Though Halloween is gone, the terror lingers on. Brew of the Dead II: Oktoberflesh is a feature length homage to “horror” (notice the scare quotes) that will literally make your skin crawl.
As you might guess from the title, this is the second installment of the wildly obscure Brew of the Dead franchise. The first installment, which premiered in 2008, put a plucky team of apocalypse survivors in a brewery to answer the immortal (not to say “undead”) riddle, “where’s the end-of-the-world party?” and its corollary, “how can I get invited?” In the latest installment of wacky “what if,” the party horizons have broadened to pose a new, if equally immortal, riddle: “can the dead get high?”
OK, that’s not actually the riddle. None of the zombies in the play ever get high like a cat someone snuck into the all-male freshman dorm so they could blow marijuana smoke in its ears and watch it do the crazy dance. It’s true, the one and only on-stage zombie is treated like a naughty kitty in that it gets the spray bottle when it gets out of line. But in the final analysis, it is the humans’ inability to stay sober that enables the comedy machine to rattle along for two hours. I’m not giving anything away when I say tripping balls on liquid acid is a bad way to prepare for the end of the world.
While I’m at it, let me point out the corpse in the room. There is no genre more ripe for parody than horror. From Jason X to Human Centipede to Rob Zombie’s remake of Halloween, horror has proven that the more it tries to scare, the more potentially ridiculous it is. Take Slipknot – please! And because the parodies (Evil Dead, Army of Darkness, Shaun of the Dead) are so awesome, there had to come a time when folks would make parodies of the parodies. That supremely post-ironic moment has arrived in the Brew of the Dead franchise. The plot is unimportant – you know they’ll all get picked off one by one. And the possibility of being actually scared or even grossed out is negligible. So what’s left? Rapid-fire, Vaudeville-esque dialogue replete with puns and dense with obscure cultural references, characters so typical they transcend caricature, and some decent zombie makeup.
Is that enough? It’s good for a laugh. In the place of plot you get situations: the survivors in a bowling alley; the survivors organize a humans-only music festival; the survivors are social networking junkies because the global tech infrastructure somehow escaped the apocalypse. In the place of believable characters — which you shouldn’t have expected in the first place — you get a cheerleader, a slut, a geek, and a stoner who has been in a drug induced daze since the mid-80s. I got the feeling that there was an important 30 minutes missing from the middle because one actor plays two different characters in Act I and Act II, and the rationale for the change is far from clear. But maybe that stuff is being saved for the movie version.
Brew of the Dead II: Oktoberflesh
Under St. Mark’s Theater
Now until November 19th