Graveyard Alive

Reviewed By Scott Weinberg
Posted 01/26/04 20:08:17

"Just your average soap opera/comedy/romantic tragedy/zombie flick."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

A beautifully black-and-white, low-budget indie that's equal parts spoof, satire, homage, horror and soap opera, "Graveyard Alive" is a testament to what a filmmaker can accomplish armed with only a few workmanlike young actors, a singularly silly vision, and a few maxed-out credit cards.

Elza Kephart's Graveyard Alive: A Zombie Nurse in Love is a loving concoction, a gothic and overtly theatrical little genre-stew that showcases some real affection for its source materials, a solid dose of laughs along the way, and a trio of performers who are well aware of the 'type' of movie they're making...and go about it quite winningly.

It's a sad and tragic tale of one Patsy Powers, a nerdly and unkempt young nurse - one who is, of course, the source of much disdain and ridicule among the other (prettier & blonder) nurses. But when one unfortunate woodsman (sporting an axe in the forehead and infected with something quite nasty indeed) checks into Patsy's hospital, our ugly-duckling heroine is transformed from pasty-faced troll to undead zombie hottie.

Now Patsy roams the hospital hallways with a swivel in her hip and sex appeal to spare. Doctors swoon, nurses sneer, the weird-ball janitor seems to have some clue about the zombifications that are plainly afoot...and what keeps happening to all those dead bodies down in the morgue? (Keep in mind what it is that zombies actually eat and you're on the right track.) And, most importantly, the previously disinterested Dr. Dox begins sniffin' in Patsy's direction...much to the chagrin of his luscious (yet irritatingly chaste) fiancee Goodie Tueschuze.

Kephart's 'zombies' are not the mindlessly chomping automatons you'd find in George Romero's classic flicks; these are more of the teenybopper-style 'socially integrated' zombies that are able to cover up the necro-chomping activities...for a little while, anyway. And just a few coats of makeup can cover up those oozing sores. Any zombie nurse worth her stripes knows that!

Graveyard Alive boasts a rather over-articulated and theatrical tone (not something chanced at accidentally, I'm sure) that gives the affair a "silent movie" feel. The dialogue (which comes in small doses) is overdubbed in a campy (but not overtly silly) style; the performers swagger their chins and cock their brows as if they've just fallen out of a William Castle movie.

The flick's a silly and wholly enjoyable romp for movie buffs, one that steals inspiration from old-school horror turkeys and 70's-era soap opera fare alike; it's broad and clever and the humor is consistently on-key; there's a sweet little role-reversal of the normally-accepted subtext (in that the undead slutty girl can be the heroine while the demure dimbulb blondie can be the evil wench); and, most importantly (in my book, anyway) the flick represents a filmmaker who was raised on the finest Horror Cheese imaginable and has grown up to make some of her very own.

Plus let's give it up for one great move; producing this movie in B & W was probably much less expensive, and yet it serves two alternative purposes as well: B & W simply FITS this kind of satiric homage, plus Graveyard Alive is simply a beautiful film to look at. Kephart clearly knows where she wants her camera to go, and she delivers a film-noir mini-retrospective that should keep the movie buffs mumbling quite contentedly.

It's cheaply-made and it sure ain't flashy, but "Graveyard Alive" succeeds through its goofily endearing humor, a visual sense inspired by the camp classics of old, and the raw talent of a gifted new filmmaker. Just because it won't play the multiplexes doesn't mean you shouldn't see it. Eventually, anyway.

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