Undead [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (10th January 2022).
The Film

"Undead" (2003)

Meteorites strike a rural Australian town, which start turning locals into zombies. René (played by Felicity Mason) was on her way out of town when she becomes stranded, and finds shelter at the home of Marion (played by Mungo McKay), a reclusive gun nut who is ready for the impending doom. In addition, charter pilot Wayne (played by Rob Jenkins), pregnant waitress Sallyanne (played by Lisa Cunningham, and police officers Harrison (played by Dirk Hunter) and Molly (played by Emma Randall) also end up in the same place as the zombies multiply and take over the town. While Marion is quick to kill and take action logically and rationally, the rest of the panicked survivors must work together, or face inevitable doom. But hope for humanity comes from one of the most unlikeliest places... from the skies.

Filmmaking brothers Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig's feature length film debut, a zombie survival film that mixed dark humor and science fiction elements was a very ambitious piece of work that paid homage to classic zombie films while also feeling a fresh new piece of work. The brothers had made a trilogy of zombie shorts with their family and friends a few years prior, and from there were able to raise enough money and interest for "Undead". Taking on writing, producing, directing, and editing roles, the brothers were also on hand with every aspect of the production, handled with a fairly small crew. This would not be a straightforward low budget zombie horror film. There would be a large number of visual effects shots with meteorites, zombies, creatures, gore, and more. Numerous sets for construction, cranes for the camera, as well as a high number of shot setups for the runtime. All being handled by a mostly inexperienced crew. It's almost a miracle that the film was made considering the budget was a paltry $75,000.

While the making of the film deserves highlights, the characters should not be overlooked either. Each has a backstory and are fleshed out fairly well, with a mix of differing features for each. René is at the center but in some ways has the most vague backstory. Being a former town beauty queen, she has not found happiness in her life, and with her family farm being foreclosed on, she is ready to escape the town of Berkeley just before the meteorite attack devastates the town. Although she is from the town and is at the center, she does feel like an outsider and is a good choice for being the eyes of the audience, showcasing a will to survive and making more rational choices compared to some of the others. Sallyanne on the other hand is bitter against René, as she felt robbed of the town beauty queen title, and has not had a fulfilling life since then. Though they both share unhappiness, Sallyanne is the panicked one as she is the one needing medical attention for her pregnancy. Her husband Wayne is just as if not more panicked than she is, and is not the most helpful in the beginning, though he is the one that grows the most in courage throughout the story. The police officers Harrison and Molly play like a comedy duo, with Harrison being a panicked swearing machine trying to take control while Molly is the inexperienced newcomer that tries to be rational with her limited experience. Marion is a highlight, as the recluse with incredible skills with firearms and deadpan reactions and one liners. Having an alien abduction experience in which no one believed, he is poised and ready for the zombie onslaught with a massive collection of firearms including a triple barrel shotgun as well as an effective underground bunker in his home. The performances from the actors are hit or miss here, with Mason, McKay and Hunter being the true highlights.

As for the blood and gore as zombie fans would want, the film uses a mix of practical and digital effects. The digital work was done on consumer grade software with Windows 98, and it was not state of the art even at the time of its release. It may look obviously fake with the blood spurts and flying body parts moving in a slightly unnatural manner, the effects were fairly impressive considering the budget and limitations the filmmakers had to work with. The second half does have some highly ambitious shots like the towering wall, the flying scenes, and the mysterious creatures, and maybe the effects are not as good as one would hope, they do a good job portraying what was necessary. The practical zombie effects are quite fun, with faces ripping off, punches through heads, and more, with enough to lure in the gore crowd in a pleasing manner.

Another delight is the visual look of the film. Almost every scene has a different look with interiors, exteriors, flashbacks, and different times of day having filtered looks that keep the visuals interesting. The film never looks completely natural, having a fantasy like quality throughout. Cinematographer Andrew Strahorn does a wonderful job with the visuals, ranging from quick handheld shots to long dolly shots in the ever changing scenery. In addition, the sets, the costumes all were wonderfully chosen by the crew for the production, making the little film a visually memorable one.

