Tag Archives: Jonathon Schaech

‘Laid to Rest’ Revels in Its Slasher Depravity

“I woke up in a dead box,” Princess says, earnest eyes wet for the camera. It’s a ridiculous line delivered with bold conviction, and it’s one of many that populate the hyper-violent, absurdist world of Laid to Rest — a film that’s as goofy as it is gory. The 2009 slasher strikes a fascinating balance; its top-tier practical effects are at odds with its less-than-stellar script. But there’s a stunning duality to the first of writer/director Robert Hall’s ChromeSkull movies that begs to be dissected.

Laid to Rest follows ChromeSkull (Nick Principe), a serial killer with a shiny silver mask and a camera mounted to his shoulder. He likes to kidnap and terrorize women, the ever-present camera recording his grotesque conquests. 

Things seem to be going well for ChromeSkull. He’s got a massive knife, a fancy car — complete with vanity plates — and a vast collection of mutilated bodies. But everything threatens to fall apart when one of his kidnap victims, a young woman from Miami, escapes. Her memory gone, the woman (nicknamed “Princess”) finds herself stranded in a poverty-stricken town, defenseless and totally reliant on the aid of strangers. Bodies pile up — many of them belonging to naked ladies — as Princess and her rag-tag group attempt to evade the chrome-faced killer. Unfortunately, the flimsy plot and dry, one-dimensional characters make most of the film feel like an afterthought. Laid to Rest is more concerned with getting us to the next kill, something that should be much more egregious than it actually is. Because the kills are so good.

The amount — and quality — of murder sequences is unsurprising considering filmmaker Robert Hall’s pedigree. Hall has effects and makeup credits on films like Vacancy and Superbad, and TV including Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. This vast and impressive resume is likely why people like Lena Headey, Thomas Dekker, and Jonathon Schaech show up in small roles. The cast, combined with the slick violence, leaves the film feeling off-balance, almost underdone. 

“BUT THE KILLS,” she shrieks from the mountaintops. The kills are truly spectacular. 

We get entrails, slimy viscera, a knife to the side of the head, a severed face, and death by tire sealant. Each gag is meticulously set up and filmed to maximize impact. The movie revels in its depravity, slowing down to show off the terrific violence. But it’s difficult to view any of it as overindulgent because the film shines when heads are exploding, so why not capitalize on it? The stripped-down sets and lower budget only serve to enhance the violence; everything feels more real in the desolate, struggling town.

The film’s absurdity is the only thing more captivating than its violence. Our protagonist gets her uninspired moniker from a Barbie-esque doll she vaguely remembers called Princess Gemstone. The parameters of her memory loss are also perplexing. She can’t remember the word for “kill,” so she settles for “make dead.” Coffins become “dead boxes.” She calls 911 because she sees the number written on a Post-it. 

Bobbi Sue Luther’s doe-eyed take on Princess is at once baffling and oddly perfect. She’s the ultimate innocent, a babe in the woods. It’s no wonder half the town finds themselves pulled into her orbit, but it doesn’t stop with her. Super-helpful Steven (Sean Whalen) offers to email the police. The exchange is borderline comedic as they scroll through the police website looking for the appropriate crime to report. The goofiness appears unintentional, often veering dangerously close to cringey. To support this assertion, one only needs to point to the song blaring from Dekker’s car. The endless refrain of “Sexy bitches are my favorite kind of bitches” must be laughed at because it’s easier than believing someone thought those lyrics would be celebrated earnestly. In fact, Laid to Rest is one big “sexy bitch,” its enjoyment dependent on your ability to compartmentalize — aka ignore — the rampant misogyny. 

Despite its many shortcomings, Laid to Rest is a movie I make people watch. Most haven’t heard of it, and the rest haven’t actually sat through it. My selling points are its unintentional humor, promising my unsuspecting audience dialogue that begs to be quoted out of context (like “dead box”). In the face of skeptical glances, I stay resolute. Ignore the low budget and stilted line delivery, because when that first kill happens, the knife sliding up to the hilt, you truly see Laid to Rest for what it is — an effects reel gone wild.

I’m not mad at that, but please — I warn as the camera pans across a naked woman nestled in the crotch of a bare chested and headless female corpse — ignore this part. Because Laid to Rest plays like two disparate movies with competing agendas. In one, ChromeSkull, an iron cross decorating his steering wheel, slaughters sex workers with extreme prejudice. In the other, a struggling town bands together to protect an amnesia-stricken stranger while openly gay Thomas Dekker sings about sexy bitches. Even if it’s nothing more than a happy accident, the latter is a film worth experiencing, gooey viscera and all.