It was a late winter night for us in the cinematorium. Zimba stretched out on the Empire scroll sofa, already snoring away, while I prepared drinks for myself and Zombos.
“Make mine a double-espresso with lots of foam,” said Zombos. He stretched out his long legs and slumped in the Chesterfield club chair. “And don’t forget the popcorn.”
I loaded up the big ceramic skull o’popcorn and brought the drinks over.
I prefer to sit in the traditional theater seats that take up the first half of the cinematorium, Zombos’ home theater that’s almost as large as a real one. He rescued them from the Manhattan 44th Street theater just before its demolition in 1945 to make room for the New York Times newspaper headquarters expansion. I dimmed the lights, took a sip from my frothy mocha cappuccino, and started the film.
Our film this evening, The Boneyard, is a macabre but uneven mix from director and writer James Cummins. While there are watchable elements, the drawn-out scenes, comical monster puppets, and lackluster acting by the main character get in the way of any good scares. The idea is good: a burned-out and overweight psychic investigator, Alley (Deborah Rose), takes on child-ghouls that also eat too much. But by the time we get to the demonized, gigantic Miss Poopenplatz (Phyllis Diller) and demon-poofle puppets, it all becomes ludicrous.
It starts with a drawn-out scene when detectives, played by veteran Ed Nelson and James Eusterman (Spaced Invaders), enter the world-weary–and messy–psychic’s house. They need her help to solve a baffling case involving a mortician and what appear to be three dead children he’s been hiding. They draw their guns dramatically when she doesn’t answer, but why do that? She finally turns up after an endless search of the house we’re forced to follow.
When they fail to get her help they leave. Later that night she has a disturbing vision involving a putrescent little girl with lots of long, stringy blond hair, who wants very much to hug and thank her for her help in a previous case. This promising scene has nothing to do with the story, but it does cause Alley to change her mind about helping the detectives. Deborah Rose’s lifeless acting is flatline throughout.
At the police station, Alley and the detectives listen to the interrogation of the mortician. He explains how his family has, for three centuries, kept the three child-sized ghouls–he calls them Kyonshi–from devouring living people by feeding them body parts garnered from the funeral home’s cadavers. Kyonshi, or hopping vampires, are not flesh-eating ghouls, however, so the use of the term here may be a stretch.
Next, it’s off to the soon-to-be-closed coroner’s building where the story kicks into low gear, but not before we are subjected to a confusing flashback experienced by Alley, along with an interminable dialog between the two detectives standing in a hallway. We also meet Miss Poopinplatz. She manages the front desk along with her annoying poodle.
Alley has a vision of the three little ghouls awakening downstairs in the morgue with tasty attendants (including Norman Fell) in the next room. Little tension is generated as boy-this-weight-does-slow-me-down Alley clumsily makes her way downstairs to warn the lab attendants of their impending Happy Meal status.
When she finally does reach the morgue, dead bodies are strewn everywhere. Gobs of blood splatter the floor and the little hellions are still chewing away–especially one who gustily attacks an exposed rib-cage. This is the one good gore scene in the movie.
Bodies hang limply from shelves, carried there by the three child-ghouls. Sitting atop a battery operated forklift, the medium-sized ghoul feasts on a pathologist while another rips apart another body. The smallest ghoul has dragged the bloody corpse of a Pathologist to the fifth level of shelves. It eats an ear off and then snacks on a finger. The creature makes a happy purring sound as it chews. Its gaping mouth continues to rip a chunk from a pathologist’s side.
All this explicit gruesomeness is a sudden and unexpected jolt in an otherwise static movie. Mayhem ensues as survivors try to escape. They trap and kill one ghoul, but he manages to stuff part of his skin–I know, it’s disgusting to watch– down Poopinplatz’s throat, turning her into a very tall and pop-eyed puppet monster that desperately needed more money and a better designer to be convincing. The comical nature of the puppet derails the momentum established by the morgue scene.
Poopinplatz’s dog, Floosoms, licks up bubbling yellow ichor oozing from one expired ghoul and quickly turns into a man-in-a-suit demon-Floosoms. A horrified girl rescued from the morgue laughs when she sees the comical poodle monster. The action is stopped cold, again, for another long and bewildering dialog as Cummins gives us the ENTIRE background story on the girl who survives the morgue attack. The action picks up again with an Alley and demon-Floosoms confrontation.
If Cummins used a lot less dialog, and Deborah Rose weighed a lot less, and the three child-ghouls were given more screen time, The Boneyard could have been a scarier treat even with Phyllis Diller. Take a look, fast forward a lot, and you’ll be fine: the morgue smorgasbord scene is worth a look.
This article originally appeared at Zombos’ Closet of Horrors.
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