Thursday, 3 September 2015

Otto; or, Up With Dead People (2008) review

Zombies have become the monster we as a society have come to identify with the most. They are metaphors for greed, stupidity and the herd mentality. There's even such a thing as a philosophical zombie, so prevalent is the idea of an unthinking being. But what if the idea of being a person without feelings was so appealing that you willed that onto yourself? And what if you mixed that in with a bit of gay sex?

Bruce La Bruce's film explores the idea of the living dead through a post-deceased Otto (Jey Crisfar), and art-film maker Medea (Katharina Klewinghaus), whose latest political film Up With Dead People examines "a new wave of gay zombies", with Fritz (Marcel Schlutt) as star, the "gay Che Guevara of the undead". It is not until half way through the film that you realise the constant switching between colour and black and white footage represents these two characters: black and white being Medea's film, and colour being Otto's, and the rest of the worlds, reality.

For all intents and purposes, Otto is the walking dead. He eats animals, doesn't sleep, stumbles about. Plus, he insists to people that he is dead. What else are we to think when we see the body his lover with their guts splayed out all over the place and blood sprayed on the walls (not to say that his lover didn't think it was a good night...)? However, doubts come into play when we hear Otto lament "zombies don't bleed", and a later meet up with his ex-boyfriend confirms that Otto just wasn't himself after his parents sent him to the mental asylum. Otto's undefined status as zombie is an interesting take on the zombie theme, as it was only through watching the film that the thought that being undead, and the freedom it grants, was more desirable. As Otto states, "the living all seem like the same person, and I don't like that person very much".

Despite being an art film, Otto; or Up With Dead People has more than enough fun mocking the more self indulgent end of the art film scale. Medea's films remind me more of Mighty Boosh's spoof than anything made by the likes of Matthew Barney. However, if you came to this film expecting hard core zombie-ness, you'll be disappointed. While there are a few good gorey bits, and the make up effects are pretty good for a low budget film, the idea that there might not be a "real" zombie in this film could be off putting. If you have wondered more than once about the cultural impact of zombies, then this is a film you'll want to see.

Being a Bruce La Bruce film, one of the fathers of queercore, there is the notorious graphic gay sex scene's in this film. There is an orgy scene between the zombies at the end which is a bit more full on, but to be honest they are pretty tame and no more hardcore than what you'd see in the like of Nymphomaniac or Blue is the Warmest Colour.

A zombie film within a zombie film, Otto; or Up With Dead People is a clever and amusing take on the genre that goes beyond the fear of human gore. Although, if you though just want stumbling brain dead corpses chewing on guts, and feel angry at the thought of just a messed up kid playing dead (like Richee did), then maybe this film isn't for you.



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