Blu-ray Review: The Laughing Dead

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m really not big into book low budget vacation tour packages to visit locations of human sacrifice sits. Maybe it is the strange sensation that the trip is so cheap because there’s an unspoken short cut involved in the price. Maybe you have to share a hotel room with a stranger or a lack of air conditioning or they’re just not done sacrificing humans at the location. There’s got to be a reason for the discounted package. But the people in The Laughing Dead didn’t have this rule back in 1989 and a few of them paid for going cheap.

A small girl finds herself on a stone altar in the middle of the desert. Above her is a ceremonial knife held by a man dressed as an Aztec priest. She lets out a scream as the blade comes down. You might thought this was some part of a re-enactment show for tourists. But blood pours off the counter into a silver bowl. This is not a flashback to old Mexico. The Aztec with the knife walks away from the altar and toward his beat up pick up truck. What’s he next going do after sacrificing a child? Back in the USA, nobody seems to know about the murder. A priest gathers up people in his community to take them over the border for a tour of Aztec ruins and a tiny Mexican village. They don’t seem to care too much that they’re traveling in a dilapidated yellow school bus owned by the church. People get an idea that there’s something off about the trip when they meet a group of Aztec warriors on the road late at night. Instead of walking away, they vanish into the mist. A few are weirded out by the encounter. But others think it’s just part of the tourist trap show. Later while in town, the priest gets an offer to do what he thinks is a Holy act, but it turns out to be something that might damn his soul to Hell. Things spiral out of control in what seems like a quiet place. Nobody is going home with just snapshots of their time in Mexico.

The Laughing Dead is just all out nuts with its clash of Aztec action and Catholic cataclysms. There’s a lot of nasty special effects when the supernatural and demonic converge on this little town in Mexico. The special effects are much more effective than expected for a low budget horror film from the end of the ’80s. When one woman gives her heart to the priest, you might fight back a wretch. There’s a fine moment when a head gets turned into a basketball to tie it back to the Aztec origins of the game. The Laughing Dead does have a laughs including the couple that’s really deep into crystals and finding themselves in foreign lands. This is the perfect movie for when you’re in the mood for human sacrifices, demon possession and Aztec legends.

Video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfer from the original camera negative brings out the nature of the locations and the gore effects as more blood flows. Director of Photography David Boyd would go on to be the DP on episodes of Deadwood, Sons of Anarchy and The Walking Dead. The audio is DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo. You’ll hear the mayhem clearly. The movie is subtitled.

Commentary Track with Writer/Director Somtow Sucharitkul praises the people that helped him make the film possible. He gives background on elements that ended up in the film. He points out science fiction writers in small parts.

Unholy Assembly: Crafting The Laughing Dead (35:12) includes cast and crew members. Producer Lex Nakashima speaks about his background in the comics industry. Turns out Somtow Sucharitkul was a composer and published science fiction writer. The two decided to enter the world of film. They’d basically been making movies via storyboards, scripts and scores. It was time to get more people involved and break out a film camera. Somtow before making this film had written an episode of Disney’s Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers. This movie is not a Disney film.

Limited Edition Slip Cover if you order directly from Vinegar Syndrome.

Vinegar Syndrome presents The Laughing Dead. Directed by Somtow Sucharitkul. Screenplay by Somtow Sucharitkul. Starring Tim Sullivan, Wendy Webb, Premika Eaton, Patrick Roskowick, Larry Kagen, Krista Keim. Running Time: 92 minutes. Rated: Unrated. Release Date: November 30, 2021.

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