Tuesday, April 10, 2018

THE BONEYARD (1991) (88 Films Blu-ray Review)

Label: 88 Films
Region Code: B
Rating: 18 Cert.
Duration: 93 Minutes
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio: English LPCM 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles
Director: James Cummins
Cast: Ed Nelson, Deborah Rose, Norman Fell, Phyllis Diller, James Eustermann

This straight-to-video cult-classic begins with Detective Jersey Callum (Bucket of Blood) and his younger sidekick Detective Gordon Mullin (James Eustermann, Spaced Invaders) recruiting depressed psychic Alley Oates (Deborah Rose, Ski Patrol) to help investigate a grisly murder case, wherein mortician Chen (Robert Yun Ju Ahn) is believed to have murdered three young children he kept locked away, feeding them scraps of human flesh from the cadavers that came through the funeral home he operated. A videotaped interrogation of the Chen seems to indicate that the trio of kid cadavers are really evil Chinese spirits that he and his ancestors have been charged with protecting the world from for the past three centuries, stating that they've grown to strong for him to contain, fearing without help they will destroy the world. 

All this seem like the ravings of a lunatic, but the trio head to the county morgue to have a look at the kiddie-carcasses hoping for Alley to get some sort of psychic impression, but the stern and wacky morgue attendant Ms. Poopinplatz (Phyllis Diller), along with her precious poodle Floofsoms, aren't going to make it easy -  refusing to allow the psychic to contaminate the cadavers which are still part of on-going crime scene. They find an acceptable  workaround when kindly Coroner Shep (Norman Fell, Three's Company) clips a lock of hair from one of the cadavers, allowing Alley to sit alone in a room with the hair hoping to get some psychic vibes which will open up the case. 

While she's busy doing her psychic thing the meat-wagon arrives and delivers afresh corpse, a suicide victim named Dana (Denise Young), but when Shep begins to perform an autopsy - with the faint-ish Det. Mullin nearby, the not-so-dead Dana wakes up as he begins to slice her open, startling everyone in the room. This coincides with Alley have a psychic-vision of the three kiddies corpses re-animating and feasting on human flesh. Now the coroner, detectives, would-be suicide, psychic and of course Ms. Poopinplatz and Floofsums are trapped in the basement level of the morgue with the three undead supernatural nightmares out to eat them. 

What ensues is a strange 90's horror-comedy that sits somewhere between Peter Jackson's Brain Dead (1992) by way of House II (1987), it's a pretty fresh take for the time in regard to the handling of the undead.  The death of the three children is pretty grim stuff, but soon that gives way to more cornball shenanigans that lighten the mood considerably. The whole first third is a bit of a slow-burn, it takes a bit too long setting up the characters in my opinion, they spend a fair amount of time on the psychic's mental state, her loss of a child during pregnancy, the film is unorthodox in that our heroine is an older, portly woman, not your typical final girl. Even suicide girl Dana gets time to go-deep into what lead to her tossing a plugged-in hairdryer into her bathtub, both detours while interesting do stalls the pace considerably. 

The film is directed by James Cummins, who only directed two other films, he was a special effects man having worked on House (1985), DeepStar Six (1989) and Enemy Mine (1985) among others, he brought in special make-up effects man Bill Corso, a guy who worked on everything from Innocent Blood (1992) to Deadpool (2016), and the stuff they came up with for the film is great. The three killer-kiddie are creepy looking, toothy little demons craving human flesh, capable of infecting others and transforming them into monster-zombies, the site of a zombie-fied Poopinplatz with Diller's creepily-iconic cackle was amazing, as is the monstrous poodle-zombie that the film culminates with, it's truly ridiculous. The film is well-aware of it's corniness, when zombie-Flooflsums first appears the suicide-girl snickers at it, I've often wondered if that was less the character's reaction and more her own actual reaction to how utterly weird it was. I enjoyed the silly-humor of it, including the go fetch a pipe-bomb finale, which was ludicrously fun. 

