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Garden of the Dead

Garden of the Dead (1972) Movie Poster
  •  USA  •    •  59m  •    •  Directed by: John Hayes.  •  Starring: Philip Kenneally, Duncan McLeod, John Dullaghan, John Dennis, Susan Charney, Marland Proctor, Tony Vorno, Jerome Guardino, Lee Frost, James Lemp, Virgil Frye, Phil Hoover, Carmen Filpi.  •  Music by: Jaime Mendoza-Nava.
        Convicts on a chain gang sniff experimental formaldehyde fumes to get high. They attempt a prison break, are shot down by the guards and buried in the prison garden. Soon, they rise from the dead, using shovels and hoes to kill all who get in their way on their quest to get high once more.


Image from: Garden of the Dead (1972)
Image from: Garden of the Dead (1972)
Image from: Garden of the Dead (1972)
Image from: Garden of the Dead (1972)
Image from: Garden of the Dead (1972)
Image from: Garden of the Dead (1972)
Image from: Garden of the Dead (1972)
Before Troma went too berserk with the likes of Rabid Grannies and The Toxic Avenger, they produced okay flicks like this one. Granted, it's not a masterpiece but the story is sound and the filming is above average.

Out in the sticks at Camp Hoover, the warden has discovered a method to make a cheap buck. He has the convicts manufacturing formaldehyde, which he sells onto the morgues in the area. Life is hard at the correctional facility and a few prisoners have found a slight release from their tribulations. They sniff the formaldehyde to get a buzz to survive the days. This group also come up with an escape plan which works well. However, they didn't reckon on the tracking skills of their captors. They quickly find them. Since none want to return to Camp Hoover, they fight. All the escapees are subsequently shot and killed. The warden parades the dead men in front of the prisoners. Six of which are chained since they knew of the escape plan and informed no one. He throws the dead into a mass unmarked grave. But it isn't too long before the rotting hands break through the loose earth... and the dead walk in search of formaldehyde.

I accept that the creation of the zombies is a tad flimsy, formaldehyde - come on! But in these days of over-zombification, it's not the worse origination I've seen. And in truth, the writers, Daniel Cady and Jack Matcha push this element to its zenith. I particularly liked that the zombie's driving imperative was the formaldehyde. They no longer sniffed the stuff. No, now they're dead they need to bathe in it and have it enter their bodies through the skin. It's a nice touch for the mixture to drive them insane. These Z's keep their speed and strength so you wouldn't want to fight them at close range.

I love Cady and Matcha's undead. I have never liked the shambling and brain-dead Z's we're normally given. Walk up to them and stick a knife in their head - which would only result in an apocalypse for the unsteady undead.

John Hayes does an okay job with the direction. It's nothing too special, but it works. He gives the viewers a few interesting shots where he follows prisoners around. He tries his best to compose the scenes. The best being when the two inmate fractions meet in a storehouse. Hayes has the lighting perfect, and he places the escaping inmates to the left of the screen and the ones against their plan to the right. I liked that he elevates this shot a little, placing the audience's viewpoint above the prisoners. Adding further interest and uneasy tension to the atmosphere.

However, most of the time he tries to be interesting and inventive. Sadly, this creativity usually falls short. One scene shows a prisoner's girlfriend comes to visit him at the camp. Hayes pauses the shot of her standing centre stage too long before having her step forward to the fence. I know this scene is trying to create an atmosphere of loss and wanting. But the lengthy pause spoiled the segment. Several scenes are similar to this. Had Hayes tightened and improved these a smidgen, the movie would be much stronger.

A further bonus of the movie is the zombies' cosmetics. These undead look undead. Their skin has a greying blueish tinge and inky shadows represent their sloughed skin. These are some good-looking Z's. Respect to the make-up department.

Unfortunately, the acting hinders the movie most. However, there is a plus, the actors and actresses are equally skilled. For the majority of the story, the cast is agreeable in their portrayals. However, all the cast treat the audience to moments of woodiness. Though I'm not entirely sure you can blame them. The story's driven by its concept and not by its characters. Cady and Matcha aren't too brilliant at character creation. Even Hayes could be at fault in this matter. Maybe he didn't give them enough incentive and motives.

This film lands firmly in the average B-Movie slot. Though the film offers some good elements, the rest of the movie negates the potency they add.

That said, this is still a wonderful film to waste an hour and a half if you're a horror and zombie fan. Since I found the film an enjoyable romp, I'll watch "Garden" again and soon. It's not the best Z-Movie, but it's worth a peek.

Ratings: Story 1.25 : Direction 1.25 : Pace 1 : Acting 1 : Enjoyment 1.25 Total 5.75 out of 10

So get your formaldehyde on and come visit my Absolute Horror list to mark where these Z's rampaged in my charts.

Review by stephenabell from the Internet Movie Database.


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