Last night, the Tampa Bay International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival was playing a zombie flick: OTTO; OR, UP WITH DEAD PEOPLE. Not just a zombie flick, but a gay shot-on-video zombie flick from Germany, which is not something I’m gonna see at my local AMC Theatre, so of course I had to check it out.
It’s a very, very weird movie. Otto digs his way out of his grave and wanders around until a filmmaker casts him in her zombie movie UP WITH DEAD PEOPLE, which is about a world overrun by homosexual zombies. We get clips from the film-within-a-film throughout the movie, along with flashbacks to Otto’s previous life, along with a healthy dose of surrealism. Some of this material is very clever, such as one character who is out of a silent movie (she appears in grainy black-and-white and all of her dialogue is in title cards) and has a lengthy conversation with her sound-equipped, full-color girlfriend.
Unfortunately, the characters are mostly inaccessible. Otto the Zombie behaves like…well, a zombie. It’s kind of hard to empathize with a character who is all blank stares and monotone dialogue and whose first big scene involves picking up a roadkill rabbit and munching on its squished guts. (I assume the actor wasn’t eating real guts, but it DOES look like a real rabbit. Ew.) The film-within-a-film-filmmaker’s insanely pretentious attitude is amusing, but again, you can’t really relate to her as a real character, so the whole movie is very distancing.
The audience seemed to be 1% there for the zombie stuff, 99% there because it was a gay-themed movie. The movie does indeed have lots of nekkid men rolling around, and one moment that I never expected to see captured on video and projected in front of an audience. It involves a man who, thanks to a dining zombie, is missing part of his stomach, leaving an…uh, opening, and so the frisky zombie is utilizingthe opening. We see this in graphic enough detail to witness that the actor is indeed at full attention, and is indeed going at it with some phony guts. One desperately hopes that it was challenging for the actor to remain excited, and that they had to get the whole thing in one quick take.
The film tries for some social commentary, equating hostile treatment of zombies to hostile treatment of homosexuals, but the metaphor doesn’t really work unless you assume that gay people stumble around with blank stares and rotting flesh and devour dead animals, which I believe to be inaccurate.
Anyway, it’s hard to give OTTO a full endorsement, but it IS unlike anything I’ve ever seen.