Audio/Video: Straight-to-video horror gem The Boneyard (1991) arrives on region-b locked Blu-ray from UK distributor 88 Films with a new HD restoration sourced from the original 35mm negative. It's a handsome presentation with a natural layer of fine film grain, the source looks near flawless with nary a blemish in sight. Skin tones and colors look accurate and true, black levels are pleasing. The image is crisp and clean, close-ups offering some decent fine detail, more so than I was expecting from a film dumped onto VHS at a time when that was a death-kiss. It's not the most attractively  lensed film, feeling like a cheap TV production at times due tot he framing and lack of style, but the image as presented is clean and free of unsightly blemishes.  

Audio comes by way of English LPCM 2.0 stereo presentation with optional English subtitles, and it has some inherent audio issues that must be mentioned. I am unsure of what the technical issue is but just in laymen terms the music cues can be overpowering in the mix, atmospheric and environmental sound design fade away to the point that music is the nearly all you hear during certain scenes, specifically the opening scene of the detectives arriving at the home of the psychic. It gets better after that but their are weird audio anomalies like that throughout the film, it was distracting but not ruinous, just not ideal. As this audio apparition appears on the out-of-print U.S. DVD I would have to assume this is baked-in to the audio elements and there's nothing to be done about it, though I will be keen to see how the region-A Code Red Blu-ray fares in caparison , which I have pre-ordered. The music score from John Lee Whitener (Ragin' Cajun) sounds great a surprisingly lush and fun score for this straight-to-video cult-classic, Optional English subtitles are provided.

Onto the extras 88 Films carry-over all the extras from the Program Power DVD, this includes and audio commentary with Director James Cummins and Producer Richard F. Brophy, plus interview with Actress Phyliss Diller (17 min), Director James Cummins (18 min) and Producer Richard F. Brophy (12 min). Diller is a real hoot, speaking about how she ended up using her real hair in the film, working with the poodle, cracking wise about her own plastic surgery and how she saw evangelist Jim Baker getting arrested while shooting in North Carolina, which seemed to please her a great deal. The self-deprecating comedienne is always a blast, I've loved her since she voiced herself in an old episode of the Scooby-Doo cartoon, and she's the main reason I sought this film out in the first place. The interview with Director James Cummins touches on some potential casting that nearly was, including Clu Gulager (The Initiation) being originally cast in the role of Det. Jersey but dropping out due to an illness, and approaching rockers Warren Zevron and Alice Copper to play the coroner role that eventually went to Norman Fell, (TV's Three's Company, Charley Varick), also discussed is meeting Diller at her home, her wig falling off and seeing her chicken-feathered head and how he thought it was perfect for the role of Ms. Poopinplatz. The interview with producer Brophy is more about detailing what a limited partnership is in relation to the making of a film, it's very business-end-centric.  The disc is finished up with a three-minute trailer for the film. Unfortunately we don't get any new extras for this release, notably director Cummins and stars Diller, Fell and Nelson have all passed-on, but I would have loved to hear make-up effects man Bill Corso wax nostalgic about his time on the film, but at least they carried-over all the vintage extras. 

The single-disc release comes housed in am oversized 16mm-spine Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork - the a-side featuring the original VHS artwork, the b-side the DVD artwork of the zombie-poodle minus the rating certification of the a-side The disc features an except of the same artwork on the a-side. 

Special Features: 
- New HD Restoration from the Original Negative
- Uncompressed LPCM Stereo Soundtrack
- Optional English Subtitles
- Audio Commentary with Director James Cummins and Producer Richard F. Brophy
- Interview with Actress Phyliss Diller (17 min)
- Interview with Director James Cummins (18 min)
- Interview with Producer Richard F. Brophy (12 min)
- Reversible Sleeve with Alternate Comedy Artwork

- Trailer (3 min)

The Boneyard (1991) has been a fairly hard film to track down on home video for some time, it's been out-of-print both here in the U.S. and in the U.K, so it pleases me to see it getting some HD love from 88 Films in the U.K. (and from Code Red here in the U.S.). This straight-to-video gem is over-ripe for re-discovery, an obscure horror-comedy highlighted by some imaginative undead special effects, corny humor and a cackling Phyllis Diller, who is just a blast.

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