“Laid to Rest” is the second outing from noted special effects and makeup talent Robert Hall, which sees him step away from the grounded drama of his debut “Lightning Bug” and into full-on horror. The film is an old school piece of slasher mayhem, with a straightforward genre plot providing an excuse for exhilarating scenes of bloody carnage and inventive murder scenes that hark back to the glory days of the 1980s.
For such a back to basics hack and slash effort the film has an impressive cast of recognisable faces, including Lena Headey (who worked with Hall on the television series “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles”), Thomas Dekker (“Heroes”) and Johnathon Schaech (also in the awful “Prom Night” remake”), not to mention veteran character actor Richard Lynch (who recently turned up in Rob Zombie’s “Halloween”). The film also features music from the likes of Suicidal Tendencies, Deathbox and Blackcowboy, all adding to the mayhem.
The plot is basic, high concept stuff, as an unnamed young woman (played by actress Bobbi Sue Luther, soon to be seen in the “Night of the Demons” remake) wakes up in a coffin. Understandably disoriented and with no memory of who she is or how she got there, she breaks out, only to find herself in a morgue. Things take a turn for the worse when a hulking maniac sporting a chrome skull mask and a video camera on his shoulder suddenly appears and tries to kill her. The woman escapes, and is picked up on the road by a kindly man called Tucker (Kevin Gage, also in the director’s “Lightning Bug”), who takes him home to his wife Cindy (Headey). Unfortunately, the killer soon shows up for more mischief, intent on slaughtering anyone who gets in his way.
“Laid to Rest” is certainly a film which plays to its strengths, with lots of great and nastily creative kill scenes, with dismemberments and flying intestines galore. The make up effects are convincing and messy, and the film is certainly not one for viewers with weak stomachs. As well as being bloody, it has a sadistic edge, with most of the murder scenes being drawn out and lovingly depicted in close up detail. As a result, although the plot itself is a strictly by the numbers affair, the film is tense and gripping thanks to the always lurking threat of violence. Hall manages to maintain this throughout, and the film is fast moving and never takes its foot off the pedal. After a few initial bursts of needless “Saw” style quick edits and flashy camera work, his direction settles down, and is generally tight and well-judged.
The film also benefits from an offbeat set of characters that are far more interesting, if perhaps not necessarily appealing than the usual bunch of kill-me teens that usually populate the genre. Bobbi Sue Luther is a winning protagonist, not least due to her excellent screaming skills, even if her third act bad-ass transformation is both sudden and rather unconvincing. Special mention must go to the chrome skull killer himself, who makes for an awesomely ludicrous figure, decked out in ridiculous fetish garb and with plenty of gimmicky tools and tricks in his bag. With his origins never explained or his weird regenerative powers seeming to vary in effectiveness from scene to scene, his clowning around and tendency to fall over or get beaten up despite his size soon come to be his defining features, making for lots of presumably unintentional laughs. The whole video camera theme is never really elaborated upon, and so his occasional efforts to reload his tapes or to use it to taunt people are hilariously out of place. Indeed, the only shame is that he remains silent throughout, as a few well-chosen wisecracks would surely have ensured him a place in viewers’ memories, if perhaps not hearts.
His foolish antics do not detract from the film’s overall intensity, and “Laid to Rest” is a wild ride from start to finish. Delivering more than enough gore to satisfy genre fans and with Hall continuing to show a real talent behind the camera, it represents the kind of visceral thrills which have sadly only too often been missing in horror films of recent years.
Robert Hall (director) / Robert Hall (screenplay)
CAST: Bobbi Sue Luther … The Girl
Lena Headey … Cindy
Kevin Gage … Tucker
Sean Whalen … Stephen
Thomas Dekker … Tommy
Richard Lynch … Mr. Jones
Nick Principe … Chrome Skull