Undead or Alive
Dir. Glasgow Phillips
Saint George of Romero take my soul, but I never thought Corky fucking Romano would be the savior of the zombie Western. Yet I’m forced to grapple with that truth, which threatens to blast away my sanity like an impossible Lovecraftian horror. But there it is. I watched a Chris Kattan zombie flick. And I kinda liked it.
Hold me. I’m scared.
Undead or Alive is a slight, thoroughly disposable “zombedy” (their term, not mine) that I’ll probably never watch again, but did its job for 93 minutes. The near absence of a plot and some sketchy CGI arterial spray are propped up by the free flowing chemistry between cowboy buffoon Kattan and costars James Denton as an MIA soldier who’d rather study dentistry and Navi Rawat as the New York-raised niece of Geronimo. The often inane, generally anachronistic patter between the three has a comfortable vibe, and while the film will never be considered hilarious, their delivery and awareness of the film’s limitations is actually rather charming. Nerd cult comic Brian Posehn also takes an amusing turn as patient zero of the inevitable zombie outbreak that sends the trio heading for the hills, chased by the corrupt local sheriff and his red-eyed, flesh hungry posse.
Zombology: According to the movie’s lore, Apache warrior Geronimo cursed white men before his death, unleashing a zombie outbreak in the West. From there the movie abides takes a familiar turn. Being bitten results in imminent zombification. However, Undead or Alive does mangle the Romero rules to suit its own purposes. A headshot, the sovereign remedy for a zombie plague, is not up to snuff for our cowpokes. Only full decapitation will end the menace. Also, the zombies retain many of their skills from their previous lives. They walk, talk, ride horses, shoot guns and commit physical comedy with aplomb.
I loathe Chris Kattan so that Undead or Alive’s charms were able to overcome that animus speaks to its comedic gifts, slight though they may be at times. The willingness for the filmmakers to subvert the audience’s expectation of a traditional happy ending for a comedy film was also a bold choice. Appreciating it on its own terms, Undead or Alive is only 42 percent as bad as Hell of the Living Dead.