Sure the film has its faults as well. Some of the character choices can be a little odd, and some of the performances, can be a bit weak. The connection between the zombie apocalypse and the mysterious saviors are not very well explained either, and some of the visual effects can be a bit underwhelming. But "Undead" was really a great showcase of zombie horror at a time when the zombie revival was just beginning. It took quite some time for the film to be shown after its completion. The principle shoot was 41 days in 2001, but with post production and securing screenings, it wasn't until 2003 when the film was finally screened. Playing at a number of festivals including Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Melbourne and more earlier in the year, it finally received a theatrical screening in Australia from September 4th, 2003. It would later have some theatrical screenings in other countries as well as direct to video in others, with screenings in the UK and America happening in 2005. The film won the FIPRESCI Prize at the 2003 Melbourne International Film Festival, a Technical Achievement Award from the Australian Screen Sound Guild, and a Queensland & Northern Territory Gold Award from the Australian Cinematographers Society. "Undead" was an instant cult hit with most audiences catching it on home video, and in turn led the Spierig brothers to continue their success with their mix of science fiction and horror with their subsequent acclaimed works with "Daybreakers" in 2009 and "Predestination" in 2014. Those films may have had bigger budgets and a more well known cast, their first feature still captures the fun and hardships of the filmmaking process quite well.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray


Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. Shot on Super 16mm, the film's unique and constantly changing color palate is faithfully transferred here from the original D-5 HD videotape master, which is the original master of the film. Film grain is visible but not obtrusive as one would expect from a 16mm shot production. The image is very clean with very little signs of film related damage or video noise, which nice detail throughout. The color palate has been ever so slightly adjusted by the directors, but not to a level of severe change. Some shots may look brighter, some colors might look deeper than the previous home video releases. From the brighter scenes such as in Marion's flashback to the darker indoor sequences, the image looks solid throughout. The digital effects are what suffer though, as the alien effects, flying sequence and others do have a very low budget and restrained look. But granted that is how it originally looked and was quite impressive for an independent film at the time.

Unfortunately, the film is presented in its shorter American cut, with a runtime of 96:24. The original Australian version of the film had a runtime of 104 minutes (24fps). For the US release, seven minutes of footage was removed. The following footage was removed for the US release. (Runtimes correspond to the 25fps PAL version.)

- 2:23 - 4:46: The introduction of Wayne’s character working for charter flights and the introduction of Molly’s character’s with her first day on the job as a constable and being asthmatic.
- 27:18 - 30:07 The bunker scene is extended with more arguing between the characters and the police trying to confiscate Marion’s guns.
- 31:14 - 31:54 In the bunker, Molly tries to offer calming words with an old memory, but does not help.
- 61:15 - 61:54 After driving away from the wall, the van scene is extended with the characters questioning about what happened to Molly and about the mysterious cloaked figure they saw.
- 63:14 - 64:06 Arriving back in town, there is an extended scene of the characters getting out of the van and Wayne nervously trying to take charge of the group.

The above footage doesn't drastically change the main plot, but there is a loss of removing two character introductions as well as some of the banter between the characters. On DVD the US DVD was the only one to have the US cut while the rest of the world received the original Australian cut. On Blu-ray, the Australian Madman release from 2011 included both the Australian and the American cuts. Sadly this new Umbrella Entertainment release only has the shorter version.


English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo

There are two lossless audio options, with the original 5.1 as well as a 2.0 stereo downmix. The 5.1 track is quite engaging, with constant use of effects and music cues. Dialogue is almost always centered, and the mix is well balanced with the music and effects being spread to the surround channels, never overbearing on the dialogue mix. There are no issues of dropout, hiss, or other damage, leaving a very clean and satisfying track for the audience.

There are optional English HoH subtitles for the main feature in a white font. Everything being in BOLDFACE is an odd choice though.


DISC ONE (Blu-ray)

