Following the slasher ‘Golden Age’ of the 1980’s, Wes Craven’s Scream re-ignited a brief a slasher-lite renaissance. However, this brief resurgence produced a handful of polished, teen-friendly PG-13 horror that lacked Craven’s insight. Several years later, slasher movies returned, taking one of two approaches. In some cases, movies like Final Girls, Cabin in the Woods, and You Might Be The Killer adopted Craven’s meta-humour approach. Other modern slashers ditched the pretences and tapped into the ‘Golden Era’s’ grimy 80’s aesthetics and gore. Steven Mena’s Malevolence and Adam Green’s Hatchet influenced a small, but genuine, slasher revival. One of these throwback slashers was the under-the-radar Laid to Rest. Following a limited theatrical release, Laid to Rest found enough of a a small fanbase on home video to warrant a sequel.
A woman awakens to find herself trapped in a casket. She doesn’t know how she ended up in this abandoned funeral home. And she has no personal memories. But she doesn’t have time to figure any of these things out. Immediately after escaping her temporary prison, a man in chrome skull mask begins stalking her. With a camera mounted on his shoulder and an array of killing tools, ‘Chromeskull’ carves a path through anyone misfortunate enough to get in his way.
Laid to Rest Ditches Story for Near Relentless Gore
Laid to Rest marked the writing and directorial debut for special effects artist, Robert Hall. Given Hall’s professional background, Laid to Rest’s strengths and weaknesses shouldn’t be surprising. Expect little in the way of plotting, story, or character arcs. Hall eschews the majority of slasher tropes to focus on imaginatively gruesome death scenes. Instead of a tragic set-up followed by build-up, Hall opts to drop you right into his mystery woman’s plight. Little time is wasted before cutting to the slaying. From that point onward, Laid to Rest is fairly lean, moving at a largely quick pace. When it hits the second act, the lack of plot weighs a little heavily. Here, Hall’s pacing drags too much for this kind of movie.
And the body count is nasty.
But where Laid to Rest is likely to win (or detract some) audiences is with its outstanding practical gore effects. As mentioned above, Hall cuts to business quickly, throwing random characters into the mix to up the body count. And the body count is nasty. As a make-up effects artist, Hall knows how to film his death scenes. In contrast to the 80’s slashers, Laid to Rest is less interested in set-up or over-the-top murders. Instead, Hall opts for straightforward, brutal images, refusing to cut away from the blood and bodily desecration. In particular, Lena Headey’s death is both sadistic and an effects marvel for a low-budget horror movie. You’ll never look at canned tire inflator the same way again. One caveat to the movie’s extreme violence – Hall shares some of Rob Zombie’s worst inclinations. In addition to its sadistic violence, Laid to Rest leans a little too much on misogynistic themes.
Mixed Performances a Minor Distraction from the Carnage
Odds are you’re not watching a movie like Laid to Rest for the performances. Not surprisingly, lead actress Bobbi Sue Luther has pretty limited range. As ‘The Woman’, or ‘Princess’, Luther is good enough to ever distract, but she’s hardly compelling. Fortunately, there’s several familiar character actors on hand to anchor the movie around her. Kevin Gage, Sean Whalen (The People Under the Stairs), Lena Headey (Game of Thrones), and Richard Lynch (Rob Zombie’s Halloween) are veterans and work well with the material. In particular, Gage and Whalen’s protective relationship with ‘Princess’ somehow actually works. Amidst all the gore, Gage and Whalen actually convince you to care about their characters.
In the pantheon of slasher villains, Chromeskull’s closest comparison is the the masked killer of The Collector series.
But it’s not a slasher movie without a memorable villain. While’s he no Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees, Laid to Rest’s ‘Chromeskull’ makes for a good B-level slasher villain. Admittedly, Chromeskull’s character design is sleek and menacing. Nevertheless, Chromeskull shares the same problem as his movie – too much emphasis is placed on what looks ‘cool’. In the absence of scares, suspense, and story, Chromeskull is largely left to impress based on character design. Hall does introduces a few character quirks to distinguish the villain just enough. In the pantheon of slasher villains, Chromeskull’s closest comparison is the masked killer of The Collector series.
Laid to Rest a Lean, Brutal Gorefest for Slasher Fans
Though its paper-thin plotting creates some drag in the second act, Laid to Rest is largely a lean, brutal gorefest. Like Adam Green’s Hatchet, Laid to Rest is a proper callback to barebones, old-school 80’s slasher movies. Even the most hardcore horror fans should be impressed with the practical gore effects here. And to his credit, Hall manages build an oddly sympathetic relationship between his principal characters amidst the carnage. In spite of its lack of logic and story, Laid to Rest is relentless, blood-spattered horror for die-hard fans.