Wednesday, December 19, 2018

THE LAUGHING DEAD (1989) movie review

The Laughing Dead (1989) d. Somtow Sucharitkul (USA)

A faith-challenged priest (Tim Sullivan) leads a group of vacationers on an archeology tour in Mexico and stumbles into a legion of demons, both personal and literal. It seems our collared cruise director fathered a child out of wedlock a decade ago with a co-worker (a nun no less) and guess who has decided to join the excursion, foul-mouthed 10-year-old in tow? Further compounding the tour’s woes are a trio of Mayan priests who have unsavory designs for the recently reunited family, hoping to fulfill an ancient prophecy that includes, you know, the end of the world.

A truly off-the-wall relic of the 1980s, given its juice courtesy of some stupendous gore and special effects from John Carl Buechler’s Magic Media Industries. Along the way, we witness graphic heart swaps, topless priestesses, nightmare C-sections, exploding heads, giant beastie battles, and an arm ripped off and shoved down the owner’s throat! The whole thing concludes with a basketball-inspired battle to the death that has to be seen to be believed.

Writer/director Sucharitkul was apparently an accomplished composer and conductor (he also wrote the film’s score) who served as both the Bangkok Opera Society’s artistic director and president of the Horror Writers Association! His energetic appearance as the Mayan high priest who slices the hearts out of half a dozen kids while wisecracking about investment banking is but one of many overripe performances on display, which simply adds to the aura of semi-controlled chaos.

Well worth tracking down – I guarantee you ain’t never seen anything like THIS.

Side note: The story behind my viewing this truly balls-out wackadoo flick is nearly as storied and confusing as the film itself. Way back in the mid-2000s, Rue Morgue Magazine published a list of “100 Alternative Horror Films” which included many off-the-beaten-track efforts (as well as a number of short film offerings). Having tracked down most of them over the years, I recently returned to the list and discovered that I had one more film to watch to complete my quest… The Laughing Dead.

Doing a quick internet scan, I found Sucharitkul’s feature on YouTube and eagerly dived in… only to discover later than there was ANOTHER Laughing Dead movie from 1998 and THAT was the one on the RM list! So I still haven’t seen it! If anyone has any leads on this Patrick Gleason-directed variation on the vampire mythos, drop me a line - I'm a completist at heart....


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