Thursday, March 28, 2013

A review of "Otto; or Up With Dead People"

NERD NOSTALGIA: A review of “Otto; or Up with Dead People”
By: A. Aleister Sirrat

     I’d like to dedicate this film review to my former college roommates, Grant.  In the two years we shared a dorm room we had a lot of good times.  Sometimes he would even join in our movie nights, but the one question he’d always ask me about the film we were watching was: “is there any gay sex in it?” To which I always would reply no.  However this week I have decided to review something with that specific subject matter.  I recently saw this film for the first time, and I was actually surprised at how much I enjoyed it.  With a story that’s so bizarre and characters that are just as bizarre I found it almost impossible to not enjoy this film.       
The film I’m talking about is “Otto; or Up with Dead People” and even though it’s a German film, it was filmed entirely in English...very poorly spoken English.  So the film is actually a film within a film (SPOILERS!).  The film has two main perspectives. One perspective is that of our main character, a young Zombie boy named Otto.  Otto is a zombie—well at least he claims he is—and his story focuses on him and the difficulties he has being a zombie in society.  The other perspective in the film is told through the ideas of a Goth Film Director known as Medea.  Medea is in the middle of her Magnus Opus film about the Gay Zombie Revolution entitled “Up with the Dead”.  She recruits Otto to be an actor in his film because she admires his dedication to the zombie role.  But is Otto really a hardcore LARPER or he’s an actual zombie?                           
Zombie Maybe?
    Part of the fun of this film is we never really discover whether or not Otto is a Zombie or whether he just pretends to be one.  The film gives you evidence that could support either.  Otto dresses like a zombie, walks like a zombie, and even eats dead animals that he finds in the road in order to survive.  He doesn’t bathe and he never sleeps (at least we never see him sleep).  There’s a part in the film where he follows two men to a gay club called “Flesh” because he thinks they’re both zombies, but they’re not; it’s just zombie-themed night at the club.  Outside the club he meets a man who invites him back to his apartment where the two have sex.  The next morning we see Otto sitting up in the man’s bed and there is blood EVERYWHERE.  We are left to believe that Otto killed the other man during their sexual encounter. That is until he sits up in his bed and tells Otto that he’s “kinky” and asks to see him again.  So that’s one thing would suggest that Otto is a real zombie.   
    Another interesting part of Otto’s character is he can’t remember anything before becoming a zombie.  As the film progresses we see Otto begin to remember some faded memories of an ex-boyfriend (who he meets up with towards the end of the film).  Otto’s ex-boyfriend talks to him about how sad he was when Otto’s parents sent him off to a mental hospital, and how he’s not the same person anymore. What he says does make sense though because according to the ex, Otto used to be a vegetarian and like to read when they were together, and Otto tells him that he doesn’t do any of the things he used to like to do anymore, which I think could constitute that maybe Otto is suffering from some severe depression and pretends to be a zombie as an outlet.  I personally think that Otto is a real zombie, but I don’t want to spend much more time explaining why.        
Quite the interesting bunch of characters
Another interesting character in the film is Medea.  Medea is a very pretentious filmmaker who recruits Otto for her film on the Gay zombie revolution.  She doesn’t believe Otto is really zombie, but cannot prove that he isn’t.  Medea is also gay, and has a girlfriend named Hella Bent.  Whenever Hella appears on screen she’s always in black & white and her dialogue is always muted.  She appears as a silent movie character in the film.  She is the only character that appears this way in the film and it’s never explained why she is like this, and you know what, I like it!  Her character is really hard to explain—you’d really have to see the film to get a better understanding—but yeah Hella is such a cool and creative character that I can’t help but love her.  She seems so out of place and it’s never explained why and she’s just so awesome.    
Quite The Contrast of Colors
    This film does a number of good things and bad things.  I’ll explain the good things first.  One thing I like about the film is its use of contrasting colors.  Some scenes are entirely done in black and white and other scenes use bright and vivid colors.  It wasn’t until the last half-hour of the film that I realized that whenever something was show in black & white was because it was part of the movie Medea was making, “Up with Dead People”.  Whenever a scene is filmed in color it’s the real world/real time.  Another interesting use of the color is that Otto only sees in pink.  It’s not explained why, but he just sees everything in the color pink, and again I have no problem whatsoever that this has no explanation. I just feel it adds to the curiousness and the mystery of the film.   
Some thing’s I don’t like about this film are the sound.  Most of the background noise isn’t music but rather radio static.  Again, no rhyme or reason, it just appears throughout the film and I will admit it does get annoying at points.  Most of the actors are German and they all sound like they’re reading they’re English lines off of cue cards in the film and they all sound terribly and unprofessional.  I can forgive Jey Crisfar, the actor who played Otto, because he’s supposed to be a zombie, so it would make sense that his speech is kind of slow or drawn out, but as for the rest of the cast it’s a real distraction.  The acting was by far the worst part of this film.  I think it should have been filmed either entirely in German with English subtitles added to the bottom, or the film company should have hired actors who can speak English professionally.                  
So what?  Are we supposed to be phased by this???
    Now we get to the big deal of the film; the gay sex scenes.  There are four scenes depicting gay sex in the film (two of them were used for Medea’s film), and you know what it wasn’t all that hard to sit through.  The last 15 minutes of the film are mostly men-on-men.  There’s an orgy scene that was a part of Medea’s film, and that was immediately followed by a scene of Otto having sex with Medea’s brother, so it was a little overwhelming at the end, but not unbearable.  If you feel comfortable enough with your sexuality, then you can make it through this film.  I mean, just think of all those topless scenes and scenes of girl-on-girl your wife or girlfriend had to sit through in all those bad 1970’s Horror films that you made her watch.      
Director Bruce Labruce
    This is one film that I did not expect to like, but you know what I more than enjoyed this film.  This film is creative, it’s unique, it’s bizarre, and I think it’s a fantastic film.  It is a film that most people (homophobic bigots excluded) will enjoy.  I must applaud the films writer/director Bruce LaBruce for making a truly phenomenal and enjoyable film.  The film has its faults, but in my eyes the good out ways the bad by a ton, and you know what I think everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) should at least try to see this film at least once.  For those who don’t regret it you will be rewarded with a film that is both ludicrous and creative. 

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