Friday, December 9, 2011

GRAVEYARD OF HORROR (1971)

GRAVEYARD OF HORROR (1971)

Directed By Michael Skaife
Image Entertainment DVD

THE FILM
Whuzzat? Whoissit? Howzitgo? Don’t ask me. After 86 minutes, I have no answers. Luckily, I’m not alone; the synopsis on the back of the case couldn’t even get the facts straight. We’ll just share this blissful illiteracy together.

Sam Sherman’s Independent-International Pictures rarely lets me down, especially when it comes to the strange stuff. Graveyard Of Horror, a Spanish production originally titled Necrophagus, does more than keep the ball rolling. In fact, this rabidly-edited creepfest might be one of the strangest straight-up horror films I’ve yet witnessed. Yes, even stacked up against an eyeball-popper like Swamp Of The Ravens. You can trust me on this.

Prepare to be staggered. After a brief prologue/flashback involving fresh graves, we meet Michael. Michael’s wife has passed on while giving birth to their stillborn child. He travels to the castle where it all went down and we meet a gaggle of characters, all of which seem to be immediately related to Michael (in-laws, sisters, nieces, etc.). Through an obtuse barrage of flashbacks and puzzling occurrences, the film builds up mystery upon mystery, but never truly gets to the bottom of anything. I'm more than happy to let that slide though, especially when we've got authentic snowy cemeteries, a couple of nightmarish gravediggers in old-man masks, and a minute long cameo by the greatest trash creature this side of The Evil One from Brides Of Blood. And what about the rest of the plot? Choose your own adventure.

Don't worry, the story isn't that important. The real reason Graveyard succeeds, lies in its strict diet of technical insanity -- dizzying handheld shots, nonsense edits, inanimate close-ups during times of action, and boffo music cues that could break glass as quick as they disappear. There's no gore, no nudity, and very little content that would raise eyebrows even back in the day. But when you combine the crazed filmmaking with the previously mentioned spook elements, you get an obscure delight in genuine scares that moves fast and leaves no room for waiting around. I just wish the ending wasn't so lousy.

AUDIO AND VIDEO
Top notch. The full frame print has a crisp sheen, with blacks you can sink your teeth into and attractive bold colors. There was a slight blue hue to a couple of scenes, but I only noticed it on occasion. After the first ten minutes or so, scratching was at a minimum. The overall level of the mono sound was way up there, but the dubbed dialogue was hard to make out at times.

EXTRAS
It would have been great to see some of the mystery unveiled, but alas, none of the brief extras pertain to Graveyard. We’ve got trailers for all of Independent-International’s Blood Island films that are currently available on DVD and a “House Of Terror” spook show trailer. If you own any of the Independent International films on DVD, then you’ve already got ‘em. Still, these are some of the greatest, most sensational trailers ever produced, so they're worth watching again.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Logical thinkers could probably find a few things to dislike about this film. They don’t know what they’re missing. If you want bizarre surrealism, Graveyard Of Horror has it. Stop reading, get watching.

— Joseph A. Ziemba, 01.26.05

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