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Otto; Or, Up With Dead People (2009)

A 2009 film directed by Bruce LaBruce about a gay zombie.

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Interesting Take On Popular Zombie Genre

  • Oct 24, 2009

If you know nothing about Bruce LaBruce's style of film-making, you should know this. Generally speaking, they all have their distinct charm but often are overly homoerotic & usually intend to shock even their potential audiences. LaBruce is well-known amongst underground circles for creating satirical independent, low-budget features which are held together by "meat 'n potatoes". When I say "meat 'n potatoes", his films often feature hardcore gay sex which may provoke or shock the uninitiated. Although Otto is not nearly as explicit or graphic as some of LaBruce's previous endeavors, I daresay it may very well be his quintessential masterpiece & perhaps his biggest step in the direction of crossover indie cinema as the film should appeal to a broader audience.
LaBruce claims that his inspiration for the movie came from a former boyfriend, a Shia Muslim. It seems that Shias are obsessed with death and they mourn the dead for the first six weeks of each new year and Labruce's boyfriend remarked that he felt that he was already dead. Naturally, Labruce wanted his zombie to be sympathetic and so he created Otto as a rebel and outsider who has legitimacy amongst an uncaring, often frosty society which shows little respect for the dead nor the homosexual community.
At times, Otto could be construed as a very silly zombie flick with minimal gore to satisfy fans of the zombie genre but somehow surpasses our expectations by lending a great deal of heart to what could possibly be labeled as a gimmick-y concept. LaBruce makes it clear from the very beginning that he isn't interested at all in being compared to any director (living or dead) but rather is dedicated to his craft.   

In my honest opinion, this may very well be the best film I've purchased on DVD in 2009 & I consider this to be LaBruce's triumph. I must have stumbled across this gem of a film by accident but am I ever glad I did. I can only hope that indiscriminate zombie enthusiasts everywhere with open-minds will give this film a try as I was thoroughly impressed.  

Through this film-within-a-film, LaBruce combines different kinds of media & genre bending concepts that I daresay have not been employed in any artsy or horror film before to the best of my knowledge but somehow it all works extremely well given the director's careful yet sensitive touch. LaBruce employs use of  animation, soft core erotica, & some scratchy black 'n' white photography.  Indeed, LaBruce is quite talented as well when it comes to genre bending & doesn't mind taking the experimental approach here.

In the near future, it's not uncommon nor unheard of for the recently deceased to rise from the earthly graves & wander the streets aimlessly. (Well, at least not for the homosexual ones.) As the film opens, Otto is rising from his grave. Unfortunately, Otto doesn't remember anything about his past with the exception of  vague flashbacks filled with much static & has to rely on basic roadkill to satisfy his hunger as he cannot bring himself to devour human flesh. Through the flashbacks, we gather some clues which seem to reveal what Otto's life may have been like prior to his passing.

Most us at some point in our lives have suffered from an identity crisis although Otto seems to
have a very special case indeed. He cannot hold down a stable nor is he guaranteed a meal on the dinner table each day as his diet consists of only animals at this point. As fate would have it, Otto meets Medea Yarn who just may be the key to his survival by either casting him in her political-porno-zombie flick or creating a docu-drama starring Otto.  It would seem that fate has smiled on this dead darling as he now has a job & Medea can also offer him a place to stay with Fritz, who plays the lead zombie in her feature film.

The elements of satire are pretty self-evident when it comes to Medea, the hyper-political yet rather pretentious film-maker with her indulgent diatribes against our capitalist, consumer-driven society. Much of the dialog in the film is presented as voice-over narration either by Otto or Medea, who address us via interview-type footage. We are also introduced to zombie-gay bashing later on at the end of the film & the sense of disdain that the general public regard Otto with.

Otto finally finds his wallet toward the end of the film which contains some information about his past including an ex-boyfriend's telephone number. He arranges to meet the ex where they'd initially met only to discover some unpleasant facts about what could have lead to Otto's demise. Is Otto in fact a zombie? If not, will Rudolph be able to answer all of our questions regarding the mysterious Otto?     

