Homicide detective Jersey (Ed Nelson) ventures out with his nice-but-dim rookie partner Gordon (James Eustermann) to North Carolina, where he pays a visit to a dilapidated house owned by retired psychic Alley (Deborah Rose).
As Jersey and Gordon make their way into Alley's home and tour each messy room, they eventually happen upon the psychic in a state of slumber. It soon becomes apparent that she's turned her back on her gift, thanks to unpleasant experiences she's had while assisting the police with their enquiries in the past. Even so, Jersey hopes to entice her back into one last job by leaving her with the records of a particularly gruesome case: a mortician kept people alive in the cellar of a disused coroner's office by feeding them on pieces of the cadavers he was preparing for burial. After his arrest, the mortician has since claimed that a couple of his "ghouls" are still alive in said cellar ...
After mulling through the records later that evening and suffering a nightmare which hints to a tragedy from Alley's own tragic past, she decides the following morning to call in to the cop shop and offer her help. She's promptly sat before a video recording of the police interview with mortician Chen (Robert Yun Ju Ahn), explaining that an occult curse has been contained in the coroner's office.
Hmm. Perhaps Jersey, Gordon and Alley should take a trip out to the coroner's office and see for themselves ... no?
Off they proceed, then, to the coroner's office. They arrive at night, of course, and are swiftly introduced to offbeat receptionist Miss Poopinplatz (Phyllis Diller). She permits our intrepid trio access into the building and guides them to a viewing room where they can watch mortician Shepard (Norman Fell) at work via a video monitor. He reveals three child corpses to our investigators; Alley asks if he can provide a lock of hair from each kid in a bid to ascertain what happened down there. He duly obliges, of course.
And then it's time to venture down into the "boneyard" itself, to investigate further. What could possibly go wrong? One word: zombies!
THE BONEYARD is a curious low-budget genre offering from the early 1990s, a period when horror cinema was struggling to find an identity for itself following the gory excesses of the 1980s and the more stringent censorship laws which ensued.
Here, director James Cummins overcomes budgetary restraints for the most part by opting for stylish cinematography and an atmospheric, economic location in an old hospital. He's also got a decent cast at his beck and call, even if each actor does seem to be eking out their lines in the hope of additional screen time.
This latter point does tend to slow proceedings down, which doesn't help matters much when it's a good 40 minutes or so anyway before we get any proper undead action. Still, the cast and script are amiable enough - the balance of humour and horror is sometimes awkward but hey-ho - to make this a pleasurable viewing experience regardless.
The film score extra points for canny zombie FX work and the novel inclusion of a huge mutated undead poodle going on the rampage during its final act.
88 Films bring 1991 cult horror THE BONEYARD to UK blu-ray in its uncut form (93 minutes and 16 seconds). The film is presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio and in 1080p HD, as a healthy MPEG4-AVC file. Although a tad soft, the picture quality is very good indeed: colours are true, blacks are free from crushing, grain is fine and natural. For a dark film, the clarity and control over imagery is extremely well-handled.
English audio is provided in uncompressed LPCM stereo. It's a reliable, problem-free proposition. Optional English subtitles are well-written and easy to read at all times.
The disc opens to a static main menu page. Although there is no scene selection option, you can navigate through the film by way of 8 chapters.
Extras are plentiful.
Cummins and producer Richard Brophy are on hand to provide an engrossing audio commentary track. Despite the occasional pregnant pause where the pair appears to be getting involved in what's transpiring on screen, this is a mostly fluent affair riddled with insight while never being stuffy. We learn how the score - a "highlight" of the film for the director - came to be; how Clu Gulager was originally signed to play Jersey but had to pull out due to health complications; how Alice Cooper was the filmmakers' first choice to play Shepard; how Nelson was full of anecdotes and energy on the shoot; fallings out on set are discussed in candid manner; the tribulations of an explosion which ended up being much bigger than anticipated ... and much more.
An archive 17-minute interview with actress Diller follows. She looks very glamorous in her senior years as she sits relaxed and pours over her incredibly mixed career - and in particular THE BONEYARD.
Cummins and Brophy also get the archive interview treatment in their own featurettes - 18-minutes and 12 minutes respectively. Much of what they have to say is repetition from the excellent commentary, although they do both expand on how certain players were brought to the production. Brophy in particular offers some interesting insight into the roles of a producer.
The aforementioned three interviews have been available on UK and US DVD previously and are presented here in their original window-boxed ratios.
Finally, we get the film's original lengthy trailer (2 minutes and 39 seconds). Good stuff, albeit totally spoilerific.
This release also comes with double-sided reversible cover artwork.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by 88 Films|