A few weeks ago I recommended a slight but certainly amusing horror flick that was short on plot, but impressively awash in gore, dark humor, and a solid handful of genre-friendly character actors. That flick was called Autopsy. Again I find myself thinking very similar things for another new horror movie, although (overall) the newer flick, entitled Laid to Rest, is markedly better than Autopsy in most respects. Powerfully gory, peppered with unexpected doses of weird humor, and backed by a colorful cast of familiar faces, Rob Hall's Laid to Rest is hardly the most original or trail-blazing terror tale out there -- but it's an '80s-style throwback piece that gains a lot of mileage out of very little gas. (And by gas I mean "plot," I suppose.)
We open with a girl in a coffin. Unfortunately for the girl, she's not dead. But she'll soon spend the next 8-10 hours wishing she was dead, as our unnamed heroine is forced to overcome a drug-like haze, a handful of strange accomplices, and a serial killer who wears a nifty silver mask. Act I sets up the basic-yet-compelling little campfire tale, Act II slows down a bit for the characters to work together and piece the puzzle together, and Act III is a blood-soaked siege at a rather inconveniently isolated convenience store. Again, this is not the re-invention of the horror wheel.
But while some filmmakers coat their '80s homages with tons of winks, yuks, and cocked eyebrows, Laid to Rest plays fair with its predecessors by showing some sincere affection for the slasher sub-genre. Plus, and probably best of all, Hall isn't content with delivering just another chase 'n' chop hack-fest. At its best moments, Laid to Rest has a slightly surreal little "weirdness" that reminds one a lot of the original Phantasm. Of course the flick works well enough as a simple "body count" affair (let's remember that Rob Hall runs one of the busiest "latex 'n' gore" facilities in Hollywood), but there are odd diversions and skewed perspectives all over the movie -- so even if the slightly artsy stuff doesn't thrill you, you can take comfort in the fact that Laid to Rest is actually pretty creepy. And quite impressively gory.
Lead actress Bobbi Sue Luther has a tough gig, in that she has to play the clueless "Alice" who's wandering through a nightmarish landscape, but the character actually displays some interesting layers as the flick goes on. The unique-looking character actor Sean Whalen (he could be Steve Buscemi's son, that's all I'm saying) adds some weird wit and welcome energy to the movie's mid-section, and it's great to see the normally villainous Kevin Gage sink his teeth into a (reluctantly) heroic role. Fans of the horror and sci-fi fare will no doubt recognize the contributions of Lena Headey, Thomas Dekker, Johnathon Schaech, and the great Richard Lynch -- but it's probably Nick Principe, as the nefarious "ChromeSkull," who makes the biggest impact. Several impacts, actually, and each one more splatterier than the last.
Although very dissimilar in tone, attitude, and presentation, Laid to Rest earns a comfortable spot next to Hatchet, Cold Prey, and Behind the Mask as a basic but sincere "love letter" to the best of the '80s horror flicks. Plus, as a bonus that's familiar to all the Anchor Bay fans, Laid to Rest comes complete with a co-writer / co-producer / actress & director / hubby & wife audio commentary, a 30-minute behind-the-scenes peek that's both informative and enthusiastic, an 8-minute piece on the rather plentiful gore-works created by Rob Hall and Erik Porn's Almost Human crew, twelve minutes of random bloopers and deletions, and a whole bunch of trailers.