MEALS FOR MONSTERS: THE LAUGHING DEAD (1989)
Movie Review and Recipes by Jenny Orosel
There are horror movie fans who can appreciate a good scare, a well-crafted look at the darkness of the human soul, perfectly paced suspense. This one is not for those fans. No, this time I present a Meals for Monsters for those of us who love garbage. Yes, you, with the TROLL 2 T-shirt, the well-worn VHS of WEASELS RIP MY FLESH, the ones who have every line of PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE memorized. For those of you eagerly searching, hoping that there might be one movie left out there even worse than the ones you’ve seen before. Whatever the worst one is that you’ve seen, here is one to top them all: THE LAUGHING DEAD (1989).
A priest leads a group to explore some Aztec ruins. The cast of characters include some obnoxious New Agers, an obnoxious runaway, a couple of obnoxious frat-boy-style tourists, and an obnoxious former nun kicked out when she gave birth to a now-obnoxious teenager. Oh, and that teenager is the secret love-child of said priest in question. Luckily, the former nun kept the parentage quiet so, while she was defrocked and defamed, he happily got to keep his post (something which embittered her to no end). Did I mention the priest was no prize either? They get to the ruins and come to find that an evil doctor is trying to bring the evil Death God to life, and in the process, raises a bunch of the dead. Cue battle for the fate of humanity.
How painful is this to watch? Let me count the ways: poor performances, poor dialogue, poor pacing. Not a single character is remotely likeable, so there’s no one to root for. And by the time they’re killed off, you’ve got such a ‘blah’ feeling about the movie as a whole, it’s hard to bring yourself to cheer. What makes it even more painful is that the director should have known how to make a halfway decent fright flick. THE LAUGHING DEAD was directed by horror writer and one-time Horror Writers Association president S.P. Somtow. So it’s not like this was directed by a sixteen year old who’d never crafted a story before. And the majority of actors aren’t professional…actors, that is. They’re writers, which makes for some interesting trivia (Tim Powers, Bruce Barlow, Gregory Frost, Wendy Webb, Ed Bryant and Forrest J. Ackerman all show their faces), but let’s face it: unless you’ve seen them around or at conventions, you’ll have no idea who’s who, especially the ones in zombie attire. Playing “spot the writer” isn’t as much fun when you wouldn’t recognize them in front of you.
There are a few things you can do when encountering a movie this painfully bad. You could block it from memory and pretend you never witnessed it. You could dedicate a small portion of your life warning others to stay as far away as possible. Or you can have a party with your other bad film fan friends and share your pain. And what better way than throwing an Endurance Party? You all gather around to watch the flick, and each person who groans, curses at the screen, or runs screaming from the room is eliminated. The last person holding in their pain wins.
Alcohol would definitely help make THE LAUGHING DEAD more enjoyable to watch. But, during an Endurance Party, that is the last thing you want to do. But what if your friends refuse to watch without some adult beverage refreshment? I recommend the Faketail. They’ll think they’re getting a good, strong drink, but they’ll be left sober enough to experience every painful frame:
Pour one part cherry juice and one part apple juice. Gently float one tablespoon of gin on top of the drink. The drink will smell like an alcoholic beverage, and for the first few sips, taste like one.
I pondered making an authentic Aztec meal. After all, the movie is based on the Aztecs, right? Plantains were a staple in ancient Aztec cultures. Then I started thinking about how well-researched and historically correct the Aztec references are in THE LAUGHING DEAD, and adjusted my recipe to the movie’s level of authenticity. I present to you:
MEAT BANANA SPLITS (aka Stuffed Baked Plantains)
(Serves 3, adjust the recipe depending on how many people are in attendance.)
3 green plantains
3 tbsps. Butter
1 ½ pounds various meats (I used 1/2lb taco meat, 1/2lb chicken sausage and 1/2lb pulled pork)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut a slit in each plantain, through the peel, about halfway through. Stuff 1 tablespoon butter into each slit. Bake for an hour, or until the plantains soften.
Peel the plantains. Half the plantains lengthwise, using the slit as a guide. Arrange on a plate with three scoops of meat. Place the cheese directly onto the meat and top with salsa. Add a vegetable or salad for a side if you feel the need to make it a somewhat rounded meal. Otherwise, enjoy!
After enduring the entirety of THE LAUGHING DEAD, a reward is definitely in order. I leave it to you whether or not the ‘drop-outs’ at your party deserve cake. Not just any cake, but…
1 box lemon cake mix (plus ingredients as directed on the box)
1 jar cherry jam
1 package unflavored gelatin
1 tub vanilla frosting
Bake the cake in a 13” x 9” pan, as directed on the package. Cool in pan for an hour. Meanwhile, melt the jam down over medium heat. When it just begins to bubble, dissolve the gelatin package into the jam. Heat and stir until completely dissolved.
Using the back of a wooden spoon, poke holes in the cake of varying deepness. Spread the melted jam over the top of the cake, making sure to fill the holes. Refrigerate for an hour or until set. Spread the frosting over the cake until you can no longer see the jam layer. Can be made up to two days in advance.
I’m not normally one to advocate putting your friends through pain. But, as many other bad flick fans can attest, there’s a certain thrill at finding one that’s even worse than any you’d ever experienced. And that is one thing I can give THE LAUGHING DEAD, and one thing that makes me sad. I think I might have truly found the worst of the worst, and it’s going to be a long haul trying to top this one. And, in a sick, masochistic way, I look forward to the challenge.
© Copyright 2013 by Jenny Orosel