28 Mar

Goriest. Slasher. Ever. Laid To Rest

Posted by Bryan White | Saturday March 28, 2009 | Reviews

laid to restI’m so over conventional horror movies these days. I’ve been watching them for nearly thirty years and I can comfortably make the claim that I’ve seen it all. I really have.  At some point I went from being a horror movie fan and became a walking horror archive and there’s some part of me that feels the need to subject myself to some seriously repugnant shit in the name of carrying the complete record of horror achievement in my noodle. So being such a jaded dick means that cliches like stalk and slash just don’t do much for me but I know what sort of search terms I’m going to rank for and I know what kinds of reviews people are going to be searching for as the release of movie x draws near. So I find myself reviewing stuff that I ordinarily wouldn’t be caught dead watching. Because of this, it’s been some time since I’ve seen something that I really liked.

So let me cast my hipster bullshit aside and tell you that Laid To Rest exceeded my expectations by a crazy big-ass margin. Slashers are easily the most rank and file of all the horror subcategories and there is a checklist of cinematic inventory that can be found in each one without exception. Laid To Rest is no different but what I was not expecting from this movie was the sheer volume of explicit, no cut-away gore and violence that even in the these times of hardcore R ratings on some extremely violent movies managed to shock and amuse me.

So this girl wakes up in a coffin with a really bad head injury, no memory of who she is and barely any ability to articulate anything. Almost immediately, she is set upon by a man in a chrome skull mask and two custom, surgical grade knives. Through a series of circumstances, she manages to give Chromeskull the slip. After mashing one of his eyes with a metal rod,  she escapes into the night where a dude in a truck picks her up and takes her home. After a brief recovery, it turns out that Chromeskull managed to track her down and the mayhem really begins.  The Girl, her rescuer with a bum leg, Tucker and wimpy mama’s boy, Stephen have to somehow hold out until help arrives in a backwoods town where no one seems to have a working phone and all the cars are out of gas.

Look, it’s a slasher and there’s certainly no shortage of horror movies that have this survival plot to push them through a series of increasingly violent confrontations. It even has a stock lineup of slasher victims to be that is de rigueur. There’s plenty of cannon fodder, too.  Characters who show up solely to be cut to ribbons much to the delight of the audience. However, Laid To Rest is pure Grand Guignol, bloodier than any slasher I have ever seen and I’ve seen them all, baby!

You see, the movie landscape of the now is way different than the movie landscape of the 80’s when the slasher dominated the box office. Back then, filmmakers had to put their flick past the MPAA to get an R rating if they intended to open in wide release and that always meant cuts because of a puritanical wave of judgement that washed over the entire fad thanks to dickweed TV critics like Gene Siskel who condemned the whole thing. By the mid-90’s when Scream ushered in a slasher rennaisance, the home video market hadn’t yet matured enough to shake the lurking spectre of the MPAA and fears of being locked out of chains like Blockbuster meant keeping an R rating on your movie, but these days a horror DVD release is almost expected to come without the hassle of passing your feature by the MPAA.  Fuck them.  Seriously. You don’t even have to bother. We’re all so bloodthirsty by this point that we’re not even going to bother buying the R rated cut. That would  be like buying the clean version of a filthy hip-hop album. All the good stuff is stripped out! What’s the point? And that is why Robert Hall can make a movie like Laid To rest and get away with it.

You must understand. You’re not going to get the quick one second throat slash with a little fake blood before it cuts away to the horrified expression of everyone else. You’re going to get a sustained shot of Chromeskull sawing through some poor bastard’s neck while gallons of slimy blood pours out of the gaping wound. You’re going to see him pull the knife deep enough that the head slides off the stump. It’s all there. Heads impaled, decapitated from the jaw up, slashes deep enough to disembowel a woman, etc. As a matter of fact, Hall’s special effects are front and center. Even if Laid To Rest sucked, it would still make a hell of a demo reel for the next generation of gory special effects. Watching Laid To Rest is like watching Day of the Dead for the first time when you realized that because of Greg Nicotero, Tom Savini’s days were numbered. No horror flick these days is without a little CGI blood and this movie has some but it has been so long since I’ve seen a movie do such convincing effects with latex and fake blood. The practical effects in Laid To Rest are absolutely outstanding!

