Raindance Film Festival: L.A. Zombie

Written by Aridela Trejo

From the Toronto underground gay porn scene, cult filmmaker, writer, photographer, and artist Bruce LaBruce has marveled his film festival and cult followers with a zombie sub-genre in which porn, zombies and gore coexist in bloody harmony. This coalition seemed only necessary as these themes (blood, violence and sex) have been combined since the times of the American sexploitation boom of the 1960s. LaBruce himself has been flirting with these elements since his first feature film, No Skin Off My Ass (1991). Though he truly paved his way to L.A. Zombie with Otto; or up with Dead People (2008), in which a young amnesic zombie who wanders through Berlin gets involved in the making of a zombie gay porn film. “Zombie porn is the wave of the future”, LaBruce has stated continuously when advertising Otto, and with L.A. Zombie he has surely mastered the genre.

LaBruce started his career in the 1980s when he co-edited the queer punk fanzine J.D.s (which according to him, “for better or worse, begat the Queercore movement”) that sought to disengage from the allegedly oppressive and orthodox existing gay and punk subcultures. Resorting to the experimental 8mm route that other similarly-minded contemporaries followed such as Pedro Almodóvar, Derek Jarman, Andy Warhol, George Kuchar or John Waters, he shot a couple of shorts which would eventually lead to his first feature film.

In L.A. Zombie, a zombie (played by international porn icon, François Sagat) emerges from the Pacific Ocean and wanders through the slums of the city of Los Angeles; his intentions are unknown. However, whenever this compassionate creature runs into dead bodies, usually after they have been victims of violence, he resuscitates them through intercourse (explicit, bloody, and prolonged; it is after all a porn film). Yet this humane twist to the genre presents the creature as a saviour rather than as a human flesh-eating beast. The monstrosities displayed in the film are committed by humans, not by Sagat. In this respect, LaBruce’s depiction of zombie material echoes George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968). His was a critique of racism and largely of 1960’s American society. LaBruce deals with social issues such as unemployment, poverty, drug addiction, violence, and schizophrenia. As he has stated, “the film is about the homeless, even if it’s a porno”. In a highly allegorical moment, Sagat is digging a grave with the inscription of ‘Law’ in a desperate attempt to escape.

L.A. Zombie is a low budget, episodic B film which so happens to present its subject matter through pornography. As a result, it was banned from appearing in the Melbourne International Film Festival; during its Raindance screening last Friday at least one-third of the audience walked out stupefied. It will certainly be more appreciated by LaBruce’s cult followers yet it has more than explicit gorish sex to offer.

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You do not need to be in London to enjoy Raindance, a series of festival features are already touring in Manchester. Also, Raindance will host an online version of the festival as of Monday October 4th at http://raindance.tv/18th-raindance-film-festival so tune in!