Monday, August 23, 2010

The Laughing Dead (1989)

I once saw The Laughing Dead – I think on a bootleg (and on VHS of course) – a thousand years ago and it never really left me. Not that this cheesy slice of auteur-cinema will change the world, no. But it’s colourful, very gory, a story with a lot of imagination and a steady hand by director and wonder-kid S. P. Somtow.

The story is simple: a bunch of wacky characters (for example, a New Age-couple, a party guy, a mother and son etc) is leaving their calm American life to visit the Day of the Dead festival. On their way there the bus hits the corpse of a dead girl and two Aztec Indians appears and acts strange. From now on the passengers on the bus are more or less doomed are bricks in an evil game played by the mysterious Dr. Um-tzec (S.P. Somtow himself). When their leader, a priest who lost his faith, is transformed into a demon, everyone now that the basketball has hit the… fan?

The Laughing Dead has the most uneven (mostly “un”) acting I’ve ever seen. This don’t have to be a bad thing, because it adds to the comic book feeling of the movie, which cinematography and special effects are as colourful as the acting. I noticed that there was a lot of non-actors, some writers and special effects-people doing acting – which can explain the sudden bursts of over- and underacting – and everything inbetween. The one that makes the most even performance is Tim Sullivan (the priest), but it’s like with him as the others, when the screaming starts everyone is more convincing than when they’re gonna do drama.

But enough with the less good things. I’m surprised that this movie isn’t more talked about among horror- and splatter-fans. It’s not better or worse than a lot of the other more well-regarded movies from the same era for example. It has a lot of style, nice location and competent directing. What really makes it even more fun is the gore and special effects, which there is plenty off. All in graphic absurdity! Nothing is really off-screen and we’re treated to head-choppings, entrail-rippings, heart-stealings, arm-decapitations and a lot more! The movie ends with two big monsters (kinda) fighting each other – both transformed from humans to the final monsters! John Carl Buechler is credited on the DVD-cover with the impressive special effects, but now when I’m doing some research I can’t link him at all to the movie – though it has his feeling all over it.

S.P. Somtow has gone to be the artistic director of the Bangkok Opera – but according to the never reliable IMDB he’s also involved as a writer on Brian Yuzna’s upcoming creature feature Amphibious 3D!

I hope The Laughing Dead someday will be released in a really DVD (or Blu-Ray, it would look great in that format) with commentary by Somtow andsome interviews with all these crazy actors. I would buy it anyway.

(and I saw him, without looking at IMDB: Forrest J. Ackerman in one of his many cameos. I had the pleasure of meeting him many years ago in his LA home, a memory for life!)


CiNEZiLLA said...

KEWL! Is this the one where they play basketball with the guys head?

Ninja Dixon said...

YES! I forgot that scene in my review, so bizarre! A game of basket between a couple of zombies and our tourists!

But the thing I totally forgot about the movie was those to badass-monsters that showed up in the end. Cool!

Somtow said...

It's very sweet that this film is still remembered. There actually are some good DVD versions out in Europe including a hilarious one dubbed in French.

That image you have up there ... is it an actual VHS cover? I have never seen it and would love to get my hands on it....


evil bob m said...

I worked on that as a p.a.. Geez would love to see it again. Still remember quite a bit of the experience.

Ninja Dixon said...

Somtow, great to see you here! It's such an entertaining and cool movie - you need to make another one :)

I have the UK DVD, from Midnite Movies myself. quite good version. I found another cover for the review because I think it looks cooler :)

Evil Bob: That's cool! What an experience I guess!