Review: The Laughing Dead (1989)

Review: The Laughing Dead (1989)

Boutique DVD labels like Vinegar Syndrome are fantastic. How else could you describe businesses that bring us pristine home versions of movies as weird and wonderful as THE LAUGHING DEAD? One of my favorite things to do is go on their site during sales and pick up something that sounds fun on the cheap. Sometimes it doesn’t pan out and the name/art are the best thing about the movie, ala THE HOUSE ON TOMBSTONE HILL. But with THE LAUGHING DEAD I have struck horror movie gold.

The movie starts off slow as it puts the pieces on the board. Starting off with a trio of people performing a human sacrifice of a child, one of which changes out of his outfit and into a suit afterwards. Guess he had a dinner party to attend to. Then we have Father Ezekiel O’Sullivan, a hoop shooting, disgraced priest with a dark secret that we become privy to rather quickly. It seems he had a dalliance with a nun and knocked her up. The papers reported it as a virgin birth but judging by the way he ruminates over them as well as a dream sequence, we can put two and two together. With him is Laurie, a Chinese girl running from her dying father (who looks like a guy her age wearing bad old man makeup). She susses out his secret because she catches him sleeping on the articles and isn’t stupid. She wants to get out of town and hitches a ride on the tour he’s giving of some Mayan ruins down Mexico way.

Also signed up for the tour are a hippie couple who are hoping to improve their chakras or something, as well as a pair of men who act like a knockoff of the Odd Couple. Along the way they pick up a woman and her son who are waiting on the curb. Laurie recognizes the woman and so does Father O’Sullivan, because she is the nun that he slept with. Which means the boy is his own! The kid is complete garbage, by the way. He’s an asshole to his mom, an asshole to the priest and just a horrible person in general and you kind of hope that he’s on the list for a sacrifice.

On the way to town, the bus driver hits something. He thinks it is an animal but when they go outside to look, they find it is the corpse of a child! On a hill, two men dressed in full Mayan regalia are waiting so the priest and the others go to see what they are up to. You know, as one does when it is dark out and you just ran over one dead body. The men just start chanting and the body runs away while nobody is looking. The tourists think it is part of the tour but Father O’Sullivan knows differently so they head on to their destination.

The hotel has seen better days and the owner blames it on “the old religion”, which we know involves bad things thanks to an opening sequence and the two dudes we just saw by the bus. Meanwhile, the man in the suit, Dr. Um-ztec, is playing piano and seeing to another sacrifice for reasons we aren’t made aware of. Then the movie really starts to get weird.

How weird?

Well we have heart switching via chest ripping, decapitation into a basketball hoop, head punching, arm ripping and stuffing down the throat of the rippee, Mayan basketball vs. zombies and a giant monster fight. And I’m only remembering about half of the things this goofy movie has to offer us.

Can’t say I recognize any of the cast but they’re game for what writer/director Somtow Sucharitkul has them do. Particularly Father O’Sullivan, who gets to overact with the best of them as he performs changes from a normal human into a possessed state, most of which involves a lot of grimacing. The movie has that “kitchen sink” vibe you get from a lot of Asian horror movies, where they just keep throwing new things at you to see what sticks, but being set in Mexico gives it a different spin.

The Blu-Ray from Vinegar Syndrome looks great and comes with some great special features like a commentary from the director that I will need to check out and a making of documentary.

If you’re looking for something weird and wild to throw on this long weekend, you’re not going to find much weirder and wilder than THE LAUGHING DEAD. Check it out.

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