Navarre // 1990 // 98 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // March 29th, 2002
The best movie ever made starring Phyllis Diller, Mr. Roper, and a zombified mutant poodle.
In my reviews, I've often mentioned films that have somehow "slipped" under my radar. One movie that springs to mind is the '80s teen vampire horror romp Vamp. I love finding movies like that -- films I may have heard of, but for one reason or another missed. I think that I have officially found the mother of all hidden horror gems: The Boneyard. This movie includes (but is not limited to): Phyllis Diller, cannibalistic kids, Norman Fell, wacky morgue hi-jinks, an attraction between a cop and an failed suicide victim, and of course...a hideous mutant poodle.
Ah, sit back and drink it up folks. Life is good.
When some local children are found decayed and mutilated, the police are brought in to investigate the crime. Officer Jersey (Ed Nelson, Police Academy 3: Back In Training) and his young, inexperienced sidekick Gordon (James Eustermann) meet up with a retired psychic (Deborah Rose, Ski Patrol) who uncovers a curse of the undead that's leading all the way back to the country morgue. Run by the cranky Ms. Poopinplatz (Diller) and her obnoxious poodle, things start to get out of control when a suicide victim comes back to life (well, actually she was never dead in the first place) and the three dead kids start roaming the halls looking for human flesh via an ancient Chinese curse!
Trapped in the morgue basement with death all around them, this group or rag tag folks are about to find out what true terror is courtesy of...THE BONE YARD!
I write this review of my own free will. This was not a screener or something I had to do for my job. This is like extra credit. I am writing this review out of sheer love for these kinds of movies. A love that springs from a well of searching out movies made for the price of a Burger King whopper and then sitting and wasting two hours of my life watching them.
Needless to say, I need a date.
The Boneyard is the crème de la crème (roughly translated: movie that has been seen by a grand total of 12 people) of cheesy B-movies, ranking right up there with Killer Klowns From Outer Space and The Thing With Two Heads. Here is a movie that was obviously shot on a limited budget, but is nonetheless so entertaining that I had to rub my eyes to make sure I was watching the right movie. It was like Christmas morning for me (albeit a very demented and deranged one). You see, I went into watching The Boneyard with very low expectations. I knew by the DVD cover that there would be at least one enjoyable scene in the movie (yup, you guessed it...the mutant poodle sequence). Little did I know that this would be a hybrid of The Return Of The Living Dead, Tales From The Crypt Presents: Demon Knight and Three's Company. The Boneyard was directed by James Cummins, a talented guy who also worked on the special effects for such movies as Spaced Invaders and House. While the script for The Boneyard is nothing extra special, it does feature Diller cracking jokes and Norman "Stanley Roper" Fell as a hippie coroner. And have I mentioned the killer poodle? Yes? Well let me mention him AGAIN, because it alone is worth the price of admission.
Everyone here knows that the only way this material will work is by playing it near-deadpan, save for Diller's humorous Ms. Poopinplatz, looking as if she just stuck her tongue in a light socket. No one character stands out, but do they really need to? The element I was looking for in this movie was some outrageous horror effects and a little bit of levity. I found both in good doses.
Much of this movie is, of course, utter nonsense. What do you expect from a movie featuring a monstrous version of Phyllis Diller? Can you believe she even signed on for this movie? In the extra features interview Diller actually admits to reading the script and liking it (I can see her observations now: "Dead children. A deformed dog. Norman Fell. Cannibalism. What's not to like?"). Diller's career has spanned decades, and some of her most famous work was with Bob Hope. I often fall asleep at night wondering if he ever saw The Boneyard, and if so, does he still return Diller's phone calls or avoid her like the plague?
I can't say enough good things about The Boneyard. It's just good, goofy fun. If you're a mass murderer. Or a certified lunatic. Or me.
And did I mention the poodle?
The Boneyard is presented in a 1.33:1 full frame version. This ended up being the most disappointing aspect of the film as the back of the case reads "1.85 letterbox," as well as full frame. I was hoping for widescreen, but I guess I'll have to live with what this mediocre full frame version. Either way, the transfer is often marred by grain, dirt, and a somewhat dark picture that may be due in part to the filmmakers and not the distributor. I was a bit frustrated with how shoddy this film looked (especially considering how much bonus material is available on the release). Colors are somewhat bright with the black levels displaying some grayness in the image. This is a passable transfer it best, and nothing more.
The audio is presented in what appears to be Dolby Digital Mono. The package doesn't say, so that's the guess I'm going with. The bulk of this soundtrack tended to come mainly from the center speaker. Much of this mix is very flat and unimpressive. A lot of this soundtrack tends to fade in and out quickly, but this is once again a filmmaker mistake, not the distributor's. Some distortion was heard during a few scenes, though otherwise this is a generally clean soundtrack. No alternate soundtracks or subtitles are included on this disc.
For a movie that includes some pretty terrible video/audio portions, I am surprised to report that The Boneyard features its fair share of extra materials. To start off the disc there is a commentary track by writer/director James Cummins and producer Richard F. Brophy. Each of these men seem very proud of their efforts, and there's a lot of discussion on everything ranging from how Diller got involved in the project to who played the main ghoul of the film (get this: it was a local MINISTER!). This is a fairly interesting track that should engage viewers looking to know more about how this film came into being.
Three separate interviews are next, one featuring Phyllis Diller, another with James Cummins and the last with producer Richard F. Brophy. The interview with Diller is the vastly more interesting of the three. Diller talks about her history in the entertainment biz, how she got involved with The Boneyard, and lets it slip out that this movie is the only film on record where she appears with her own hair (she usually wears a wig). The interviews with the director and producer are much more technical and lean more towards the business and story aspect of the production.
Finally, there is a theatrical trailer for the film, as well as a short gallery of behind-the-scenes still images from the production of The Boneyard.
FYI: The back of this case lists many extra features, including the original script, some newspaper clippings, and some crew and cast info. Apparently, these are on the DVD-ROM section which I could not seem to get to work on my computer.
The Rebuttal Witness
I don't know if this is a bad thing or not, but The Boneyard includes the most laughably inappropriate end credits song ever (think Diane Warren meets Eric Carmen). You have to hear it to believe it!
Like rediscovering an old album by Neil Diamond, The Boneyard is cheesy fun that makes you thank the good Lord above that there are people demented enough to put this out into the world (sorry Neil, but I really think that sums up your music career as well). It's not polished entertainment, but by God any movie that features A KILLER MUTANT POODLE gets my vote for B-movie of the year!
Holy poodle cakes! Of course The Boneyard is free to go! Case dismissed!
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 1990
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Commentary Track by Writer/Director James Cummins and Producer Richard F. Brophy
* Theatrical Trailer
* Special Creature Effects Photo Gallery
* DVD-ROM Features
* Exclusive Interviews with Star Phyllis Diller, Director James Cummins and Producer Richard F. Brophy