Garden Of The Dead (1972)

DVD Cover (Retromedia)
Genres: Horror, Prison Film, Zombie Film
Convicts on a chain gang sniff experimental formaldehyde fumes to get high. They attempt a prison break, are shot down by the guards and buried in the prison garden. Soon, they rise from the dead, using shovels and hoes to kill all who get in their way on their quest to get high once more. --IMDb
John Hayes John Hayes
Philip Kenneally Philip Kenneally
Duncan McLeod Duncan McLeod
John Dullaghan John Dullaghan
John Dennis John Dennis
Susan Charney Susan Charney
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4.0 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Chad
Added: April 21, 2007
I love campy, schlocktastic movies of the "so bad they're good" variety, and I also love watching hordes of zombies terrorize the living. I even enjoy the "men / women in prison" films that were made famous back during the prime of the exploitation genre, so you'd think that Garden of the Dead would be right up my alley. Sadly, that wasn't the case: the only good that came out of watching this was the fact that it ran for two minutes short of an hour, so my suffering didn't last too very long.

A group of prisoners in a minimum-security prison (very minimum: the only thing keeping them imprisoned is a six-foot fence and some barbed wire) get off on huffing formaldehyde to get high, and these same prisoners are working on a plan to escape. The plan is eventually completed and the escape process is begun, but before they can get too far away, the officers find out about it and shoot them all dead. The prisoners are buried in shallow, unmarked graves, but thanks to all of the formaldehyde that they inhaled, they quickly rise from the grave with vengeance on their minds.

Yes, these men are now zombies in the technical sense: they died, came back to life, and now want to murder the living. However, that's the extent of their zombie behavior, as they still want to get high, they still want to drool over pretty ladies, and yes, they can still communicate with one another. They murder their prey by hacking them to death with shovels and pick-axes, they have no interest in consuming human flesh or brains, and much like in the recent Hollywood zombie movies, they can run at top speed in order to catch their prey.

Now, as long as the film in question isn't a remake of an established film, I have no problems with filmmakers applying their own ideas to the zombies in their work. You want to make them run and about as intelligent as they were in life? I have no problems with that - knock yourselves out, but the final product had better be good. However, that's the problem that I had with Garden of the Dead: it simply wasn't any good and there were no redeeming qualities to be found.

For starters, the movie moves along about as slow as molasses in January. You'd think that, considering the entire movie doesn't even run for an hour, it'd be a pretty fast affair; however, so much time is spent watching the characters get high and stand around chatting that it feels like an eternity. When the action does start to pick up, it's downright laughable: most of the kills consists of the zombie simply jumping at the human and giving them what appears to be a knee to the face. There's not a drop of blood to be found throughout the entire running time, all of the kills happen in the dark, and the climax is so mundane that you'll think you fell asleep and missed something.

Wait, there is one other good thing that I can say about this film: this particular bootleg pressing came bundled together with the excellent Scarecrows, so I don't feel as though I wasted my cash or Netflix slot. 1/10.
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