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A group of convicts in a corruptly administered work camp get a cheap
high by huffing from a tin drum of formaldehyde. They are later killed
during an escape attempt, only to rise from their graves and set about
doing all the terrible things we've come to expect of zombies.
This is a fairly starch example of skinflint 70s horror, although it does deserve the small-beans honor of being, most likely, the first film to represent zombies as cognitive and dexterous in speech and movement(as opposed to the fish-eyed, lumbering customary type). It would stand to reason that these enhanced capacities should result in more formidable and frightening zombies...unfortunately, they come off as awkward and occasionally laughable.
A slight film of no real importance, GARDEN OF THE DEAD is, at best, sufficient fodder for independent TV station "Tweaking Til Dawn" type shows. Meh.
This is a fun "movie" - I usually don't consider anything below an hour
in length as a movie, but for this I'll make an exception. Several
things make "Garden" worthy as a quick late-nite rental. First, the
movie gets into the zombie action as soon as possible, establishing the
situation quickly as though it can't wait for the dead to rise and
attack. "Garden of the Dead" is also creepy. Most of the movie takes
place at night, and the zombies stepping through the eerie fog, as well
as the surrounded-by-zombies, cut-off-from-help situation of the people
in the prison all add up to a healthy feeling of fright. My favorite
scene was the woman trapped in the motorhome while the horde of zombies
stands motionless around the front windows, just staring at her.
"Garden" is incredibly low budget. The prison appears to have all the soundness of construction of a house of cards. Most of the effects consist of fog and the zombies' green, though grotesque-looking, makeup. The zombies also try to demonstrate some sort of superhuman abilities by jumping out of the darkness at top speeds and attacking people before disappearing back into the night. An entertaining flic for B-horror fans. 7/10
I saw this film back when local authorities decided it was too sick for a "GP" rating, and clung to the old "M" (Mature Audience) rating, along with its double-feature at that time, "Grave of the Vampire." It hit my hometown of Little Rock with a major splash, complete with ghouls wandering the theatre lobby and plenty of local promo. Had to sneak in to see it. The movie is about prisoners held in some godforsaken backwoods labor camp who huff the fumes of formaldehyde all night to 'get off.' Suffice it to say, they don't stay dead after that (they seem to meet with unfortunate accidents alot). Lots of wandering dead guys in fog, dark shots with creepy underlit green faces. Low budget but great B-movie horror thrills.
An escaped chain gang get hooked on a strange brand of
formaldehyde-only to be shot dead. This formaldehyde has a strange
effect though, as they come back as ticked off zombies.
"Garden of the Dead" is a movie obviously influenced by the far superior "Night of the Living Dead", though it's still a watchable slice of 70's horror/exploitation cheese. Sure, the music doesn't fit, the movie's premise, while not as dumb as say, "The Corpse Grinders", is still incredibly stupid, people do dumb things, and it's poorly acted.
That out of the way, nobody is watching a movie like "Garden of the Dead" for high artistic aspirations. They are watching it because it's laughably bad, but not unwatchable, and oddly enduring in it's own stupid way. Besides, they don't make movies like this anymore, and it kind of makes one wish they did.
That's all in all why I can't rate this movie. On one hand, it's incompetent and dumb on all levels. On the other hand, you can't help but love the stupidity on display. That's why it defies a proper rating in my opinion.
When I come home late from work and I had a rough day, I don't want to go to bed right away, but I don't want to start a 2h00 complicated movie either...So, this one is a very good option! About an hour long, dumb characters, scary ambiance music as well as jazzy, old Spider-Man-cartoon-feel music, the french dubbed version I have is totally hilarious! It goes down very easily with a few beers, there's just a good cheap feel to it. The prisoner I like the best is the one small bald guy with the big eyes, over-acting all the way through! Not that the other actors are better, but this guy does it like it was his last shot to make it big and be discovered! See it if you're a zombie-maniac-low-budget like me.
The convicts at a prison work camp conspire to escape, and escape they
do. But they don't make it very far, and the camp officials pump them
full of lead. But soon the convicts rise from the dead to terrorize
This very low budget horror opus may be worth a look for the most devoted aficionados of the genre. It may not exactly be high quality stuff, but it's fairly good entertainment. Director John Hayes ("Dream No Evil", "Grave of the Vampire") gives it some solid atmosphere. This is one of those instances where the minimal funding actually works in the movies' favour. It therefore has that irresistible "late show" feeling that always appeals to this particular viewer.
The zombies here do manage to be somewhat unique. They plan, they talk (one thing that they like to say is "We will destroy the living!"), they wield weapons, and they plod around. They're also not that hard to take down. Joe Blasco, who graced a couple of horror and exploitation titles (among them Cronenbergs' "Shivers", "Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS", and "Johnny Firecloud") with his work, supplies the pretty good zombie makeup. While there is some violence throughout this thing, however, there really isn't any gore to speak of.
Dedicated cult cinema lovers are going to recognize a couple of the faces here. Corpulent John Dennis ("Conquest of the Planet of the Apes") is a prison guard, Marland Proctor ("Chrome and Hot Leather") is studly convict Paul Johnson, Jerome Guardino ("Crash!") is a gravedigger, legendary exploitation director Lee Frost ("The Defilers") is McGee, Eric Stern ("The Love Butcher"), is Coler, Virgil Frye ("Revenge of the Ninja") plays zombie leader Bradock, Phil Hoover ("Race with the Devil") is Donovan, and Carmen Filpi ("Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers") is cast as Nolan. Sexy Susan Charney supplies the eye candy as Johnsons' wife Carol.
