. Despite a small number of shortcomings, the DVD is yet another wonderful example of the care and thought that Anchor Bay put into their titles.

The Film: B+ Video: A- Audio: A Extras: A+ Overall: A

 


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