Toronto gay filmmaker Bruce LaBruce has had his latest film yanked from an Australian film festival, after the country’s classification board censored it.
The low-budget feature, LA Zombie, tells the story of an alien zombie with a massive penis who has sex with the dead. Though LaBruce says he’s surprised by the decision, he’s also thrilled at all of the additional publicity the move brings his latest project.
“Eureka! They have unconsciously handed the film loads of publicity,” LaBruce says. “Once you do this, you’ve guaranteed that people will want to see it. I suspect I’ll get invited to a dozen more film festivals because of this, and thousands more people will see it. My Facebook page has loads of messages on it about the ban.”
The move was announced yesterday, when Richard Moore, director of the Melbourne International Film Festival, announced that he had received a letter from the Australian Film Classification Board detailing their decision to ban the film, which they called “gay zombie porn.” It is the first time in seven years the festival has had a film banned, the last one being Larry Clark’s highly controversial Ken Park, which depicted children having sex with adults and plenty of violence.
LaBruce says he doesn’t feel the move was rooted in homophobia, but rather was probably a reaction to the necrophilia in the film. “There is penetration of wounds,” he acknowledges, “and an alien with a huge zombie cock who fucks dead people.”
But he’s quick to add that LA Zombie, which is a sequel of sorts to LaBruce’s last film, Otto; or, Up With Dead People, is actually a reverse-necrophilia film. “It’s actually very life-affirming, because he fucks these dead people back to life. He resurrects them. I’m deliberately making a point about torture porn. I guess they’re offended by necrophilia, which is one of the last taboos, but in my film people come back to life due to the sex they’re having as corpses.”
As with many of LaBruce’s films, he edits two different versions, one a hardcore porn version, the other a softcore, arthouse-friendly rendition. “I hate to think how they would have reacted to the hardcore version,” he says. “Although this version does contain a few brief shots of flaccid penises, the only erect member belongs to the alien zombie, and it is obviously a fake.”
LaBruce says he made the shoestring-budgeted ($100,000) LA Zombie for a number of reasons. “I think there was an unfulfilled promise with Otto. There wasn’t that much gore in that film. And I wanted more sex in it. I have long wanted to work with François Sagat, the French pornstar. And this turned out to be a sequel of sorts to Hustler White as well, because we shot in many of the same locations as we did with that film, and worked with many of the same people.”
LaBruce insists the Australian censors are soaked in hypocrisy. “They have no problem clearing all those torture porn movies for screening. They feature horrific depictions of rapes and dismemberments of women. But my film, which is actually an affirmation of life, gets banned. It makes no sense. The cock in this film does penetrate, but it’s so obviously fake. How is that different than a fake knife going into a body? That happens in every horror movie.”
LaBruce’s last film, Otto, was another gay zombie film, and had its premiere at Sundance. Like many LaBruce films, it has acquired a cult following, with a list of admirers that includes iconic gay American playwright Edward Albee, who supplied a blurb for the DVD release of the film.
“Otto was the third most popular film at the Melbourne Film Festival when it played there, so I’m assuming many people wanted to see LA Zombie,” LaBruce says. “I know the festival organizers are considering an appeal of this decision, but it would cost $2,000, and there’s no guarantee it would work, or if the decision could arrive in time for the actual festival.”
LA Zombie will have its world premiere at the Locarno Film Festival on August 5 and its North American premiere at TIFF in September. The alternate version, LA Zombie Hardcore, will be released on Halloween.
Watch the trailer for LA Zombie: