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Review by Will O’Bryan
Rating: (4 out of 5) [Critic’s Pick!]
Saturday, 10/18/2008, 11:30 PM
Feature presentation, $10 at Lincoln Theatre
Start your evening of the undead with an amuse-bouche of gnome-scented Reddi-wip. While Brian the Gnome Slayer () has nothing to do with zombies, it makes as much sense here as anywhere. Sit back and enjoy this recap installment of our Lawnsdale local’s oddly gay battles with evil.
Next up, Bruce La Bruce can be a bit much for the mainstream. Maybe it’s a love-or-hate relationship between La Bruce and the world. It’s as though he has a genuine, heartfelt message he is trying painfully to express. Sometimes it works, with some people — often not, with others.
With Otto; or Up With Dead People (), La Bruce may have made his most accessible movie to date, beyond even Hustler White. That might not sound like a good thing to La Bruce, but it is. His message is sharper, his craft more honed, his soul more exposed. He is beautifully strumming chords that resonate within everyone.
Of course, with La Bruce that means you’re in for graphic scenes of gay-zombie sex, including the close-up, penis-penetrates-wound insertion shot. Lighten up, it’s just a movie.
Don’t let La Bruce disgust you. That’s simply a filter he employs to keep out mediocre tastes. If you can stomach those initial, graphic scenes, you will be rewarded with a movie that is clever, funny and achingly touching.
Otto (Jey Crisfar), our antihero zombie, is introduced by Medea Yarn (Katharina Klewinghaus), the director of Up With Dead People, the movie within the movie: ”Once upon a time, in the not too distant future, there unlived a zombie named Otto.” The movie is full of these bad zombie puns, but they help ease the mood. As does the sex. Ever wondered what a gay zombie orgy might look like? Oddly like six or seven guys having sex among mannequin limbs, using barbeque sauce as lubricant, some offal thrown into the scene for adequate gore. La Bruce likes his camp.
But there is no denying the heart.
Stone-faced Otto shuffles out of a beautifully vibrant field of yellow flowers and the effect is breathtaking. And writer-director La Bruce is able to make so much of metaphors with the zombie theme: consumption, heartlessness, life, death, desire. Otto suffers with a distant memory of his ”life” and general disdain for the living, though he doesn’t have the heart to eat them, which he rationalizes.
”It occurred to me I might have been a vegetarian. Or worse, a vegan.”
Zombies as allegorical figures are more amusingly explained by Medea, herself possibly a parody of La Bruce and his ilk — as drawn by detractors.
”The new wave of gay zombies had emerged,” she heralds. ”Lonely, empty, dead people inside — the typical porn profile.”
The icing on the cake is the soundtrack. Particularly catchy is the upbeat ”Everybody’s Dead” by the Homophones.
With Quarantine in theaters and World War Z in bookstores, La Bruce is catching a timely wave. If audiences can find it in themselves to digest his non-conventional treatment of universal, human themes, Otto; or Up With Dead People may even be the hit of the festival.
Part II of the festival’s ”Zombie Double Feature,” Zombie Prom () blends The Toxic Avenger with equal parts Grease and Hairspray for a goofy musical set in Enrico Fermi High.
RuPaul as Ms. Strict, the principal, still looks fierce as she instructs the home-ec class, ”A nuclear holocaust is no excuse for a runny meringue.”
And RuPaul is the gayest thing about Zombie Prom, aside from the cute show tunes. Jonny (Darren Robertson), the rebel zombie, sings to Toffee (Candice Nicole), the popular girl, ”Say that you’ll be my wife. Say that you’ll share my afterlife.” With top-notch production values, it makes a satisfying dessert to the night’s lineup.