Jan 16, 2015

SHITTY FLICKS: GARDEN OF THE DEAD

Shitty Flicks is an ongoing column that celebrates the most hilariously incompetent, amusingly pedestrian, and mind-bogglingly stupid movies ever made by people with a bit of money, some prior porn-directing experience, and no clue whatsoever. It is here you will find unrestrained joy in movies meant to terrify and thrill, but instead poke at your funny bone with their weird, mutant camp-girl penis.

WARNING: I tend to give away major plot points and twist endings in my reviews because, whatever. Shut up.

Throughout the beginning of zombie movie history, there have been several ways that a living person could be turned into a zombie: first and foremost, being bitten by one (but then that begets the ‘chicken-or-the-egg debate,' so let’s move on); space dust; voodoo; God’s wrath; both British- and Sumatran-bred monkeys; unearthed recordings containing occult incantations, decreasing square footage in Hell; love; 2-4-5 Trioxin, and my personal favorite: undisclosed reasons.

But if you're Garden of the Dead...huffing formaldehyde smoke. It saved the best for...I guess the middle.

In undead mythology, zombies can walk, run, eat, bludgeon, scream, moan, verbally demand brains, push shopping carts, cry, masturbate (it’s true), hitchhike, and worship a werewolf Hitler. Pretty much anything a human being has done, a zombie has done, only more retarded and gooey.

But Garden ghouls? They beat men to death with landscaping tools.

Because, that age-old question: why not?

In this Garden of the Dead, several prisoners are performing manual labor in a chicken-wire protected desert prison: Camp Hoover. A group of men load a barrel of formaldehyde onto a truck. Why such a chemical would be on hand at a prison remains unknown.

Meanwhile, a fancy glove-wearing man in a suit wanders around the camp with two guards. He is the warden and he wields a big stick. He bitches to his two cohorts about how his request to transfer elsewhere was denied, citing, basically, his ignorance. He's easily identified by the movie as "the dick" and will continue to act "the dick" until his life is separated from his skeleton.

The prisoners take a break from their laborious tasks to have some chow. They eat handfuls of bread and drink coffee from tin cups as they sit and bemoan their present status and ponder where in their lives they had made their wrong choice. They also huff smoke from some unlabeled tanks at the backside of the camp. If all I had to go on was their plain, emotionless, flat expressions as the smoke whiffed into their airways, I would have to describe the reaction to this experience as sublime.

Joe Smokeman hid his face in shame when the girls at the
dance shrieked, "Ew, Joe Smokeman smells like smoke!"

Braddock, the main smoke-huffer, offers his smoke tube to other prisoners, who also love getting smoke blown in their faces. We still don’t know what this smoke is, but once the smoke tube is dipped into a vat of formaldehyde, the fumes mix into what will be the catalyst for all the zombie-ism.

“Mmm, ohhh, yeah, take it,” moans one of the men, as he offers a blow of smoke into another prisoner’s face.

Turns out these crafty, smoke-sucking men have been dumping the formaldehyde into these vats and filling the empty barrels with dirt that they accumulate from digging their generic escape tunnel. The reason for formaldehyde being at the prison still remains a mystery, but at least we know now why there is an open tub of it just chilling in the hot sun: to get all the prisoners mad high as they pursue their escape.

Our hero, Johnson, makes small talk with his small-town waitress/lover, Carol, through the extremely pathetic, yet, apparently functional chicken-wire barrier between prison and freedom. The two hug (sort of) and cry, and as Carol tries to deliver her lines, Johnson holds her close and layers her face with too many kisses, forcing her to fight her lines out. The sometimes-Paul Newman, sometimes-Robert Redford, sometimes-Steve McQueen-looking Johnson watches her walk off before he is forced back to his prison duties.

That night, the prisoners gather together for a friendly game of poker to continue their tradition of smoking, muttering, and trading steely glances. Braddock, head smoke-sucker, tries to convince Johnson to use the escape tunnel, and when Johnson refuses to go along with the plan, Braddock shivs him in the gut. One of the other prisoners, Wears A Hat, stands up to Braddock, accusing him of purposely feeding all of his followers that formaldehyde vapor to make them dumber, follow orders, and not ask questions.

I’d still kinda like to know why fucking formaldehyde is at a prison.

Braddock attacks MacGee, one of the guards, and makes short work of him, clocking him in the face and dragging his body off-screen.

Not wanting to be caught huffing smoke by the guards,
Braddock employs his "mannequin defense" technique.

As the prisoners make their tunnel escape, one of the men (Carmen Filpi, character actor and future Amusing Old Man in The Wedding Singer) opts to just hang out and suck on the smoke hose instead. After a few blowjobs, he then wises up and follows his denim brethren out into the woods as extremely pepped-up, Lalo-Schiffrin-probably-called-his-lawyers type music incessantly plays.