All technical achievements aside, though, Laid To Rest fails in the plotting and pacing department, neglecting to tell any kind of substantial story in the process of killing all these people.  It is so preoccupied with making you squirm that it forgets that there’s more to a horror movie than the killings, but I guess that’s what you get when your director is a special effects man first and a director second. Robert Hall, known for his work on Buffy/Angel and, recently, Quarrantine, is actually quite skilled for a gore guy turned director and many of the shots are nice and sharp but the script is practically nonexistent, calling for the cast to run here or there and scream or look worried. Behind it all is the lingering question of The Girl’s actual identity and the grand revelation of that item in the third act almost comes across as a MacGuffin. It lacks any kind of weight and hardly plays into the proceedings at all. There’s just no point to it. Other weaknesses in the plot, such as Chromeskull’s knack for being in the right place at the right time or the fact that his sweet phone is synced up with his sweet car so he can know where it is at all times are things that I’m willing to forgive because they meet my slasher movie expectations along with the convenient and unlikely isolation of no phones or cars.

And because it’s a slasher, I feel the need to address our killer. Chromeskull is an imposing dude with a cool costume and badass signature blades but he’s definitely part of the current slasher generation. That is to say elaborately dressed with phantom motivations. He has no back story. Nothing about him is ever revealed and the significance of his skull theme is never explored except in a red herring moment when we see his name on his car registration. There are hints of background here and there, since he tapes all of his interactions, we see scenes of him arguing with the local mortician, played by cult star Richard Lynch, but it all comes to a dead end. A little background goes a long way in a slasher and these filmmakers today who grew up in video stores really need to make room in their scripts for at least a morsel of history. You don’t have to go overboard and explain everything, but something would be nice.

Laid To Rest is a step in the right direction for slasher movies. Since they’re here to stay and modern times means harder violence, filmmakers exploring slasher avenues can feel comfortable being as gory as they want to be. To take the genre to the next level, though, they’re going to have to work on plotting their movies with a more compelling script since expectations, even among jaded horror fans like myself, are higher than ever. Many of us want a little more for our money than just splatter. The killer’s legacy is very important. But if you’re looking for something extreme, man, Laid To Rest is it! I’ve seen some rough stuff in the past and their ultimate failure is that they never take a minute to laugh it all off. Rather they keep it grim and unpleasant to the last drop. Laid To Rest almost goes there but manages a few smirks here and there. It strikes a reasonable balance with its tone and manages to remind you a few times that you shouldn’t take it too seriously.

17 Comments 

  1. March 29, 2009 9:05 am

    G Dawg

    “Watching Laid To Rest is like watching Day of the Dead for the first time when you realized that because of Greg Nicotero, Tom Savini’s days were numbered.”

    Um, Greg was ‘gut boy’ on that movie. If your assertion was in anyway true, then Nicotero would’ve topped DAY by now. He hasn’t. LAND didn’t even come close.

  2. March 29, 2009 10:40 am

    Bryan White

    Is that you, Tom? Don’t be bitter, man. I’m sure you’ll find financing for Vampirates soon!

  3. March 29, 2009 10:01 pm

    G Dawg

    Creep. You can shove your RSS up your ASS.

  4. March 30, 2009 9:04 am

    Bryan White

    What? You expect me to dignify your stupid comment with some kind of reply that validates your shitty attitude? You gloss over the review and nitpick a statement that hardly has anything to do with anything just so you can flex your horror movie knowledge. I give a shit. Clearly. I deal with dicks like you on a daily basis since 90% of the horror fan community views the culture as a fucking popularity contest and each one of you Dread Central forums castoffs is a god damn know it all.

    So why don’t YOU shove the RSS up your ASS.

  5. March 30, 2009 12:30 pm

    thebonebreaker

    Dude,

    I am psyched about this movie now!!
    I have it in my Netflix Queue [just because] but now I am moving it to the top! [April 21st can;t come soon enough]

    Fantastic Review!

