Thursday, April 30, 2009

Laid to Rest - Review

Sure, Bruce Campbell is God. Sam Raimi, George Romero, and Dario Argento are royalty. But the makeup FX artist… he’s the fucking rock star of the horror world. Winston, Savini, Bottin, Nicotero and Berger – these are the guys every genre geek wants to be. So it’s only natural we’ve had a few of them venture into the world of directing. We’ve had the late Stan Winston’s modestly successful Pumpkinhead, and Savini’s NOTLD remake, but as cool as these movies are, when you put an FX guy behind the lens its usually going to be all about the FX. Rob Hall’s Laid to Rest (now available at The Lobby DVD Shop On Whyte) is no exception – and it’s a fucking beautiful thing.

Hall, previously known for his effects work on Buffy, Angel, Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles, and films like Quarantine, previously directed 2004’s indie drama (yes that’s right… drama) Lightning Bug. That may explain why despite the blood and mayhem of Laid to Rest, there’s some meat on them there bones. And I’ll get around to beating that meat shortly.

The plot is simple. Girl wakes up in coffin, escapes, but can’t remember where she is, why she’s there, or even who she is. Worse yet, some dude with a metal skull face and two of the most pimpin’ knives you’ll ever see is chasing her. One impalement and a gouged eyeball later, and she’s fleeing for her life. And that’s before the title card even rolls. From there, it becomes your typical slasher movie, with said girl being chased by ol’ nickelface and him killing everyone that gets in his way.

The good? Some pretty solid performances. We’ve got some cameos from Terminator’s Lena Hedley (who rocks her all-too-brief role) and Thomas Dekker, and genre steadfasts Johnathon Schaech and Richard Lynch, but the weight of the movie rests on leads Bobbie Sue Luther (who bumped uglies with Cousin Andy in "Curb Your Enthusiasm") and Kevin Gage. Luther was a little off-putting at first, playing her amnesiac more like a b-movie bimbo version of Nell, but as her character toughens up, damn it if she didn’t have me cheering her on (although she didn’t pull out the twins at all, and spent a good chunk of the film in a bulky flannel shirt). Gage is extremely likeable and stoic in his role as well.

But if we were really interested in the craft of acting we’d be watching James Lipton. We’re here for the kills, baby, and boy does this nasty little sucker deliver. While the killer, Chromeface, looks mildly interesting at best, it’s the way he kills that makes him such a memorable badass. Hall’s company Absolute Human Inc. pulled out all the stops – we’ve got head skewerings, face cleavings, impalements, some acid face-eating, death by tire sealant and beheadings gruesome enough to make Iraqi insurgents flinch. And the makeup effects are good… spooky good. This movie has more than it’s share of “holy fuck” moments.

The bad? The usual suspects – poor editing and cinematography. Not to rag on the people behind the camera, its just disheartening to have a film with so many great elements look crappy because of budget restraints. As much as I loves me some indie horror, this movie would have been so much better with a tighter pace and a slicker look. Also, Hedley, Dekker and Schaech were completely wasted. Hell, it took more time to figure out how to pronounce Schaech’s name than his actual screen time. (Remember when that guy used to work with Tom Hanks? Yeah, neither did I.)

But despite some annoying flaws and some poor pacing, LTR is a great throwback to the old slasher flicks of yesteryear. Pop this on with Adam Green’s Hatchet, crack open a sixer of stubbies, and bask in the sweet rancid smell of nostalgia.

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