Cult helmer Bruce LaBruce continues his mission to shock the bourgeoisie with his modified porno “L.A. Zombie,” though it’s hard to imagine regular filmgoers being especially disturbed by the ho-hum sex or blood-splattering on display here. Barely mustering an attempt at some kind of undead metaphor with this disjointed tale of a zombie reviving the dead via his ink-colored ejaculations, the pic fails to generate feelings beyond occasional titters. A cast of gay porn stars and LaBruce’s bad-boy rep ensure healthy queer-centric fest play, though only the most sheltered viewers will feel the notoriety is deserved.
“L.A. Zombie” exists in both the present version and a more extreme cut titled “L.A. Zombie Hardcore,” a strategy similar to that of LaBruce’s previous pics “Skin Flick” (“Skin Gang”) and “The Raspberry Reich” (“The Revolution is My Boyfriend”). The non-hardcore version screened at Locarno was denied a censorship classification in Australia, leading to its much-publicized withdrawal from the Melbourne Film Festival — a fate last endured by Larry Clark’s “Ken Park.”
LaBruce is returning to a zombie theme following his earlier “Otto; or, Up with Dead People,” though “Otto” displayed more coherent direction. In that pic, the narrator intoned, “Zombies had evolved over time, and become somewhat more refined,” but the sole refinement here is more makeup and the addition of a large prosthetic sex organ. The press notes state that the zombie (Francois Sagat), seen emerging in phosphorescent nudity from the ocean, is an alien zombie, though nowhere in the film is any extraterrestrial origin implied.
Instead, recurring switches between a bedraggled but human Sagat and his zombie avatar suggest that there are two protagonists, or that his undead manifestation stems from schizophrenic delusions (suggested in “Otto”), though it would be pointless to search too hard for any deep statement here. After the zombie gets a ride from a passing motorist (Rocco Giovanni), the car crashes and the driver is killed, so the zombie inserts his prosthetic member into a gaping wound next to Giovanni’s heart and pounds him back to life.
A similar scene in “Otto” created a bit of a fuss, though most jaded auds, apart from the Australian Film Classification Board, are unlikely to be so offended. (After all, Paul Morrissey pioneered the idea back in 1973 with “Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein.”)
The rest of the pic sees the zombie similarly reviving corpses, with copious amounts of garish fake blood and black semen, and occasional fairly explicit sex. There’s little here that’s up to LaBruce’s usual standard of campy, gross-out humor, other than an amusing scene inside a capacious, well-appointed refrigerator carton. It’s as if the helmer wanted to break apart boundaries between art-gallery videos, camp horror and semi-porn, but rather than producing an interesting melding of the three, he’s just turned out a confused mess.
Snippets of conversation are even less substantial than the talk in traditional porn (the pic is inaccurately advertised as without dialogue; “minimal” is more precise). As for the acting, there’s little call for anything other than pained stares and climactic groans, though auds familiar with the Los Angeles River will likely express concern for Sagat’s health when viewing the star splashing his not-so-privates in the concrete channel.
Harsh digital lensing makes every color look cheap, furthering the sense, whether true or not, of a pic finished in a hurry. Always a profligate user of music, LaBruce mixes soundscapes with a near-constant flow of notes ranging from pseudo-late Romantic concertos to indie pop.