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Undead Or Alive
cast: James Denton, Cris Katten, Matt Bresser, and Navi Rawat

director: Glasgow Phillips

88 minutes (15) 2007
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Lions Gate DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by Jim Steel
About 20 years ago DC Comics started a mature line of comics that went under the Vertigo banner. Some were to be brand-new creations whilst others were drawn from older characters that weren't really key parts of the regular DC Universe. One of them was Jonah Hex, a disfigured gunslinger who hadn't been seen in four-colour-land since the 1970s. DC decided that Texas gonzo-horror writer Joe R. Lansdale was the ideal man to write the scripts. Lansdale knew Hex from the first time around. He seemed to remember that there was a lot of weird, supernatural shit that happened around Hex and was surprised, when he re-read the stories, to find that they were conventional westerns. He decided to write the stories that he had been imagining and so, in the new stories, Hex had to face zombies and evil Indian shaman and suchlike.

Undead Or Alive is one of those new Jonah Hex stories with all of the copyrighted DC material excised. Since this means that there is no Jonah Hex, it is already on to a beating. But let's rewind and look at what we do have. It starts in one of those small flyblown towns that turn up in later westerns and looks for all the world as if it were an American town masquerading as a spaghetti western town. Luke (an extremely annoying Chris Katten) is in love with a local 'saloon girl' and when he walks into the saloon and finds Elmer (James Denton - you've seen him before; you just can't remember where) ogling her, he immediately starts a fistfight. The local badass sheriff, Claypool (Matt Bresser sporting the worst fake moustache this side of Santa's beard), throws them in jail. In the next cell is Ben (Brian Posehn), star of the pre-credit scene. Ben ate his family's brains and is quite obviously a zombie. The town's a-fixing to hang him in the morning. When Elmer and Luke break out, they decide to leave Ben behind. Claypool rounds up a posse and heads after them, and soon, via the usual twists, they are being pursued by mounted zombies. Matt Bresser, it must be said, looks much more convincing as one of the undead than he does as one of the living.

Elmer and Luke's problems are compounded when they are captured by a Comanche called Sue (Ravi Rawat) who is waging a one-woman war against the US Army. Since Elmer is a deserter, he agrees to lead Sue to the local cavalry outpost. Sue is gorgeous, capable and well educated (she went to school back east) and is easily the most intelligent out of the trio. In a mind-bending plot development she takes a romantic shine to Luke. There is only one possible reason for this, and it is because the writers foresaw an emotional problem at the end of the film if they had hooked her up with Elmer.

But the film is not intending to be Unforgiven or even Dawn Of The Dead. Glasgow Phillips, who also wrote the screenplay, has writing credits for the best part of a season of Pastiche Central's South Park, so you've have a pretty good idea of what you're in for. There's plenty of zombie action and half the jokes work, which isn't too bad. It's probably best seen after a four-pack, and it has a truly lovely coda. For a zombie movie, that is.

For extras there's an audio commentary, an interview with Phillips, and a documentary on special effects.

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