Otto has not  only secured a place in my heart but has also become a welcomed addition to my eclectic, yet ever-growing DVD collection. It's been a long time since one film managed to work so many of my emotions on different levels & leave me totally satisfied completely before the credits rolled. I laughed, I cried, & even found myself shaking my head in utter disbelief more often than not. If you haven't had the distinct pleasure of seeing this marvelous film, you must experience it for yourself & I highly encourage you to seek it out by any means possible. 
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October 21, 2010
I remember this but I have yet to see it, great job.
October 25, 2010
Thanks! OMG This movie is so brilliant! I have nearly watched it a thousand times since purchase. You should definitely check it out.
October 25, 2009
Hm sounds pretty twisted but I may pass for now...(I'm lying). too much violence and zombie gay bashing isn't my thing. (yeh right!) Great review though, I've heard of this one but haven't seen it. Nice work!
October 27, 2009
It's ever so slightly bent but I wouldn't go so far as to say twisted in the sense of a typical Cenobite7 flick. You've got to be kidding me, right.? LMAO I'm hoping either you, Karen, or Christy will review this one as I'm dying to see someone else's take on it. Thnks again Woo!
More Otto; or, Up with Dead People reviews
review by . January 03, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
"Otto: Or Up With Dead People"    Bruce Labruce's Gay Zombie    Amos Lassen    There is something about Bruce LaBruce's films--they are semi-porn, they are, in many cases. overlong, and they have a certain charm. "Otto: Or Up With Dead People" fits those characteristics. "Otto" is also fun and highly original--it shocks, it makes you laugh, it has sex and it is movie you will not so forget.   Otto is German and a handsome and …
review by . October 31, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
"Otto: Or Up With Dead People"    Bruce Labruce's Gay Zombie    Amos Lassen    There is something about Bruce LaBruce's films--they are semi-porn, they are, in many cases. overlong, and they have a certain charm. "Otto: Or Up With Dead People" fits those characteristics. "Otto" is also fun and highly original--it shocks, it makes you laugh, it has sex and it is movie you will not so forget.   Otto is German and a handsome and …
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I've spent years trying to make others happy & not really focusing on what's most important in my own life. Having said that, my own health & security are paramount so now I'm more … more
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Bruce LaBruce’s feature Otto; Or, Up With Dead People will either thrill or repulse, as it is tailored to the rather specific sexual tastes that this art film director has spent his career elucidating.Otto does, however, vary from pornographic past LaBruce fetish films such as TheRaspberry Reich and Skin Gang in that Otto will appeal to camp horror experts and those interested in conceptual links between abjection, fashion, and desire. As LaBruce fans may suspect,Otto; Or, Up With Dead Peoplehas a far-fetched plot that exists seemingly to provide framework for his visual explorations of homosexual identity. In it, a young, sexy zombie, Otto (Jey Crisfar), wanders Berlin streets until filmmaker Medea Yarn (Katharina Klewinghaus), whose name is Maya Deren with a twist, casts Otto in her upcoming zombie flick. Paired with actor Fritz Fritze (Marcel Schlutt), the viewer wonders throughout if Otto is a true zombie or another actor amongst the several he is filmed with. In this, there is the constant meta-film, an external narrative that asks the viewer to assess one’s own willingness to believe in monsters. With the help of her brother/DP, Adolf (Guido Sommer), and her girlfriend, Hella Bent (Susanne Sachse), who appears only in vintage looking, black and white footage as if she’s a ghost transmitting from the past, Medea directs Otto in various insalubrious settings, such as the Berlin dump. The effect is humorous and extremely odd. Not until Otto dials up ...
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Director: Bruce LaBruce
Genre: Comedy, Gay & Lesbian, Horror
MPAA Rating: NC-17
DVD Release Date: February 10, 2009
Runtime: 94 minutes
Studio: Strand Releasing, Force Video
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