or, Gay Zombies with Eating Disorders.
Since unleashing his outrageous debut No Skin Off My Ass in ’91 and with successive art-porn assaults such as Hustler White and The Raspberry Reich in his filmography, Bruce LaBruce has gained international notoriety as the enfant terrible of Canadian gay cinema -- a reputation that now encompasses horror, with his latest:
The awkwardly punctuated title (a nod to Herman Melville’s 1852 novel Pierre; or, the Ambiguities) refers to the two films within the film. The first one "Otto," is a documentary about a boy who may or may not be a zombie. The second, "Up with Dead People" is a political zombie porno flick. Both films are directed by an avant-garde lesbian film maker character named Medea Yarn (an anagram for legendary experimental filmmaker Maya Deren, 1917-61).
Un-death is only the beginning of Otto’s identity crisis, however, as he’s also a zombie with an eating disorder. As a vegetarian in his previous life, he abbors consuming human flesh. Instead, he sustains himself on a predominantly roadkill diet. As an effeminate, vegetarian, gay zombie, Otto is particularly vulnerable to his human enemies, so in order to stay under the radar, he auditions for a role in "Up with Dead People" in the hopes that people won’t think he’s a genuine zombie, they’ll just think he’s playing one.
LaBruce exploits the zombie subgenre not merely as a convenient metaphor to comment on contemporary consumerism but to tackle issues very specific to contemporary gay culture. "the old horror monsters like vampires and werewolves, they’re more like individuals," he explains "They’re on the fringe of society. They’re marginalized characters. But zombies are the ultimate conformist. They come in masses and they’re the ultimate consumers. Part of the thesis of the movie is that gays are now model consumers. Gay culture has become extremely conformist; gays are getting married and having children and they’re very upwardly mobile and bourgeois. But the zombie template fits AIDS as well because AIDS is viral. It’s the idea of the body decaying, and I’m shifting the paradigm so my zombie is the outsider, and, just as in Night of the Living Dead, where the rednecks are beating and burning the zombies, that’s essentially what has happened to homosexuals as well."
LaBruce is confident that his traditional audience will accept his foray into horror, firmly convinced that "gays are very much into blood and guts." But it’s the mainstream horror fans he’s more worried about. "They’re able to watch the most extreme torture porn and decapitation disembowelments, but then if they see two men kissing they’ll puke," he says with a laugh "That’s what I’m expecting. One of my initial impetuses was I thought it would be really cool to make a zombie porn movie, partly because zombies are so rotten that you can just make your own orifice so it’s perfect for pornography."