Undead Or Alive
R1 - America - Image Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Rob Fields (11th December 2007).
The Film

When I got this DVD in the mail and tore it out of the envelope and saw this title, I knew right away that it had to be a horror movie set in the old west : with zombies! I was excited since I love zombie films. But then I saw Chris Kattan was starring in it and knew that it would probably be a comedy-horror-western. I was right, of course. Under normal circumstances, if I would have seen it in a video rental place or a store, I would have ended up putting it back on the shelf. Since it was presented to me for review, the only thing I could hope for was that I would be proven wrong.
"Undead or Alive" (1:31:16) starts off with a typical family in a western town. The mother and daughter (Chloe Russell and Mia Stallard) are taking care of things in their house. When the mother wonders where her husband Ben (Brian Posehn) is, she looks outside to find him with his back to her and drinking 'devil juice'. At least that's what it looks like at first. When he turns around and shows that he had just bitten the head clean off a chicken, that's where the first zombie begins. Like in "Night of the Living Dead" (1968), you never learn exactly how the first zombie was made. Sure, Ben is there. But that doesn't mean he was really the first. Shortly after, the wife is forced to defend herself and her daughter against him, but he ends up killing them both in zombie fashion. Later in another part of town, Elmer (James Denton), an army deserter, goes into a bar to get a drink and sees a stripper (Cristin Michele) performing. Not soon after, Luke (Chris Kattan) comes in to admire the stripper since he's in love with her. When Elmer calls her a whore, Luke starts a fight and gets them both arrested. They are put in jail next to a zombified Ben. They don't stay in jail long, though. They escape and leave the sheriff's dimwitted deputy, Cletus (Chris Coppola : no relation to the Coppola family), to get bitten by Ben. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand what happens as a result of this. Elmer and Luke end up robbing the crooked sheriff, Claypool (Matt Besser), and becoming outlaws in the process.
While Elmer and Luke are on the run, they are taken prisoner and stripped bare by an Indian woman named Sue (Navi Rawat). After a time the three of them end up traveling together. They know they have to keep going since they have a posse pursuing them. What they don't know is that this posse is now the living dead in search of their next meal. The only problem is they won't stay dead thanks to an Indian curse.
One thing I liked about this film was that the cast seemed to flow very well together. It seemed to me like everybody had chemistry, which would explain why the picture seemed to have a continuous flow. In other words, it held my attention from the opening credits to the start of the end credits and through the outtakes before finishing the end credits. It looked like everybody was there to have fun and make a good movie. Although I'm not really big into Chris Kattan (I'm not much of a comedy genre person), I actually liked his performance. Imagine what he could do in a serious role. Another thing I liked was that this film reminded me about "The Return of the Living Dead" (1985). The zombies retained their intellect, and were able to set up traps in order to secure their food. In "Return of the Living Dead", the zombies were able to get paramedics and police officers to come to the cemetery. Then . . .instant feast. In "Undead or Alive" the zombie posse was able to get to the fort before Elmer, Luke and Sue. There, they zombified nearly everybody and the good guys ended up walking right into their trap.
The downsides? While the idea of a zombie-western-comedy is original, the concept of brain-eating zombies is not. In one of the featurettes provided on this disc, director/screenwriter Glasglow Phillips talks about the concepts for the zombies. Sorry, but it's only a combination of "Night of the Living Dead" (1968 / 1990) and "The Return of the Living Dead". Okay, the Indian curse is the original part, but that's about it here. Still the final zombie product here did work for this particular film since I was kept interested. The only other drawback was that they used mostly modern-day lingo, not much in the way of western dialogue. Sue was a perfect example. She never spoke like a true Indian. This was probably part of the slapstick comedy element. If it really bothered me that much, I would have probably stopped the film under normal circumstances. Still, I'm glad I didn't. To sum up this paragraph, there are things I didn't care for, but they are offset by other factors.
If I had to lay out the formula, it would be something like this: Tombstone + Return of the Living Dead + Saturday Night Live = Western-Zombie-Comedy.
I won't reveal anymore here, because I don't want to spoil it for you. If you're looking for some undead comedy entertainment, then "Undead or Alive" just might get you laughing. There are even some choice scenes for you gore hounds out there. I was actually impressed. And I don't impress easy.

Video

The film is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen format (2.35:1 ratio). Image Entertainment did a great job on the transfer. During day scenes, the picture shows vibrant colors. There is no grain or pixels to be found here. During the night scenes the quality doesn't seem to be the greatest, possibly due to poor lighting. But being that this is a western, it works to help bring the feel of the old west. This minor deficiency should take very little away from your viewing enjoyment.

Audio

The film features an English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack. There are optional English and Spanish subtitles available (for the film only). The audio is awesome. During a scene in town when the bell is being rung at the hangman's gallows, it sounded like it was right in my ears. I could even hear the flickering of the campfire in the following scene.

Extras

This film includes an audio commentary, two featurettes, a theatrical trailer and some bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

First is an audio commentary track featuring director Glasglow Phillips and actors Chris Kattan, James Denton & Navi Rawat. It's mostly just them joking around and being funny. It's hard to tell whether or not the technical stuff they bring up is just that or just more jokes. If you're a comedy nut, then this feature is for you. If you don't like this type of commentary track, then you're better off just skipping it. There are no subtitles available for this feature.

The first of two featurettes is "From South Park to the Wild, Wild West" and runs 14 minutes 9 seconds and offers a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film. You will see some interview footage featuring Director/Screenwriter Phillips talking about his experiences with writing the script and what advice he picked up from Trey Parker when he was working on "South Park" (1997-Present). Compared to the commentary track, this is actually a technical piece.

The other featurette "Geronimonsters! The Zombies That Walked the West" runs 12 minutes. Here, Director/Screenwriter Phillips offers you into insight into the real stars of any zombie film : the zombies themselves. Phillips tells you how he recruited the zombie extras and what concepts he decided to use for what makes a zombie in this film. He even goes into the degrees of zombies. You also get to see some of the actors being made up off camera. Another great technical featurette. Most enjoyable.

The disc also includes the film's original theatrical trailer which runs for 1 minute 44 seconds.

Rounding out the extras are bonus trailers for:

- "Suburban Girl" which runs for 1 minute 38 seconds.
- "Splinter" which runs for 2 minutes 50 seconds.
- "Fingerprints" which runs for 1 minute 49 seconds.

Overall

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

 


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