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Graveyard, The (DVD)

Starring Lindsay Ballew, Patrick Scott Lewis, Markus Potter, Erin Michelle, Trish Coren, Chris Stewart, Leif Lillehaugen, Sam Balogna, Eva Derrek

Directed by Michael Feifer

Distributed by Lionsgate


Slasher movies are a dime a dozen, fitting because The Graveyard looks like it cost about a dime and has about a dozen characters. If The Graveyard sounds like a really generic title for a slasher film, then wait until you see how generic the movie itself is.

The Graveyard opens with a group of emotionally stunted high school seniors getting together to play a prank on a fellow classmate out in a graveyard. The prank has the unsuspecting mark thinking they’re going to be playing some sort of Hide & Seek style game, but then someone in a hood and mask brandishing a knife starts chasing him through the graveyard. Terrified and convinced a knife wielding maniac is out to kill him, the young man runs for his life only to run smack dab into the broken cemetery gate, impaling himself to death on some of the protruding broken metal spikes.

This leads to Bobby, the one that was in the costume with the knife chasing him and the only character in the film I can actually name, going to prison for manslaughter. The film flashes forward to Bobby’s parole hearing five years later where he’s released on a combination of good behavior and the promise that Bobby’s close friends will help him get over his emotional problems stemming from the fatal accident. Bobby is now quite sullen and not happy with his friends who he feels hung him out to dry and take the fall for the prank gone wrong they were all part of. I find myself agreeing with his unhappiness over the situation. How the hell did this guy get sentenced to five years on manslaughter charges and everyone else in the group got off scott free? If anything, it was involuntary manslaughter, and a minimum of five years seems like a really steep sentence considering the circumstances. Must have been an election year for the D.A., although that still wouldn’t explain how no one else in the group got charged.

Playing armchair legal analyst aside, Bobby is picked up by his (former? current?) girlfriend who tells him what’s happened to everyone else in the five years he’s been incarcerated and that they all want to help him out with his mental problems. So they all set up shop at a camp out in the woods, a camp that’s apparently within walking distance of the graveyard where it all went down years earlier.

Why an abandoned summer camp in the woods? I wouldn’t understand until I looked the movie up on IMDB and learned that it was originally intended to be released as Bloody Murder 3. Having not seen the first two, I didn’t immediately pick up on the name of the camp or understand the constant references by others as to how they don’t advise people going out in the woods at night. I don’t understand how Lionsgate settled on The Graveyard for the title since only the very beginning and the very end take place there. Given the plot they probably should have just called it I Know What You Did Five Years Ago.

I’m also of the impression from what little I know of the first two Bloody Murder films that The Graveyard continues the tradition of extremely generic slasher films loaded with stock characters, most of which barely register as one-dimensional and the most lively of the group being the human hybrid of Peter Gallagher and Ben Affleck who behaves like a horny 13-year old suffering from a terminal case of diarrhea of the mouth. Aside from his extreme annoyance factor, the rest are all so lifeless to begin with that killing them seems redundant. Then there’s the inexplicable introduction of the angry lesbian ex-lover of one of the female friends that suddenly appears out in the woods vowing to kill her and everyone else if she gets spurned yet again. For a moment I thought the script was actually trying to set up a red herring as to the killer’s identity; at least I did until two minutes later when the killer slit her throat. Well, that was pointless.

And here’s an important bit of advice: If you’re a recently paroled felon that did time for manslaughter covered in blood running around at night in search of a cop or someone, anyone that can help come rescue your friends stranded in the woods with a homicidal maniac, you may want to ditch the bloody knife you carried with you for protection before jumping out in front of the police car, banging on the hood screaming bloody murder. Trust me; it’ll save you a lot of needless grief. Or perhaps not since this is a tiny town with a lone cop that values going to investigate a local robbery over going to rescue the people he now knows for certain are being targeted by a homicidal maniac.

The Graveyard’s killer runs around dressed like a Central Park mugger wearing a decrepit version of the generic scary face mask worn by Bobby during the opening prologue. His weapon of choice is a hunting knife which he’ll use to slash and stab, although he does finish someone off with a hatchet early on and sicks a poisonous rattlesnake on another. This guy must be the Dr. Doolittle of movie slashers because I have no other way to explain how he could have known that rattlesnake would just sit quietly and patiently under that one guy’s bed until the potential victim finally came back into the room. I’m also still a bit confused about how the killer went about dismembering another guy since the weapon of choice has been a Rambo knife. Unless the parts they found were supposed to be the guy the killer finished off with a hatchet earlier in the film, but then even that guy just got two whacks to the chest and died. The Graveyard‘s killer really is a man of many questions; too bad none of those questions involve the mystery of his identity.

I knew who the killer was going to be from the moment they introduced that character. The movie doesn’t even give you any intentional clues as to who it’s going to be or why prior to the “shocking” revelation nor does it need to in order for you to figure it out. Unless you’ve never seen a slasher movie before, you should be able to instantly identify the killer as well. In fact, I not only knew who it was, I even knew why the person was doing it. Sure enough, the killer’s identity and motivations would go on to be revealed exactly as I expected, leading to some seriously bad overacting on the part of the actor in question. If I hadn’t been half asleep at the time, I might have jumped up and done the Icky Shuffle or engaged in some of post touchdown celebration to celebrate my psychic ability to predict obvious plot twists. Unfortunately, this movie had rendered me virtually catatonic by then. I wasn’t the least bit sleepy when I started watching The Graveyard, but by the half hour mark I kept nodding off for minutes at a time, waking up, and rewinding to see what I had missed. It took me about two freakin’ hours to watch this 80-minute snooze with the plot you can accurately predict from about the 10-minute mark on. At least there were no features (other than the obligatory subtitles and a few trailers) to waste additional time on.

Unless you’re such a hardcore slasher movie aficionado that you can find entertainment in even the most slow paced and predictable of the genre and one in which even the kills are as generic as everything else, I’d strongly suggest avoiding this trip to The Graveyard. Unless, of course, you’re in need of a good sleep aid. In that case, I would highly recommend the film.

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1/2 out of 5

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Jon Condit