Whether or not one derives any entertainment from this, they can hardly fail to notice how short it is: a runs a scant 59 minutes long.
Six out of 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'd never heard of "Garden of the Dead" till I picked up a DVD at the
dollar store which included it as a double feature with 1983's
"Frightmare." I didn't think "Frightmare" was that great, but it looked
a lot better after I sat through "Garden of the Dead." At least "Garden
of the Dead's" running time was mercifully short (just over an hour!)
so my suffering was minimal.
This micro-budget early 70s zombie cheese fest takes place almost entirely inside a prison compound (whose fence appears to be constructed of plywood, 2x4's and chicken wire), where the evil Warden apparently has a side business manufacturing formaldehyde (?). Inmates are shown loading large barrels of it onto trucks at the beginning of the film, and later on are shown sniffing the formaldehyde fumes in order to get high (!) when nobody's looking. This formaldehyde must be some pretty powerful stuff, because when a half dozen of the fume-huffing inmates end up getting killed during an escape attempt, they've barely even been buried in shallow graves by the prison authorities before they're popping back up again as Undead Looking For Revenge. These are not your average slow moving Romero zombies either, they're athletic, can talk (though their dialogue is limited to "Reeeeeevenge on the liiiii-ving!" and "We want the girl! Send her ouuuuuuut!") and use shovels, pickaxes and other tools to murder their victims. I wondered at first why the film was called "Garden of the Dead" and not "Prison of the Dead," but I guess the zombies' use of gardening implements justifies the title.
Anyway, once our monsters arrive on the scene, the remaining running time is then padded out by scenes of prison guards stumbling around firing their shotguns into the darkness before getting hacked (bloodlessly) to death, until a small group of survivors holes up inside the prison office. The zombies demand that they send out "the girl" (the hot girlfriend of one of the surviving inmates, who's hiding out inside), the guards throw open the door, blast the zombies all to hell with their shotguns, the end. Seriously. It's that abrupt. (Door opens) BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM! (Zombies all die, Girl cries, prison guard pokes one of the unmoving zombies with his gun, THE END title card pops up). I bet anyone who paid to see this thing in a drive in back in 1974 asked for their money back. Hell, I only paid a buck and *I* wanted my money back.
The lone point in "Garden of the Dead's" favor (aside from the hot girl, whom we don't see nearly enough of) is its zombie makeup, which is pretty well done. Other than that, it isn't scary, isn't gory, and isn't even silly enough to be considered "so bad it's good." I would only recommend this title to obsessive compulsives who have to see absolutely every movie with zombies in it. Everyone else can find better things to spend their dollar on.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
GARDEN OF THE DEAD is a nice little zombie picture that clocks in at
just under an hour in length. The story is heavily indebted to Romero's
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, of course, but that doesn't stop it being a
fun film with all of the right ingredients: effective zombie makeup, a
creepy atmosphere, and an interesting story.
This one's about chain-gang prisoners who are addicted to drug taking. When they get killed during a riot, their addiction sees them returning from the dead to wreak vengeance on the guards. It's an interesting enough plot; a bit like COOL HAND Luke with added undead, if you like. John Hayes worked for over twenty years as an exploitation director and along with GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE this is one of his most memorable efforts. GARDEN OF THE DEAD is at least as good as CHILDREN SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS, and probably a bit better.
Convicts on a chain gang sniff experimental formaldehyde fumes to get
high. They attempt a prison break and are shot down by the guards.
Buried in the prison garden, they rise from the dead, killing all in
their path with shovels and hoes who get in their way for their quest
to get high once more off the formaldehyde.
Kinda funny premise, no? Starts off pretty good actually. Hayes, made a bunch of offbeat exploitation films but was also nominated for an academy award one time!
They used dry ice for the formaldehyde and of course nobody notices the prisoners sniffing it, and I guess we're not supposed to see the prisoner who laffs when the smoke goes in his face. Must be a minimum security prison cuz the place is surrounded by a wooden-wire fence that would easily be compromised. But escape they do anyway.
My big criticism is this -- it takes half the movie for the zombies to emerge. And let's not forget this movie is less than an hour long! When we see them they have joker like makeup and you can see their chest flesh where the make up ends!
But there IS something about this movie that is different and enjoyable. In a super low budget kind of way. Interesting statement on addiction, anyway.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Wow. I never thought I would see a drug addicted zombie movie with a
snappy 1950's jazz score! LOL That damn jazzy score just ruined for me.
only towards the end did it become a more creepy like score but by then
it was too late.
The fact that the convicts on a chain gang sniff experimental formaldehyde fumes to get high and that in turn, turns them into raccoon-looking zombies is hilarious.
The dialog is funny. One zombie says ,"We must destroy the living, and get back to our liquid soon."
I did not recognized any actor in this fiasco. For some I believe it was their one and only screen appearance!
And to top it off, the version i saw was only 57mins! And even at that length, it was too long!
This 'Garden' should definable be left alone and left to dry and die!
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