L.A. Zombie (2010)
Editor’s Notes: The following review is part of our coverage for TIFF’s Skin Flicks: The Films of Bruce LaBruce at TIFF Bell Lightbox. For more information on upcoming TIFF film series visit http://tiff.net and follow TIFF on Twitter at @TIFF_NET.
The zombie as a metaphor for dysfunctional and alienating systems in our society is a popular since the Night of Living Dead. The concept of living flesh, as in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, is a manifestation of feeling alien in your own skin and in your environment.
The hour-long film replays different death and resurrection scenes with the zombie refining his taste for victims preying on homeless men and criminals.
In Bruce LaBruce’s L.A. Zombie, a zombie (Francois Sagat) walks out of the turbulent ocean and heads towards Los Angeles. A stranger offers him a ride (Rocco Giovanni) and they get into an accident. The zombie proceeds to have sex with a cavity in the stranger’s chest with its giant penis. He ejaculates black semen and mysteriously revives the stranger. In turn, he moods change somewhat too.
The hour-long film replays different death and resurrection scenes with the zombie refining his taste for victims preying on homeless men and criminals. There are times where the zombie changes from human to zombie again in varied states. There are times he’s painted up green or blue with splashes of red to indicate decay and blood. There are other times when he’s extra green with additional protruding fangs coming out gashes in his face. This could be a suggestion of the schizophrenic state of Los Angeles or of the human mind on Los Angeles. Is it a zombie the audience is following, or is it a spirit trying to cleanse the city of its sins? There are social milieu messages threaded through LaBruce’s provocative images.
It’s all very hard to tell. As a fan of LaBruce’s The Raspberry Reich, I was ready to enjoy his zombie take of hardcore gay porn. It’s beautifully rendered through James Carman’s cinematography. The colors are bright and the definitive gore is tangibly bloody. As Sagat saunters alone through the sunny Los Angeles landscape, he looks lost and confused. I enjoyed these longer sequences because they spoke more about the state of the zombie than any other part of the film. It’s as if this sad, melancholic zombie embodies the result of social or a physical disease, redeeming the world of it through its undead member. He fucks the hearts and brains of men, resetting humanity through this borderline religious allegory. Sex, art, and faith make for an interesting twist on the zombie genre.
It entices and questions, but ultimately, as with most of his work: it is buyer beware.
However, it was a disjointed film and for that it made the sixty-three minutes longer than I would have wanted. After the second or third repeated sex act it felt less like art and more like filling in time with a sex act. There’s very little dialogue and when it does happen, it’s part of the cheesy porn set up.
L.A. Zombie’s strength lies purely in its lone visuals of Sagat’s buffed up zombie. He’s angry, sad, lonely, bereft of meaning, and imbued with a power to offer rebirth to the stagnation around him. While sex drives The Raspberry Reich as a hilarious parody of the body as politic, sex feels overdone in this film. I guess, in some ways, its part of LaBruce’s polarizing charm that he can present zombie paraphilia as experimental film. It entices and questions, but ultimately, as with most of his work: it is buyer beware.
L.A. Zombie’s strength lies purely in its lone visuals of Sagat’s buffed up zombie. He’s angry, sad, lonely, bereft of meaning, and imbued with a power to offer rebirth to the stagnation around him.