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Canadian artist / pornographer Bruce LaBruce is known in underground circles for his transgressive and satirical no-budget contributions to Queer cinema. His films Raspberry Reich, Hustler White and Skin Flick, among others, endeavor to explore themes such as alienation, fascism, terrorism, persecution but are held together by Bruce's real "meat 'n' potatoes" - hardcore gay sex (and in one case, amputee sex).
Somewhere in the near future where zombies are the norm (particularly homosexual ones) and have somewhat evolved from mindless flesh-eaters into talking, rational-thinking corpses, Otto is rising from the grave. He doesn't remember anything about his past so he begins to wander the streets aimlessly, eating roadkill as he goes. Otto cant bring himself to kill & eat a human - he muses that maybe he was a vegetarian in his former life.
Otto is soon "discovered" by Medea Yarn, an avant-garde filmmaker. Medea is close to finishing her epic political-porno-zombie movie, Up with Dead People, and wants to begin on a docu-drama starring Otto. Medea's crew consists of her brother, Adolf and her lesbian partner Hella Bent, a silent screen siren who is always seen in scratchy black 'n' white.
Intermittently Otto has minor flashbacks to what he thinks was his life before he became one of the undead. When he eventually discovers his wallet in his back pocket, he finds in it little clues to who he once was, one being an ex-boyfriend's phone number. He arranges to meet up with this ex and through him learns some important details about his past.
"An original and inventive take on the zombie genre" Otto; or, Up with Dead People is a German/Canadian co-production predominantly shot in Germany with local actors. The majority of the dialogue in the film is presented as voice-over narration either by Otto or Medea, who we are introduced to, and who continues to address us via interview-type footage. The elements of satire are pretty blatant when it comes to Medea, the utterly pretentious filmmaker with her long indulgent diatribes against our capitalist, consumer-driven society. Then there's the queer-zombie bashing, Otto the mindless teen zombie (product of a consumerist society?) and the sense of disdain that the general public regard Otto with.
Sex 'n' gore-wise I didn't find the film too over-the-top; yes there are a few cocks and some gay sex but no XXX scenes. One of the more notable scenes is in Medea's film Up with Dead People where the lead zombie penetrates his partner's recently inflicted stomach wound. With regards to the typical gory zombie film though, I don't think Otto can really compete, there's very little grue, just the odd eating of roadkill.
One of the questions the film asks is - is Otto really a zombie? At the beginning it seems rather obvious that he is but as the film develops you discover that before he "died" he was committed to a psychiatric hospital after being diagnosed with schizophrenia and a severe eating disorder. Throughout the film people are constantly commenting that "he thinks he's a zombie" and wonder what is wrong with him.
Otto; or Up with Dead People is an original and inventive take on the zombie genre, although for some, the lack of typical genre staples may disappoint. Recommended for Bruce LaBruce fans and/or indiscriminate zombie film lovers.
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