Otto; or, Up with Dead People (2008) 1 brain1 brainhalf brain

Alternate Titles:

Otto, czyli niech zyja umarlaki

One thing that can be said for sure about Otto; or, Up with Dead People is that it's interesting. Whether I liked it or not...well, I'm still not sure. From the plot summary on Netflix it sounded pretty innocuous: it's about a "cheerless, undead teenager named Otto, whose quest for love and acceptance outstrips his hunger for flesh." Given the spate of zombies-as-rational-undead-people films in recent years, I thought this would be more of the same. Well, I was in for a surprise.

To call it gay zombie porn is a disservice, since the sex scenes aren't an integral part of the plot, although they're definitely more explicit than your average non-porn sex scene and can be shocking in ways I won't get into here. That in itself is enough to set this film apart, but director Bruce La Bruce also plays with the nature of the film itself. It's not clear whether the film is pretentious crap, or mocking pretentious, crappy films, and it's also not clear whether zombies within the film's world are even real.

The story is in part about a film within the film, for which the young undead teen Otto (Jey Crisfar) is cast by the artsy director Medea (Katharina Klewinghaus). She casts him because she thinks he's really good at acting like a zombie. He repeatedly tells her that he actually is a zombie, but she thinks he's just not dropping character. Otto has no real memory of his past, and walks around with a slow shuffle and bowed head. He has pale skin and strange eyes. He smells horrible. But is he really a zombie? Or, as Medea thinks, just someone who thinks he's a zombie?

The story slips back and forth between the film, and the film-within-a-film, with Medea doing voiceovers in both. She comments on the symbolism of zombies representing social conformists, but then her film-within-a-film shows gay zombies taking over the world, and she makes a point to say that gay people are non-conformists. So what is the movie really saying? It's hard to say.

You won't be bored, although for most mainstream zombie movie viewers, your amusement will likely be mingled in with helpings of confusion or discomfort at various parts of the movie. I told the friend I was watching it with that at least it could claim to be original. What else can it claim? You'll have to watch it yourself to find out.