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Carl the Gardner (Joe Dallesandro), grows odd plants for a rich Yankee woman Ellen Bennett (Katharine Houghton) living in South America while exercising a mental hold over her. All his previous employers died mysteriously. Some of his plants emit deadly fumes. Houghton previously starred with her aunt Katharine Hepburn in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." Written by
Weightless hippie-horror pipedream, mostly just seeds and shake.
Warhol entourage beefcake Joe Dallessandro portrays Karl, a gardener in the employment of a wealthy but neglected housewife(Katharine Houghton, miles downstream from her earlier success in GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER). His command of the botanical arts is impressive, but his references are tough to check considering most of his previous employers have died. Suspiciously.
Houghton's garden is soon the envy of her upper-crust clique, and her reserved and perpetually bare-chested gardener becomes the object of much lustful flutter among her female friends. The rest of the household staff(natives to the South American environs where this is set and filmed) are less enthusiastic about Karl's presence, and they warn their housemistress of his evil wizardry. Shrugging off this superstitious cautioning, she becomes increasingly drawn to Karl...but when people around her begin to die mysteriously, she comes to suspect a tenebrous connection to the flora cultivated by her brooding and sexually Svengali-like greenskeeper. The bizarre eventuality of this mystery is the manifestation of Karl's true nature. It seems he is...quite literally...a tree.
While THE GARDENER is a semi-creditable example of an under-the-radar horror film ethos, it's not likely to have strong appeal to the mainstream viewing integer. Sluggishly paced and lacking 'comme il faut' shocks and bloodshed, it does otherwise manage to build an obfuscous atmosphere of weblike mystique.
A mellow horror high for some, probably a harsh toke for others...5/10
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