Audio Commentary by Writers/Producers/Directors Peter and Michael Spierig, Cinematographer Andrew Strahorn
In this newly recorded audio commentary, the Spierigs and Strahorn look back at their film shot twenty years ago. They discuss shooting on the Super 16 format, working with a low budget, the use of practical effects, the issues of rendering digital effects at the time, thoughts they had for a possible sequel, the tough schedule, the odd marketing of the film, the remastering process for the new Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray, and much more.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"On the Set of Undead" documentary (47:22)
Culled from hours of behind the scenes material shot during the production, included here are rehearsals, behind the scenes including inside Marion’s house, the final scene outdoors with the crowd, drugstore scene, and more, with many never before seen. The original footage is in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, while the finished film scenes are in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1/1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"Attack of the Undead" short film (37:25)
Before the Spierigs unleashed ”Undead”, they produced three zombie shorts with "Attack of the Undead”, "Rampage of the Undead”, and "Massacre of the Undead”. The first of the trilogy, showcasing the start of an outbreak and some unnamed survivors on their journey was shot on black and white film, with added digital effects for the blood and gore effects. It showcases their early talents for editing, creative kills and effects on the extremely low budget effort and some sequences are reused in ”Undead”. Shot on film and seemingly finished on video for the final master, the transfer seems to come from the original source material, and looks fairly good. Some shots look better than others and while film grain is always visible, there are a few instances of video noise as well., The stereo soundtrack is fairly effective with its use of music tracks and minimal dialogue. It’s great that the short is finally available on disc, but unfortunately their other two are not here. Perhaps if a reissue for “Daybreakers” could include them?
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"The Making of Undead" documentary (37:28)
This vintage documentary features interviews with the crew both during production and after production, as they discuss about the tight and frantic shooting schedule, the building of sets, the digital effects, the creation of the score and more. Note this documentary was previously included on the Australian Madman DVD release.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1/1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"Home Made Dolly Construction" featurette (2:09)
This featurette shows a behind the scenes look at how they created their own dolly and crane, with some test footage. This featurette was originally available on the Australian Madman DVD, with the behind the scenes footage and later film footage in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The presentation on the Blu-ray is different, with the behind the scenes material presented in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio without matting, and the film footage at the end being in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1/1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"Undead Camera and Make-up Tests" featurette (1:45)
Footage of zombie make-up tests in different lighting conditions and varying film speed. This featurette was originally available on the Australian Madman DVD.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

Stills Gallery (11:37)
An automated silent slideshow of behind the scenes stills from the film’s production.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

Theatrical Trailer (2:31)
The original trailer, upscaled from standard definition is presented here.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

DISC TWO (Soundtrack CD)
Cliff Bradley's original score of the film, which was originally released on CD in the United States by La La Land Records in 2005, is finally available in the film's native home of Australia with this release. The tracks are as follows, with 16 score cues plus the "Little Green Men" song which plays near the end of the film.

1. "Prologue - March of the Undead" (2:49)
2. "Welcome to Berkley" (1:53)
3. "Rene" (0:57)
4. "Marion" (2:38)
5. "Zombies at the Door" (2:11)
6. "Farmhouse Escape" (7:49)
7. "Acid Rain" (1:48)
8. "The Wall" (3:47)
9. "Return to Berkley" (2:43)
10. "To the Airfield" (5:41)
11. "Wayne Flies to the Rescue" (1:41)
12. "Ghostly Figures" (5:16)
13. "Military Intervention" (1:13)
14. "The Clouds Recede" (1:42)
15. "Epilogue" (1:53)
16. "End Credits" (3:14)
17. "Little Green Men" by Buttkrak (4:20)

While this is a very nice selection of extras, it still feels very incomplete. The two commentary tracks that were available on the older DVD and Blu-ray editions, one with the Spierigs and Strahorn, and the other with the main cast are missing. Deleted/extended scenes and some featurettes are also not ported over. And it is not quite clear, but the original longer Australian cut is absent. This doesn't seem to be an oversight by Umbrella, as the Spierigs were involved in this new remaster, and they did contribute to the new commentary track which is over the shorter version. They make no mention about the two versions, nor do they discuss about a preference of one over the other. If they did prefer the shorter American version, it would have been nice to at least include the trimmed scenes as an extra (alongside the other deleted scenes).


This is Volume 12 of the "Beyond Genres" line from Umbrella Entertainment, so it comes with a slipcase with newly commissioned artwork. The inlay also has the new artwork as well as original poster art, plus a tracklisting for the soundtrack CD on the inside.


"Undead" is still a load of fun nearly twenty years later, and is a great example of low budget horror at its most ambitious, with great characters and a few surprises up its sleeve. The new Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray is the best looking release of the film, being transferred from the original master, and even though this release has a great number of extras including a new commentary, it's hard to recommend as it only includes the shorter cut of the film and lacks some of the previously created extras.

The Blu-ray is available at various retailers as well as from Umbrella Entertainment directly.

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


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