by Jim Ridley
In the early 1990s, if you had predicted that an exuberant pair of low-budget gorehounds would become the two hottest directors in Hollywood, you would have been fitted for a straitjacket. Yet the Spider-Man movies finally placed Sam Raimi atop the A list, and his disciple, New Zealand director Peter Jackson, made New Line Cinema the most successful gambler in movie history with the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Each film is as personal and entertaining as blockbusters get, but I still prefer the yucky delirium of the directors' disreputable early work—and that includes this flabbergasting 1992 splatter-punk spectacle, Jackson's heroic assault on good taste and a strong contender for Goriest Movie Ever Made. When the bite of a "Sumatran rat monkey" (seen crated in Jackson's King Kong) triggers a contagion of walking death in a New Zealand town, only one solution remains: total liquefaction. And the only weapon that the hero (Timothy Balme) has to confront hundreds of bloodthirsty ghouls is...a lawn mower. The result is a Tex Avery cartoon of gushing blood, flying limbs and visceral hyperbole, a movie that gets funnier with each disgusting new sight gag. Jackson's debt to Raimi can be found in the roller-coaster camerawork and the slapstick carnage: the unrelenting second half represents some kind of triple-dog-dare for the weak of stomach. And yet the excessive gruesomeness is pretty damn funny—especially in the berserk gutmuncher-versus-pushmower finale. Hobbits beware.