Starring Claudia Christian, Adam Taylor Gordon, Lance Henriksen, Brian Wimmer
Directed by Don Michael Paul
Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment
Religion is always a hard subject to tackle in horror cinema. Films having to do with this ever-so-touchy subject matter are usually pulled off in one of three ways: the spooky approach, the agnostic make up your own mind approach, or the so preachy that you feel as if Mel Gibson is sitting beside you reiterating his version of the Old Testament while smacking you over the head with a bible approach. Me? I prefer the first two. Preachy films have a tendency to anger me beyond words. Hey, I’m not saying you can’t believe in whatever it is that you want to, but please don’t shove your beliefs and values down my throat. Cinematic-ally speaking, just about every conceivable religious theme has been covered from possession to the coming of the Anti-Christ himself. The Garden, Anchor Bay Entertainment’s newest chiller, takes us down a not too heavily traveled road — one that leads us right into the Garden of Eden, and it’s time to bust the forbidden fruit.
Meet David (Wimmer) and his son Sam (Gordon). It’s no secret that family values have shit the bed, and Sam is the latest casualty of a nasty divorce between his parents. People react to bad situations in different ways. Some lash out at others, and some just become recluses. Sam does neither. His way of dealing is far more disturbing. He slices himself open. Something tells me this kid has gone through plenty of super-hero themed band-aids. Fresh off his latest hospital stay do to some extracurricular blade wielding, Sam and his dad end up in a major car accident while traveling on some — you guessed it — back roads. But was it an accident? Before you know it a man by the name of Ben Zachary (Henriksen) is there to help them out of the wreck and care for them.
It turns out old Ben could use some help on his farm so he asks the nearly killed duo to stick around and give him a hand. After all, why go the whole hospital route after a major car wreck when you can build a porch instead?! Makes sense to me. David figures that this would be a great chance for him and Sam to bond so without a second thought he agrees. From the get-go this newest situation seems just a little off for Sam, and before you can say “The power of Christ compels you,” bodies start piling up, and Ben’s true identity and purpose are revealed. Can Sam thwart the evil farmer’s plans? Are they really in the Garden of Eden? Are those the four horsemen of the apocalypse? Ben had a daughter? Does anyone really have any clue what the hell is going on by the third act? I sure as shit didn’t. It’s a shame when movies fall apart at the very end. The Garden suffers that fate and even manages to get in some quick preaching before the end credits roll. Things were moving along so well until they just came to an absolutely screeching halt. It’s damned near infuriating.
The acting, especially that of Henriksen and a very young Gordon, is truly spot on. They have amazing chemistry when sharing the screen together. Their onscreen relationship at times is brilliant and dare I say it moving what with the whole ultimate evil meets youth and innocence dynamic. The music is good, and for the most part everything is pretty much exactly as it shoul be. About halfway through The Garden you’ll see a chase scene that is pretty damned scary. It’s a too early crescendo of terror that will leave you wanting more. Well guess what? The film shot it’s load right there. The next forty-five minutes will leave you pretty much clueless. Apparently, since the film deals with the mystery of religion, everyone involved figured that they didn’t need to inject any logic into their storytelling. Everything about the last third of The Garden seems sloppy and just barely glued together. It had such potential.
On the supplemental side of the fence, The Garden does a competent job of delivering the goods, but there’s nothing too special about these features. You get your standard behind-the-scenes featurettes, a photo gallery, and a director’s commentary. I listened to the latter in hopes that maybe I just needed someone to shed a little light on what was going on. While lively, director Don Michael Paul seems happier to discuss the technical aspects of things. This leads me to believe that even he himself didn’t know what was happening. Well, at least I am not alone.
So is going to The Garden worth the trip? The first half certainly is. The grass is cut neatly, and there’s a healthy dose of spooky to be found. However, once you go deeper, there’ll be plenty of contrivances, plot holes, and preachy silliness to obscure your otherwise terrifyingly clear view. This Garden is really in need of some weeding.
Audio commentary with director Don Michael Paul
The Garden: Behind-the-scenes featurette
Lance Henriksen text bio
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