Ahhh, the joys of public domain...
22 October 2009
Warning: 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.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.

Recently Viewed