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Graveyard Alive

Reviewed By Brian McKay
Posted 02/15/04 07:15:53

"Nice try . . . but not quite"
3 stars (Average)

It was with some anticipation that I put the tape of GRAVEYARD ALIVE into my VCR. My hopes were relatively high - the title alone denotes sheer campy fun, after all. Could we have another zombie parody like the classic (and annoyingly hard to find) CEMETERY MAN on our hands?

But alas, it was not to be. Although the film has some things going for it, and provides an infrequent slew of chuckles, it ended up feeling a lot longer than its eighty minute running time due to a plodding pace and some fairly stilted performances. I really wanted to get into this film (so much so that I watched it twice), but in the end I was simply bored.

It's too bad, because among the film's strong points are excellent use of black and white cinematography that give the film that drive-in Romeroesque "Night of the Living Dead" quality. There are some really eye-grabbing shots, and a few moments that are wonderfully moody and creepy. It made me wish that director Elza Kephart had gone the other way and made a "serious" zombie flick.

The tale of Graveyard Alive centers around nurse Patsy Powers (Anne Day Jones), a rather homely and unpopular woman who is picked on by the pretty, airheaded nurses - chiefly nurse Goodie Teushueze (Samanth Slan). As it stands, Goodie is recently enganged to the hunky Dr. Dox (Karl Gerhardt), who used to be Patsy's boyfriend back in high school before he outgrew his adolescent nerdiness.

But when a particularly nasty looking patient comes into the hospital with an axe stuck in his head, Patsy soon finds out the hard way that there's zombie trouble afoot when the patient bites her. Soon she begins looking more and more cadaverous, with a hunger for human flesh. The only way to reverse the visible decomposition is by feeding on fresh man meat regularly. But being undead has one positive side effect - it turns Patsy from homely into hottie. Suddenly she's quite popular among the male staff, and all the nurses hate her even more - especially Goody, who is in danger of losing her man to the zombie in heat, and who will stop at nothing to expose the truth about Patsy.

Now, I know this sounds like a fun little romp - and at times, it is. But sadly, the campy vibe wears thin quickly, and things that were amusing at first just become laborious (like the intentionally bad dubbing). The performances are rather lifeless (no pun intended) - granted, most of these characters already are or will soon become zombies, but that doesn't change the fact that I just couldn't bring myself to give a damn about any of them. Even in an obvious comedy/parody such as this, the characters have to have enough meat on their bones (another non-intentional pun) to elicit an emotional investment in the outcome of their fate. But by the time it reached the final scene, my reaction ranged from an initial "What, that's it?" to a resigned "Well, at least that's over."

It's sad to see that the potential of GRAVEYARD ALIVE never quite comes to fruition. It's a nice attempt at an amusing homage to the zombie classics of yore, but one that is too uneven to merit the same cult status of the films that inspired it.

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