  6. April 9, 2009 7:38 pm

    Michael

    Bryan,

    Great review, man. Seriously, this thing is awesome. I’m a film writer myself and I’ve been an avid horror fan for about fifteen years and it’s great to see that there are still film reviewers out there who have a genuine appreciation for the genre. Keep up the good work!

    Michael

  7. April 10, 2009 4:16 pm

    Bryan White

    Thanks for the kind words, Michael. I’m glad you liked the review. I’m a lifelong horror fan and I’m also not the typical horror movie demographic. I try to give the genre the credit and respect that it deserves by really examining the movies that come down. A lot of horror publications and websites assume two things about horror fans.

    1. They’re all teenagers.
    2. They’re fucking morons.

    They tune their copy accordingly. I know that there are fans out there who are neither of those and look for a higher caliber of opinion and writing when it comes to the horror media that they follow and unfortunately, most of the available sources don’t meet the demand. I’m trying to fill that gap.

  8. April 30, 2009 2:11 am

    spymunk

    Good review of LAID TO REST. What’s frustrating about the movie is that upon watching it I felt genuinely stupid by the end. With the blurred name, the vehicle registration, the tapes, the medical kit in the briefcase, the tattoo, the cell phone with the unbreakable code that never gets solved … I felt like I was missing a whole slew of elements in the story, like I had not paid close enough attention.

    Now, I recognize in your review the same frustrations and I’m gratified to know I wasn’t the only one who found Chromeskull intriguing enough to want to hear just a LITTLE about him and his motivations. Heck, The Driver from REST STOP has a better-established backstory, and I don’t even know what The Driver’s backstory really is!

    LAID TO REST has some interesting elements, mostly revolving around Chromeskull’s MO – I loved the element of his missing eye (would’t it have been awesome if the camera had been inside his eye, with the glowing red light?), his sterile “doctor’s” manner of dress and movement, his unwillingness to allow himself to be unmasked, and most of all his creepy phone-voice that seemed to be a mix of all the women he’d victimized sampled into a chilling-sounding echo of his prey. Brr! But the problem was that we never even got to ask questions in the first place about him, since we weren’t even given a chance to know there was anything to be asked!

    To me, though, the real failure of the flick comes in the last act, when the movie devolves into “unkillable killer” territory and finds Chromeskull resurrected despite having his entire skull liquified and smashed in – and I’d been hoping for him to simply escape out into the night. It worked for FRIDAY THE 13TH and it worked for HALLOWEEN. What a waste of a great evil villain!

  9. June 9, 2009 1:23 am

    the black widow

    This has got to be one of the worse scarry/cheessy movies I have ever seen!!!. SO LAME
    But,
    Stay tuned to”, Laid to Rest, Double D, part two .. again, “

  10. August 16, 2009 4:40 pm

    Don

    Bryan,
    Outstanding review, I really enjoy your stuff. As a matter of fact, I’m burning a copy of “LTR” right now to enjoy this evening. Keep up the good work.

    Don V
    Northeast, Louisiana

  11. March 15, 2010 8:45 pm

    Kevin Brewer

    So many people like this writer guy who think they know more and have seen everything than other horror fans…
    Hey i can respect some body elses point of view…
    YES, the effects were very bloody, but BORING ! He just runs around and slits peoples throats and stabs people and he wears a chrome mask ! NOTHING makes him stand out !! ANYBODY could get the same mask and an expensive pair of Rambo knives from the local tactical surplus store. I was dissapointed, i heard so much about this movie and the plot sucked. It was all blood and not much else, its not even a horror movie its just…a really violenct bloody movie like Unborn ( which had a semi-decent plot but still sucked ). And the Tom Savini comparisons ? Hes a legend because of awsome movies and effects. Extremely bloody effects do not make a decent movie. An awsome movie and plot can still get past horrible effects. ( “Japanese Hell” is a great example of this ! ) This movie is just a waste of 90 mins….

