Written and Directed by: Robert Hall
Starring: Bobbi Sue Luther, Kevin Gage and Lena Headey
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
"He wants to make me dead."
Since Laid to Rest is yet another slasher movie, I think my brain went on autopilot pretty early; when it opened with a girl (Bobby Sue Luther) being trapped in a casket in the middle of a mortuary, I didnít really bat an eye. After she escaped this precarious situation and ran into the arms of the first goateed bald guy she met (Kevin Gage), I just assumed that heíd end up being the masked maniac that sent her on the run in the first place. Maybe itís just because Iíve become conditioned to distrusting backwoods bald guys in slasher movies, but I figured this girl was a goner and weíd soon be introduced to the real heroine once this guy was done with her.
Writer/director Robert Hall is even clever enough to play it up that way, and it gave me hope. Here was a guy thatís probably seen a lot of these himself, so he can probably assume the same about his audience; as such, the opening sequence where this girl is given a ride and then shelter by the guy (who calls himself Tucker) and his wife, itís all quite suspenseful and plays towards audience expectations. Of course his truck (that they just rode in) is out of gas, and of course this couple doesnít have a phone; surely, theyíre just stringing this poor girl (who they named ďPrincessĒ because sheís got amnesia) before gutting her.
But no, the actual killer (dubbed Chromeskull because, well, he wears a chrome skull for a mask) shows up and stabs the manís wife in the head, sending Princess and Tucker on the run from the chrome-faced fellow, who is actually a notorious serial killer. And, unfortunately, that knife to the head makes for a great image that metaphorically sums up just what happens to the film at that point. Basically, any hopes I had of this being one of those wry, clever, self-aware slashers were swiftly stabbed away, leaving only a script thatís either braindead itself or aggressively insistent on the viewer leaving their brain at the door. Either way, brainlessness is a pre-requisite for enjoying Laid to Rest.
Youíre probably thinking such a pre-requisite comes with the slasher territory, and I suppose youíre right. Itís just that Laid to Rest aggressively embraces so many clichťd contrivances without so much as a wink or a nod, and it left me wondering if it was seriously trying to get away with it. I think I finally got my answer when Princess insisted that Chromeskull wanted to ďmake [her] dead,Ē at which point I decided that she might just be more handicapped than amnesic, unless basic grammar now slips away with the latter condition. The entire gist of the story even hinges on the charactersí stupid decisions, chiefly Princessís choice to return to the mortuary (from which she earlier escaped) and just hang out there in case her memory is jogged. Nevermind that thereís a murderous psychopath on her tail that could spill her brains out onto the floor first (not that sheís exactly using them, I guess).
From there, itís just a series of other stupid decisions and bad luck--of course, the one cell phone they stumble upon needs to have a password to work and of course the car theyíre stuck with has a speed governor. About the only contrivance I could swallow was their wormy assistant (who lives in the first house they stumble upon) still using dial-up, which, believe me, is still completely plausible in the American south even now. From what I could gather, Laid to Rest must be taking place around Asheville, North Carolina, which I guess is neat since itís right up the road from me, though even I wonít vouch for this level of stupidity going on around these parts. This is what happens when you try to take a slasher on the road, I guess, as youíve got to manufacture a body count somehow. Laid to Rest introduces characters who only show up to die, and our leads consistently put themselves in perilous situations because they werenít smart enough to go straight to the police in the first place.
However, once you see the impressive gore effects at work, you might be a little forgiving of the plot failings (or non-existence, really). The knife in the head gag is just the first of many gruesome dispatches that tread the fine line between genuinely grisly and wildly over-the-top. Chromeskull himself is a bit of an enigma, and the only thing we really know about him is that he likes to film his victims. This fetish leads to one of the filmís more laughable sequences--just as heís about to finally kill this girl, his tape runs out, which I can only assume is the serial killerís equivalent to erectile dysfunction. Because simply killing her just wonít do, he sends her in the nearby store to fetch him another one--all via text message--and I think this finally solidified how unbelievably silly Laid to Rest is.
But at least Hall kept some gore effects in his back pocket for this last act, which, again, managed to keep it afloat. Plus, itís almost cute how he thinks we actually care who Princess really is; once this is revealed, itís pretty underwhelming, though I should give Hall some credit for trying to craft some kind of story for his main character. Itís just that none of it really works because he wrote her to be so stupid. Oh, well--itís not like I can be too hard on Laid to Rest, especially since itís slicker and more stylish than most. The biggest litmus test here is that I actually want to see the recently-released sequel, if only because Iím holding out hope that there might be something to this Chromeskull guy. Anchor Bay released this first film to DVD a couple of years back, where it can now be found for a couple of bucks on the secondary market. Their unrated release boasts a typically strong presentation, as the transfer is anamorphic, detailed, vivid, and mostly noise-free; meanwhile the Dolby 5.1 track is a bit front heavy but makes occasionally effective use of the rears. The special features here include deleted scenes, blooper reels, a trailer, a couple of making-of features, and a commentary with Hall and Luther. If youíre a slasher fan that hasnít come around to this one, lay your curiosity to rest at some point. Rent it!
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