THE BONEYARD went directly to home video with retailers given a choice of two different cassette sleeves: a dark, strictly-horror-movie box, or a bright-colored horror-spoof box. The picture itself has elements of both genres, acting turns by comedy pros Phyllis Diller and Norman Fell,
and ends with an unfortunate attack by two pretty laughable monsters, but on balance this is straight, sober horror, presented with a fair amount of wit and originality.
Allie Oates (Deborah Rose) is an obese, neurotic, middle-aged police psychic whose clairvoyance (the result of radiation treatment for ovarian cancer) always seems to draw her into nightmarish circumstances. She's roused from depressed torpor by her old pal Detective Jersey Callum (Ed Nelson),
who's got a simple but grim job ahead--identifying three mummified children discovered at a local funeral parlor, tentatively tagged as murder victims. Chen, the funeral home operator, is in custody, but of course nobody believes his rantings about evil spirits and ancient curses. Allie and Jersey
visit the title edifice, a fortress-like district morgue holding the bodies, where the psychic soon picks up bad vibes. The little corpses are really kyoshi, demons that Chen's family had been tending for centuries--apparently consequences of an ancestor's black-magic resurrection of a deceased
child (a la Stephen King's PET SEMETARY). They have been placated with regular meals of human flesh scavenged from funeral-home leftovers. Now that Chen, the last of his line, can't serve up chow, the dormant kyoshi are getting hungry.
By the time Allie warns her companion it's too late; the reawakened ghouls attack, trapping the humans in the lower levels of the boneyard, beyond outside help. The heros use a forklift and some handy explosives, to destroy the kyoshi one by one, but the creatures have infected two of the
mortuary staff, the harridan attendant Miss Poopinplatz (a wigless Phyllis Diller) and her pampered poodle "Floofsums." They mutate into giant uglies, and the action climaxes with a one-on-one battle between Allie and the murderous monster pooch.
Even though the heroine pulls a clever trick to curb the dog, it's an unwise way to end the picture. The killer Diller and her mutant ninja poodle, while grotesque, are too phony-looking to be credible menaces. They detract from the spell THE BONEYARD weaves through the authentically chilling
kyoshi. Those emaciated dwarfs loom large in a genre where withered cannibal zombies come a dime a dozen. Cummins, inspired by A CHINESE GHOST STORY, invests his spooks with the lightning speed of the Hong Kong cinema. They skitter unseen through ventilation ducts, leap off shelves, lash out from
the shadows. Two of the terrors were portrayed by petite adult dancers, but the most malevolent was really eight-year-old Sally Middleton. She also shows up in a notable early dream sequence as the rotting ghost of Allie's stillborn daughter. When Allie and the decayed waif tenderly embrace, the
eerie pathos of the moment stays long after the image fades.
Cummins, a makeup specialist for HOUSE, John Carpenter's THE THING and others, has turned out a low-budget fantasy film that is surprisingly character-driven for the genre, and he refrains from over-the-top gore and gratuitous nudity. Rarer still are lead roles for large women like Deborah Rose,
herself a bit-player in film and TV who had never before been showcased. Cummins personally recruited Phyllis Diller, but Norman Fell, as a hip ponytailed coroner, substituted for the no-show first choice--weirdo rocker Alice Cooper.
The film does have its rough patches, however. The narrative moves in fits and starts, and a long, introspective discussion of suicide halts the action dead at the peak of tension. Prior to her silly transformation, the newly slimed Miss Poopinplatz vomits nonstop for about ten minutes, just
below the frame in the foreground, a textbook case of terrible blocking. And then there's that poodle. Yet THE BONEYARD has enough going for it to rank as one of 1991's modest surprises. (Violence, profanity, adult situations.)
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- Released: 1991
- Rating: R
- Review: THE BONEYARD went directly to home video with retailers given a choice of two different cassette sleeves: a dark, strictly-horror-movie box, or a bright-colored horror-spoof box. The picture itself has elements of both genres, acting turns by comedy pros P… (more)