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(2005) ** R
100 min. Lions Gate Films. Directors: Peter Spierig, Michael Spierig. Cast: Felicity Mason, Mungo McKay, Rob Jenkins, Lisa Cunningham, Dirk Hunter (II).

I had to ask myself, while watching the Spierig Brothers' feature debut Undead: mightn't this be a better film than Sam Raimi's seminal horror cheapie The Evil Dead, to which the Spierigs clearly aspire? In plot terms, it's certainly more ambitious, and they've corrected Raimi's lack of foresight by offering large helpings of goofy humor. Still ambition and gory gags do not, in and of themselves, a good film make, and soon enough, Undead had succeeded only in making me groggy.

The brothers Spierig take a small fishing community and inflict on it not only zombies, but aliens. Or maybe the zombies are aliens, or maybe the aliens are fighting the zombies. Eventually, it all nominally came together, but by that time I was so irritated that the young Aussie directors shot the whole damn thing with a blue filter (or, more likely, painted it in post) that nothing would placate me.

A show-piece horror cartoon, Undead offers only halfhearted characterization. "Miss Catch of the Day" Rene (Felicity Mason) is the de facto heroine, opposite Mungo McKay as the de facto hero, a fisherman with three rifles soldered together into a big-hole-dealing contraption guaranteed to make horror-movie fans say, "Woooop! Yeah!" Three other survivors round out a group that's not so much plucky as lucky, if you can call living to fend off zombies for an hour and a half "lucky."

It's the beginning of the end of "the world, the universe, and everything," but even paraphrasing Douglas Adams can't make up any mileage, so it's on to the Spierig's gore-escalating innovarion: be-torso-ings, which leave only spines sticking up from staggering waists. That's a nice gag, but the fact that the Spierigs repeat it proves they have only one trick (the rest of the action is all warmed-over Woo).

I won't spoil the best bit of dialogue, a private moment between aliens, but the second-best bit is the Clint Eastwood pastiche "You've got to ask yourself, are you a fighter, fish queen, or are you zombie food?" Not very good, is it? Much better is an extended visual gag that redefines "fighting fish," but you get the idea: Undead is sort of imaginative and considerably scattershot.

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