FILM REVIEW: Otto, or Up With The Dead People

Director: Bruce LaBruce

Otto is best described as a gay zombie porn horror. Well no, that’s simplifying, but it’s not BEST described that way, because it will instantly isolate most of the human population, and this is a film that deserves to be seen. It is perhaps best described as an absurdist comedy that flirts with existential philosophy.

“The living all seem like the same person to me and I don’t think I like that person very much.” drawls Jey Crisfar as Otto, in his convincingly apathetic take on unlife after death. The state of humanity and life itself is fairly damning, blurring the lines between zombie, and disillusioned human – as is the case with all good zombie movies. Director LaBruce is certainly familiar with the genre, and twists it to comedic effect, but in a subtle, more intelligent manner than Romero wannabes. Right from the start you know this is something different:

“Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a boy of no wealth and some distaste. My name is Otto. I unlive in Berlin sometimes, sometimes farther north, depending on mood. Then again, I only have one mood: dead. Undead. I find it difficult to make an unliving because I am homeless.”

The figure of an outsider is used to great effect, as zombie, homeless, homosexual and socialist. Scapegoating is a common plot device throughout the film, but alternates its style so quickly with horror, comedy, sex and surrealism that it avoids being preachy, and instead leaves you with an impression of outsider observance, rather than direct criticism.

LaBruce is an autobiographical film-maker, and there are many elements which echo his earlier self portrait Super 8 1/2. The cinematic element smacks you in the face here in the form of avant garde director Medea Yarn. Medea is making a political porn film (Up With Dead People) starring actors as zombies (much like the one you’re watching), but also a documentary about Otto, who is a zombie being an actor. She ruminates about life and death in a deliciously noir manner, and occasionally frolics in graveyards with her girlfriend, who appears to be stuck in a silent movie (and made me laugh every time she was on screen).

It’s only after the whole film, you realise all the human flesh eating you’ve seen was the movie within the movie, and that Otto never ate anyone, he can speak, and to all intents is quite human. Is Otto even a zombie? His love interest, Fritz Fritze seems to think he’s just too into his role in the movie, and makes for some really sweet moments.

So, gay zombie porn may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but really, when are you ever going to get the opportunity to find out again if it just might be? Well, actually, LaBruce’s next film LA Zombie!

Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Tim MacAvoy

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