  12. May 1, 2010 1:58 pm

    Oriax

    I loved how Chromeskull remained a mystery. I loved the loose ends. Why was the mortician conversing with him? What was their link? Not given. Loved it! We know that Chromeskull is uber-wealthy as seen by his gear and probably well-educated from an FBI report. Good enough. Don’t care to hear some philosophical diatribe about population control of the useless eaters and how liberated women are whores. “Suffer not the Witch to Live” and all that shit. We know that’s exactly what he’s thinking by his ultraviolent actions. They speak way louder than Jigsaw’s whinging. Glad my noodle didn’t get insulted with it. The other characters were pretty fleshed out. First off, how did the Trucker get a bum leg? Who knows? I like how he’s a wrassler-type that we find out is kind of a scaredy cat. Pretty powerful. His wife is the hardened sensible one who predicted the scream queen’s background just by her gut alone. Then we have the geek. Because of his maternal attachment and hallucinations, we wonder how screwed-on he is, but they don’t go too far into that either. Just enough to tempt you. Even the ravers kids, we know that one is ambiguously oriented (the one that survives). But still, they don’t go too far into that.

    The isolation is so believable.I lived in backwoods Wisconsin before and it really felt like the western bluffs. Not some Hollywood soundstage. Plenty of dark, dark.

    Sure the plot lacked, but the focus was on the mystery and the characters. And unlike the mystery genre, we don’t get to know everything, because in real life, these losers wouldn’t have the facility to do so. I don’t care about Chromeskull being gang-raped when he was 12. How would an amnesiac, a hilljack, and a momma’s boy find that out anyway? Leave that to the cops and the state psych-ward (all of which are nonexistant).

  13. September 29, 2010 7:45 am

    Concerned

    Are you kidding me? This movie was unbelievably stupid. Script had no thought in it, the main character was a total retard and unbelievably fake.

  14. November 13, 2010 12:04 am

    Mac

    -Plot is garbage.
    -Main female actor has annoying scream. seems to only have one line= no, no, no, noooooooooooo…. STFU!!
    -So shes a prostitute.. so what. was waiting for the camera to show her involvement in the killings at the end, but shows her non-relating past-life?
    -Cripple misses 3-4 point-blank shots at chromeskull. btw, could we not get more creative than CS?!?!?
    -first deaths were decent, but then lost imagination and everyone just got beheaded the same way…
    -steve Bushemi’s son was a horrible ‘geek’ character.
    -Even Friday 13th had a backstory!

    Felt like i walked in 30 mins late to this movie.
    Dont waste your time!
    not even bottom of queue list, just delete any recognition of knowing this film existed.

  15. November 14, 2010 9:05 am

    twistedhawk

    Laid to Rest is NOT a step in the right direction, it’s a massive swerve in the wrong direction. How can a film that has literally so many plot holes that you could sieve your pasta through it be a step in the right direction?
    I agree the practical FX are pretty good most of the time but so what, if you have ‘actors’ that cannot act with characters that behave in the most ridiculous manners or how about The Girl recognising her killer but not explaining why she wasn’t freaked out because he had NO FACE!. Hall should stick to FX and leave the writing and directing to people who actually know hot to plot and tell a story.

  16. November 14, 2010 12:42 pm

    Bryan White

    Does no one actually read this review? Do I actually need to boil it all down to the core message? Are you people so fucking stupid that you fail to see the obvious? I praise the gore and makeup. I thought it was extremely well done and totally gross and then I go on to dismiss the script or rather the complete lack thereof AS WELL AS the completely forgettable killer and off-the-rack characters. There is no story and the characters are flimsy but in the end it’s still kind of fun for being such a nasty picture.

    Sorry it didn’t do it for some of you and you expect genius in every second of your no-brow horror movies but I rather liked it and I feel like I made my point pretty clear in the review. Feel free to disagree but the animosity toward my opinion in these comments is completely out of line. Seriously, you guys. Relax.

  17. November 15, 2010 12:54 pm

    Mac

    Your review was fine. Im pretty sure the negative comments here were made toward other’s comments.
    -Those who liked the movie simply for ‘some’ gore, without actually having to use their brain and think about what exactly is goin on.

    -Besides, your comment was the worst one, i couldnt find an example of anyone callin you out in a demeaning way. Calmate!

    My comment was a quick synopsis of a Thinking man’s view of this movie.


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