Convoluted gay zombie flick surprises with sexy, gory camp
Andy Warhol meets George Romero, and screws him up the butt, in "Otto; or, Up with Dead People" ($27.99, Strand).
Gay Canadian filmmaker Bruce LaBruce ("No Skin off My Ass," "Hustler White") harks back to the days of Warhol’s Factory, when self-anointed "superstars" were given free rein in front of the camera to spout whatever gibberish came into their heads.
"Otto" is much slicker: James Carman’s camera captures some beautiful images, and LaBruce scripts the gibberish with a frequent air of pomposity. Is LaBruce making or mocking pretentious art? Probably both.
There are a ton of zombie movies in the pipeline. But it’s safe to say there will never be another one like "Otto."
"In the not-too-distant future … a new wave of gay zombies had emerged." Otto (Jey Crisfar) is an undead teenager. Zombies aren’t exactly a novelty in this universe, but because most of them are gay they’re doubly subject to bashings by gangs of straight, living thugs.
Otto doesn’t remember his life before he died. Wandering aimlessly, he ends up in Berlin, where he meets lesbian filmmaker Medea Yarn (Katharina Klewinghaus).
She’s working on a political zombie movie, "Up with Dead People" (referencing the conservative American cheerleaders of the 1970s’ Up with People). But Medea is so taken with Otto’s zombie act — she thinks he’s acting — she starts making a documentary about him.
The zombie rules are inconsistent in LaBruce’s mythology. Zombies don’t bleed, but we see Otto in a pool of blood after he’s bashed.
LaBruce includes sex and nudity as a political act, or because he likes it. We see how zombies create new orifices in which to pleasure themselves.
There are some snarkily funny bits. Otto wanders from a butcher shop (Fleischerei) to a gay bar called Flesh that’s having "Zombie Night." He always finds places where his manner of walking, like a scarecrow that’s become unanchored, fits in.
If Otto represents LaBruce’s sexy gay side, Medea is his political side, making pronouncements like, "On average, one American consumes as much energy as 370 Ethiopians."
There’s no point in trying to explain "Otto; or Up with Dead People." You either get it or you don’t. And you may enjoy it even if you don’t.
— Steve Warren
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 27, 2009.