Before Peter Jackson and his partner Fran Walsh went on to make the ridiculously successful and award sweeping Lord of the Rings trilogy, they made a small and overlooked upon release movie called Braindead (Known as Dead Alive in America). For good reason, it’s become a cult classic among horror fans, and it’s one of my personal favorites. The over the top, outlandish gore, the wild practical effects, just how downright hilarious it is, and a truly loveable onscreen couple with Lionel (Timothy Balme) and Paquita (Diana Peñalver).
Braindead is one of those movies that, if it’s up their alley, I relish in sharing with friends. A few months ago I did just that and am glad to report she liked it quite a lot. For a movie with scenes like a human head getting tossed around and pulped in a blender, it has a lot of heart and charm. So, for this week’s Favorites, I’d like to take a look back on this movie couple and what makes them so memorable to me.
1. Both are just, really cute, okay
Okay, yeah, this first one is a bit of a cop-out but I’m allowed to find people in movies attractive! Neither actor/actress is what you’d probably describe as movie star good looks but that might be what I enjoy. They just seem like regular people. Timothy and Diana also both have this aura of sweetness about them. Their smiles are infectious and I find myself totally believing they are these characters. Almost all on-screen romances fall flat for me for whatever reason, but here, it works. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s super played up and cheesy or just contrasting with the horror elements of the movie. Either way, I’m team Paquita and Lionel.
2. The whole “Fated Lovers” angle
After being told she’d become “romantically entangled” with a man she would recognize by the sign of the star (which ends up being made out of pencils), Paquita is instantly entranced by this Momma’s Boy. Lionel rightfully is weirded out and flees. I love how instantaneously she goes from “eww” to “well I guess he’s the guy I’m gonna marry!” It’s completely ridiculous and fantastical.
Later, she drops by to deliver some groceries and, due to a bit of a language mix up that I believe Paquita plays up, they go on a date to the zoo. Holding hands with her leading the way, the duo look into each other’s eyes as soft corny piano music plays. They seem to genuinely have a bit of fun before Lionel’s mom shows up and gets bitten by a mutant rat monkey. Talk about a mood killer.
3. The enthusiasm
Ever the eager beaver, Paquita later shows up to return Lionel’s jacket and even give him a rose! I genuinely don’t think I’ve ever seen this in a movie. (Feel free to correct me in the comments!) He takes initiative and things get steamy. Even while intercut with scenes of Mommy Dearest’s wound throbbing and spewing nasty goo, it’s a cute scene. I also appreciate how forward these two are; they waste no time getting down to business. Sure, getting busy after one date is not unheard of, but having enthusiastic consent is always a plus in my book.
4. Acts casual despite the whole Zombie Situation
Obviously, this is a movie and a comedy horror to boot, so the characters don’t necessarily react in ways you or I would. But they’re way more chill about the whole “my mom and my neighbors are zombies now” than you’d expect. It’s just kind of, whelp, gotta deal with this now.
I’d like to also go ahead and award Paquita some bonus points for staying with Lionel even after his mother ate her dog!! Nothing deters this woman from destiny. She also attends the funeral for Lionel’s mother after only knowing them for a few days, even sits in the front row. Very supportive.
Later, Paquita comforts him and isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty (literally) by helping Lionel bury the group of zombies now living in his basement. No hesitation whatsoever! I can’t say I’d do the same if I found a bunch of zombies in our basement. Sorry babe!
5. Kills zombies like a pro
Lionel’s uncle takes over the household and invites some very unfortunate hip young people who get killed and zombified. Yet this is still just a small hurdle for the couple! Paquita seems more annoyed that Lionel’s been ignoring her (cuz of the, y’know, whole zombie thing) than the actual walking corpses in his house.
I think one of the things I admire about these two is that during the big zombie battle, each one is resourceful and takes charge in the face of some of the most messed up things you could imagine. Lionel famously straps a lawnmower to his chest to mow down a horde of undead. Paquita fights off zombies with anything she can get her hands on, including the previously mentioned blender! Covered from head to toe in blood and bits of flesh, Paquita still gives her man a kiss on the cheek.
6. Happily Ever After
Finally, something that’s always stood out to me about Braindead is it has quite a happy ending. Lionel literally rips his way out of his mother, confronting her about the lies and trauma she’s put him through. He then escapes the house erupting with flames via telephone line, Paquita by his side.
After going through hell and back, the young couple still has each other, and that’s what’s important! They walk into the sunset together, arm in arm. I’d like to think they live happily ever after, too.