I remember being at one of Australia’s few pop-culture conventions in the late 2000s. In those days, my age, lack of knowledge and lack of access to unique and niche films online meant every weird $3 DVD I bought at a convention felt like solid gold.
One of those was Undead, an Australian zombie movie. Zombie movies were all the rage back then (ask your grandparents), but an Australian one? Now that was something new. I watched it with a few mates, and although it was hardly 28 Days Later or Shaun of the Dead, it was certainly a movie that was ours. Australia’s film industry is pretty small, so even a B-grade genre flick set in rural Australia was a great treat. I held on to that DVD for almost two decades and was delighted to find that Umbrella was releasing a remastered, region-free Blu-ray on its Beyond Genres sub-label. This was one I was looking forward to revisiting.
Directed by the Spierig Brothers — who went on to such Hollywood cult classics as Daybreakers and Predestination — Undead represents a well-intentioned but sometimes awkward debut. The risk with features like this is that they knowingly play with their B-grade roots. Oftentimes, the key to successful low-budget movies is earnestness, and winking at the camera can conflict with that feeling. Thankfully, though, Undead succeeds mostly as an engaging alien / zombie invasion combo with some Australian flourishes, focusing on a broad collection of Australian personalities as they try to escape and hide from the strange events overtaking their small town.
It’s not groundbreaking, but it is pretty fun. One thing I enjoyed rewatching this was picking up all the homages that the Spierigs throw in; it’s fun to watch an Australian farmer riff on John Woo while shooting at zombies. Fans of genre fare, be it Ozploitation or zombie flicks, will definitely find this a fun watch.
Umbrella’s release is without a doubt the definitive version of this film, and without its commitment, I doubt we would have ever seen it on Blu-ray. The transfer looks great, a very clear upgrade from the DVD edition I had owned previously. This edition, packaged in Umbrella’s handsome Beyond Genres slipcase (my favourite style of Umbrella’s sub-labels) contains a boatload of behind-the-scenes extras and an audio commentary from the directors, as well as a bonus soundtrack CD. It really is the complete package and serves not only as great information on how this film gets made, but how any low-budget film can be made — making this a great pick up for aspiring filmmakers.
Overall, Undead is what it is and is probably most enjoyable to the dedicated fans. I’m glad Umbrella let me revisit an old favourite in a new definitive format, giving it a potential second life.