Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Grave Mistake

Graveyard of Horror
Dir. Michael Skaife

To call Gaveyard of Horror (aka The Butcher of Binbrook) a traditional zombie flick would be a stretch beyond Gumby’s famed elasticity. While there’s certainly a genetically mutated, vaguely undeady … thing… at the center of Michael Skaife’s 1971 exercise in failure, Graveyard of Horror is actually structured more like Italy’s giallo films of the 1970s with the mystery of the monsterized thing at its center.
Which basically means any discussion of its zombie qualities is going to be inherently spoilerish (but they put the goddamned monster on the cover), so forewarned is forearmed and all that. Not that I’d ever recommend you inflict this maundering hash of a film on yourself, anyway.
Michael Sherrington is just your average harmonica playing douche who was so wrapped up in his business that he happened to be out of town when his wife and baby died during childbirth. Hell, the family had enough time to bury the poor lady (the kid never seems to get mentioned) and for the grave to smooth over before Mike comes gallivanting back into town to dispute the official version of his wife’s death. Not that the film ever really gives us a satisfactory reason for his doubt other than the necessity of the plot – or why he digs her *gasp* empty grave up while wearing Jim Morrison’s leather pants.
So the film zig-zags through time with several flashbacks as Michael goes about town grilling the assorted bizarre locals with grating, horrible harp flourishes drowning out every supposedly shocking revelation he learns. Oh yeah, his brother, Robert, the local lord, has also gone missing. Michael doesn’t seem all that worried – and neither does his family – since it doesn’t even come up until halfway through the film. Turns out Robert is some local science muckety-muck who’s been performing experiments on himself, which leads us to…

Zombology: The mysterious throbbing patch of dirt in the local cemetery that be-masked locals have been feeding with IV bottles. As I’m sure you’ve figured out just reading this, Robert had been performing experiments on himself as part of his research into the transmutation of human cells. Seems Robert thought it would be a bright idea to turn himself into a zombified-crocodile-Frankenstein-monster thing that has to be kept buried and fed via tube or he breaks out and goes on a flesh eating rampage because his new existence involves “transitory moments of savage behavior requiring human flesh.” And that’s what passes for an explanation in this painful exercise in shock-free tedium.

It says a lot about a film when the best thing you can say about it is it sets up a protagonist and then pulls a To Live and Die in L.A. and seemingly bumps him off halfway through, shifting perspective to the locals as they begin to slowly mill about asking questions about the supposed body count (all off screen). But even that sort of cinematic legerdemain cannot rescue this zombie farce. And for that it earns a 77 percent on the Hell of the Living Dead scale of shitty filmmaking.

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