Written and directed by Glasgow Phillips (former staff writer for South Park), and co-written by Scott Pourroy (who also worked on visual effects for films such as Gattaca and Pitch Black), Undead or Alive is an old-west zombie movie that combines good production values with Return of the Living Dead tongue-in-cheek comedy to great effect.
Thrown in the town jail together, inept cowboy Elmer (James Denton) and remedial Luke (Chris Kattan) soon team up, escape, and rob the sheriff. Little do they know that the town has fallen victim to Geronimo's white man’s curse which sees the dead rise, hungry for "braaaaains". Pursued by the "Geronimonster" Sheriff and his band they soon team up with Apache warrior Sue (Navi Rawat) on her vengeance quest to kill the U.S. Army soldiers responsible for Geronimo's death.
The comedy runs the whole gamut from a three-stooges physical action piece at the start, to one-liners, to situational comedy. The whole lot actually manages to hit the mark on almost all occasions, an achievement I have found to be rare in the horror-comedy genre. Film aficionados will also enjoy the homage to everything from Sergio Leone to Benny Hill. Visually the movie is gorgeous, the colouring, locations, and lighting really sell the old-west feel right from the opening scene through to the closing moments of the movie. The effects and gore are mostly well done too, with a few exceptions which are not bad enough to grate.
The special features include a commentary with the director and lead cast, a 14m featurette detailing the creation of the project entitled From South Park To The Wild West, and a 12m make up featurette entitled GERONIMONSTERS! The Zombies That Walked The West. Both featurettes are quite interesting and technical, so if that's the kind of thing you like then they're definitely worth a look.
The commentary is nice and jokey, but a little too much so - while seeing the friendship and enthusiasm of the cast and director was nice, some organisation would have really helped. You won't learn much from the commentary, and it has three cardinal sins of commentary packed into it! That's right, not just one but three.
1) One of actors turns up late meaning we waste time for him to settle in and get up to speed.
2) The commentators "pause" for a loo break, leaving a (thankfully short) dead space, and finally
3) SOMEONE IS CHEWING GUM AT THE END! Please, if any of you ever take part in a commentary, don't make these mistakes.
Overall Undead or Alive was a fun zombie comedy that manages to be better than you may at first predict. Definitely worth a look, if not least because there aren't nearly enough themed zombie movies around. If you like this you may also like The Quick and the Undead.