Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Boneyard (USA, 1991)

Some trailers make you want to avoid a film like the plague, some tell you absolutely nothing about the film, some act as a condensed version and tell you everything that happens and some simply whet your appetite for a film. The trailer to The Boneyard, which you can view below (or here, if the embedded YouTube version doesn't work), more or less falls into the latter two categories—providing, of course, you are partial to trash films. It very much makes you want to see the film, but once you have seen the film you realize that (almost) everything worth seeing was already shown in the trailer. OK, perhaps the trailer is with a lot less gore than the film (if you see the uncut version), but it's also without the occasionally tedious exposition and the numerous spots that drag.

The Boneyard is the first directorial effort of James Thomas Cummins, (his myspace site) who also wrote the script. Prior to the film, he had honed his talents primarily working on the special effects of films as diverse as (to list only the "good" ones) The Exterminator (1980/trailer), Dead & Buried (1981/trailer), The Thing (1982/trailer), Strange Invaders (1983/Siskel & Ebert review), Enemy Mine (1985/trailer), DeepStar Six (1989/trailer), Slumber Party Massacre II (1987/trailer). Needless to say, if nothing else The Boneyard does impress with its special effects, which span the broad spectrum of (assumedly intentional and laughably) lousy to truly effective.
Actually, this schizophrenia in regard to the special effects is endemic to the whole film, be it the script, acting or direction. (This explains, perhaps, why [according to imbd] the original VHS rental came with two boxes, one promoting the film as horror, and the other as a comedy.) Nonetheless it is safe to assume the film was meant to be a horror comedy (after all, it features both Phyllis Diller and Norman Fell in the cast), and as such it very much falls into the range of films where you can't help but wonder “What the fuck!?!”
The exclamation, of course, can have two different meanings—good or bad—and in The Boneyard, both meanings come to play: In a good way whenever the monsters come around—particularly the fabulously cheesy killer poodle—but in a bad way for almost everything else. And that includes the interminable scenes leading up to the arrival of the (initial 3) leads at the city morgue, which go on forever and are neither funny nor well made. The whole first half-hour of the film and the setup used to bring in the fourth sympathy figure (a failed suicide) are narrative accidents that scream “Re-write needed! Re-write needed!” Regrettably, no one was listening, but nonetheless The Boneyard is not a total loss. It has some good one-liners and off-the-wall situations as well as gore, slime, zombie kids, tacky monsters and a great scene of a fat-assed character getting stuck in a trapdoor while trying to escape.
The plot involves two detectives, Jersey Callum (Ed Nelson) and Gordon Mullen (James Eustermann) calling upon the psychic Alley Cates (a terrifyingly overweight Deborah Rose) asking for her help in finding out the identity of three rotting kiddy corpses down at the morgue. She is reluctant, but after having a vision of one of the dead kids she found in the past during which the rotting little girl seems to be thanking her, she decides to help. (One thing for sure, when it comes to the dead kids in this film, they really look horrific.) At the morgue, there is a long unfunny interchange with the night attendant Miss Poopinplatz (a wigless Phyllis Diller) and her poodle, and the introduction of a variety a would-be zombie fodder—including Dana (Denise Young), the unsuccessful suicide and Shepard (Norman Fell), the coroner that survives the longest—before the shit hits the fan. The three little corpses aren’t dead: They're man-eating zombies (leftover from some Chinese ritual performed three decades earlier) taking a nap. The numbers of those locked below dwindle as one possible means of escape after the other doesn't pan out. Worse, when the goo of an undead tyke is eaten, the given consumer mutates into a cheesy, kill-happy monster…
The Boneyard is a bloody and truly wacky flick that could have been a lot better than it is but that, when watched as a social event amongst bad movie fans, can instigate loud guffaws and popcorn throwing. Beer and drugs will help support the viewer’s pleasure, though.

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