Some horror films are meant to shock you with gritty, hard to watch scenes, pushing the boundaries for the censors as well as the audience. Others are meant to haunt your nightmares, forcing you to sleep with the lights on for weeks. However, one small niche of horror infuses comedy and action that is meant to be entertaining and over the top. Typically found in lower budget films, this horror comedies includes titles such as The Evil Dead (1981), Evil Dead II (1987), Feast (2005), Drag Me to Hell (2009) and Deathgasm (2015). However, there’s one Australian gem from 2003 that many may have missed titled Undead.
Taking place in the small, quiet, rustic town of Berkeley, the family friendly community is turned upside down when an unusual meteor shower strikes, crushing an old lady and impaling the body of a father at a children’s cricket game. With it, a viral epidemic is unleashed. Meanwhile, local beauty pageant winner Rene Chaplin (Felicity Mason: Mortified TV series) loses her family farm to the bank and is preparing to seek out opportunities beyond the small fishing community. However, Rene’s travels are stopped short when she comes across a car accident on the edge of town. Nothing but disaster comes from this traffic jam when zombies attack, thirsting for blood and brains.
Undead does not stop with introducing zombies to intensify the story and thicken the plot. Also descending on the town of Berkeley is acid rain and extraterrestrial visitors. The only hope for Rene and a small group of survivors falls on the shoulders of survivalist and town conspiracy theorist, Marion (Mungo McKay: Daybreakers 2009). Armed with a gravelly deep voice, serious demeanor, and a home rigged, triple barrel shotgun, Marion leads the way against flesh-eating zombies, a questionable virus and an alien invasion that threatens all life on earth.
While the film fuses several different threats to human life that are not commonly found in one singular horror film, it is far from corny horror parodies such as Scary Movie (2000) and A Haunted House (2013). With clever writing and multiple plot twists, Undead retains a semi-serious storyline that captures the audience’s attention from the start. From the initial viral outbreak to the small group of survivors uniting under Marion’s half made fallout shelter and attempted escape to safety beyond their town, Undead maintains a steadily escalating plot with very few distractions.
Though the film succeeds in depicting multiple threats to humanity using straight up humor, most of the characters serve no purpose other than as zombie food. Though Mason and McKay are outstanding in their roles, character development is almost nonexistent. Not only do the characters seem to have no transformation throughout the film, there is little reason to care for the wellbeing of the other survivors fighting alongside Rene and Marion. You may find yourself ending the film and not remembering the names of any of the supporting characters.
Despite the few pitfalls, Undead serves up laughs with a serious face, along with crazy action sequences without straying from the film’s focus. With a unique way of intertwining various horror aspects, this film is an underrated, misplaced stand alone gem that has earned a long awaited and deserved attention within the horror community.