The runt smoke-liker falls behind the men, clearly high, and stumbles through the woods. A fall causes his rifle to go off, attracting attention from the prison staff.

The staff discovers Johnson, bleeding but alive, in the barracks. Patrol cars set out to find the smoke-suckers as the prisoners continue their escape, making it to the awaiting truck a few miles down the road. The prisoner who fired off the shot gun is executed by the prisoners after he pleads for his life.

Patrol cars quickly catch up and execute the escaping prisoners, their gunfire making pitiful snap noises as their guns shoot impossible sparks.

Back at the camp, the warden chains up the remaining prisoners who didn’t have anything to do with the escape and gives them a rousing “fuck you”-type speech. He then forces the men to dig graves for those killed during the break.

A guard, Wilson, mysteriously vanishes from view from the digging prisoners and his sudden disappearance distracts the men from the hands that reach from their graves of the recently buried. One of the diggers, Wears A Hat, is grasped by a dead hand as his digging partner flees in fear. Another body rises from the grave, and another, until a dirty horde of dead men is formed.

“We will destroy the living,” insists one of the zombie prisoners to no one in particular, as the rest of them make generic undead noises.

Meanwhile, Carol is visited by the prison doctor, who has opted to inform Carol of Johnson’s shivving. He then leaves, feeling good about himself.

Carol’s landlords, the Flemmings, are then killed by the murderous horde of zombies, who, for reasons unknown, decided that she should be a target of their wrath.

Carol escapes from the stupid zombies by—holy shit!!—successfully starting a functioning vehicle and driving it away from them. She drives to Camp Hoover and the concerned guards bring her inside. The warden comes out to investigate all these goings-on, and one of the guards, Jablonski, having seen Braddock’s ghoul face out in the distance, tries to convince him that the previously-dead prisoners are making their way back to the camp. The warden refuses to believe it, even after one of the guards is killed by the zombs.

Now that the recently-resurrected zombs are back in the camp, they don’t waste any time. Revenge must be had, and had it will be. What is the first order of business?

Death and dismemberment?

A meal of warm flesh?

Perhaps a smoke suck?

It’s that last one, because this thing is ridiculous.

Like true addicts, a mere puff of smoke is no longer enough. They need more, MORE! They take handfuls of the formaldehyde—some fill up entire cans—and they pour it over their badly made-up faces as they laugh and laugh and give each other zombiegasms.

The zombs, now juiced, rush the guards, knocking them out cold. They open the hood to each car and render them useless. One by one, guards are chopped, pick-axed, and beaten, but not before delivering a few blows of their own. One zomb takes a shot to the gut, and he writhes, spews smoke from his wound, and dies. Another dies when a guard shines a spotlight directly on him, which makes so little sense that it’s not even worth mocking.

The dead zombie gardeners were aghast to find out
their jobs had been filled by dead zombie Mexicans
willing to work more hours for less brains.

Another of the zombs, Donovan, a Ted Levine-looking fucker, breaks into one of the barracks in an attempt to kill the other prisoners. The warden blows a hole in him with a shotgun, which apparently really hurts his feelings, seeing as how he responds by yelling, throwing his weapon at the ground in a tantrum, and hurtling himself out the window.

The warden attempts to free all the prisoners, but his life is cut tragically short by a ghoul in overalls. Jablonski, his number two, shoots the ghoul, but alas, it is too late: Mr. Fancy Gloves has bought the farm.

And then it's time for even MORE smoke juice! The number of zombies now being only five, there is even more smoke juice to go around, and as the men slap their saturated hands into their faces, boy, do they not mind they're losing their own battle.

Meanwhile, Carol and Johnson hug and whine apologies to each other...that is until a zomb smashes one of the windows and tries to crawl in. Thanks to Jablonski’s huge spotlight, he is able to make short work of him.

“The light decomposes them instantly!” he exclaims.

And then a zomb literally prances onscreen, flips his pick-axe into another guard’s body, and is jogging off-screen before you can ask, "Is there something better on?"

The spotlight, keeping the zombs at bay, flickers several times before going off for good. And just when you think it’s curtains for Carol, the zombs only stare with puppy dog eyes beset in a sea of shitty Halloween make up. Carol and the guard, though engulfed in unprotected darkness, are able to make it back inside the barracks where the survivors are huddled.

“They didn’t attack you!” yells Jablonski to Carol.

“They won’t attack her,” exclaims Johnson, explaining how all the men used to talk about how beautiful she was.

Why Jablonski, a pushing-sixty, over-weight man, was also left alone by the zombs, remains a mystery.

Carol, acting as human bait, walks outside to capture the attention of the zombs. As they stare longingly, the remaining guards rush out of the barracks and blow zomb bits all over the ground. Carol then weeps, because she’s the female lead, and she has to. She walks back inside and into the arms of Johnson, who has proven to be literally the most useless character ever in a film who was supposed to be functioning as both the main sympathetic character and the main love interest.

Merry Christmas!

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