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Friday, March 17, 2017

The Boneyard

The Boneyard
1991
James Cummins

Alley Cates (Deborah Rose) is a burned out psychic who is hauled out of retirement to help the police with a strange case. Traveling to the Boneyard, a fortress-like morgue, Alley is told about a crazed mortician who was found with the corpses of three children in his basement. The Boneyard is run by one Ms. Poopinplatz (Phyllis Diller), a no-nonsense battle axe, who only has affection for her poodle. It soon becomes evident that the corpses aren’t just corpses, they are hungry ghouls. Our heroes find themselves locked in the Boneyard and under constant siege from the little demons.

To be honest, I avoided The Boneyard back in the 1990s, because I was already tired of horror-comedies. The late 1980s had seen a glut of them to diminishing returns. When The Boneyard proudly displayed its killer poodle monster on the cover, I just rolled my eyes and moved on. I wasn’t in the mood for it, and I forgot all about it over the years. Later, after spying it on the shelf of my local video rental store, I decided to give it a chance. I was happy I did, there are certainly some silly moments to be found, but there is some legitimate horror, and a great unconventional protagonist as well.
The Wood Paneling Yard just didn't have the same scare factor.
The Boneyard is a real horror film despite what the cover would have you believe. It’s a base under siege story, as our heroes search for a way to escape being locked in with monstrous undead children. The child monsters or kuei-shen are horrible quick little beasts that gleefully tear people apart. Their design is great and they are both threatening and evoke a strange sympathy once their origin is revealed. A couple later entries are less successful, the killer poodle monster and another giant undead thing. They are a bit too cartoonish for what has been a relatively straight forward film, but the actual physical costume and effects for these creations are excellent.

Phyllis Diller is surprisingly great in her role as the loud and stubborn Ms. Poopinplatz. She plays the part with hardened sarcasm that hides a real world-weariness underneath. I had feared she was just going to be zany and over-the-top, but she makes this brash character come alive. Deborah Rose is an atypical heroine, you rarely see a middle-aged heavy-set woman as anything other than an object of ridicule or a victim in horror films, so it’s actually startling to see Alley placed front and center as the hero of the story. Her backstory is tragic and the movie doesn’t back away from showing you the source of her pain and how it drives her reluctance to get involved.

This really should have been the movie's theme song.
The Boneyard stands as a great example of why I adopted a policy of watching everything I can no matter how dire the reputation. This is a film I ignored only to discover later that it has a lot of hidden strengths and unexpected touches that made me really appreciate it. The Boneyard contains a number of pacing flaws that keep from being truly great, but its quirks and personality more than make up for that. A great find, and I’m very glad I gave it a chance, you should check it out too.

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