After premiering at Sundance way back in January, Canadian filmmaker/photographer Bruce LaBruce‘s latest feature film Otto; or, Up with Dead People finally makes its way to Toronto, with two hometown screenings this Friday at Circa.
Billed as a “melancholy gay zombie film”, Otto stars 20-year-old Belgian actor Jey Crisfar in his debut role as a soul-searching zombie who winds up cast in a porno whilst on the hunt for his beloved ex-boyfriend in Berlin. Fans of LaBruce’s incendiary skin flicks can expect the usual mix of sex, politics and classic movie references, but with 100% more zombies.
For more on LaBruce’s bloody melancholy, check out our Q&A with the director after the jump.
Blood has featured heavily in your photography, but not as much in your films. Why did you wait until now to do a blood-spattered movie?
I’m not really that interested in showing violence in my movies. I’m a lover not a fighter! I’m really over these ridiculous new movies with bigger and bigger guns, and movie posters with Angelina Jolie or Daniel Craig holding enormous weapons as an over the top phallic symbol. It’s so obvious and kitsch. With Otto; or, Up with Dead People I tried to portray the violence in a way that could be read more as a critique of that kind of indulgence in violent imagery. You see the aftermath of violence more than violence itself. I use blood almost like paint, so it looks more like a painting.
Why did you want to make a “melancholy gay zombie film”?
I’m really tired of modern zombie movies that portray zombies more or less like worthless homeless creatures who are disposable and fun to kill. So as a protest I wanted to make a sensitive zombie who is a kind of sympathetic loner and non-conformist (he doesn’t like to eat people!). Making him a gay zombie boy who is subject to homophobic violence and persecution makes him even more vulnerable and sympathetic. The melancholy part came from the movies I was referencing like Night Tide, Carnival of Souls, and Martin. Each of these movies is about some monster or creature that might be real or imagined, a monster or a myth. Each of the protagonists is alienated from normal society and rather sad.
How did you find your lead actor, Jey Crisfar?
I cast Jey Crisfar from MySpace. I was looking for a specific physical type – someone skinny and very young and delicate looking. (He was 18 when we started shooting; we buried him on his 19th birthday.) He was a sensitive art student with no acting experience, but he looked kind of vulnerable and vacant. He had to be young because I wanted him to read as a teenage boy and the zombie make-up really ages the actor.
What’s the best (on screen) sex scene you’ve ever directed?
That would probably be the sex scene at the beginning of The Raspberry Reich. Susanne Sachsse, who plays Gudrun, is an established stage actress, but I asked her to have sex with the porn actor, Tim Vincent, who played her boyfriend, and she was totally game. Tim is mostly gay, but he wanted to see what it was like to f*ck a woman! Then after the sex scene we had them f*cking naked in a public elevator! It was fun!
Watch the extended trailer below: