Bill’s Bizarre Bijou goes to THE BONEYARD (1991)
Bill’s Bizarre Bijou
William D. Carl
This week’s feature presentation:
THE BONEYARD (1991)
Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made. If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable – then I’ve seen it and probably loved it. Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you, so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open. Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes!
It’s beginning to look a lot like Halloween at the Bijou. In honor of my favorite holiday (really, a whole day built around dressing up, horror movies, and candy? What could be better?), I am digging through the forgotten film vaults to come up with a couple of terrific little movies that need to be watched in observance of the season. The first one I discovered was a fun little B-picture that combines actual horror with some truly inspired and whacked-out comedy, a TV sitcom star, a recently deceased trend-setting comedienne, zombie children, a few rather gory scares, and some truly silly special effects. When released on VHS, this movie had two boxes, one which stressed the horror and one that stressed the comedic aspects of the film, both of which demonstrated the true schizophrenic nature of the flick. Altogether, it makes for an inspired night at the Bizarre Bijou. Ladies and germs, I bring you, THE BONEYARD (1991).
The film begins with a cop, Jersey Callum (played by a tired-looking Ed Nelson, former AIP superstar, who appeared in INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN (1957), ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS (1957) and A BUCKET OF BLOOD (1959), amongst others) arriving at a decrepit, rundown old house. He pokes around inside with his much younger partner, Gordon Mullen, played by James Eustermann. Inside, he finds the woman he is looking for, Alley Oates, a psychic who has helped the police find dead children for years until she couldn’t take it any longer. Now, she has retreated into her rather gross house and eaten everything in sight until she weighs at least 325 pounds. Alley is very well-played by Deborah Rose (TROOP BEVERLY HILLS, 1989 and SKI SCHOOL, 1990), an actress who truly seems consumed with grief and horror of the world. Jersey tells her he has a case for her, three children whose remains have been partially mummified and discovered in an old mortuary. The mortician, Mr. Chen, had kept them alive by feeding them human remains and parts of cadavers, and he claimed they were ghouls, kyoshi, Asian demon children or something. Chen’s family is cursed, and he had to feed these undead demons, and they were getting out of control. Or is he just crazy?. Alley is required to find out who these children were, to help identify the decaying bodies. But, she is haunted by memories of dead children who accuse her of not finding them in time, and she has horrific nightmares about them needing comfort. In order to purge her newest set of nightmares, she decides to head to the city morgue, where the three children’s corpses are located, and she will put them to rest.
So far, THE BONEYARD is a rather somber, eerie affair, but that all changes once we get to the county morgue! There’s a skeleton crew working there, as the morgue is in the process of changing locations and most of the staff is in the new spot. Leftover, however, is the night clerk, Mrs. Poopinplatz(!) played without a wig(!!) by great comedienne Phyllis Diller. She works there with her white beribboned poodle Floofsoms, and she’s pretty scary with her trademark laugh (Ha haaa haaaaaaaaa) and her real gray hair sticking out every which way. When she looks at Alley’s ID, she says “Porked out, didn’t ya?” There’s also the coroner, Shepherd, played by a pony-tailed Norman Fell (Mr. Roper on THREE’S COMPANY), who shows Alley the three kids. The makeup on these desiccated corpses is gruesome and truly disgusting. Alley touches a lock of hair from one of them, and BAM! She gets flashbacks of the kyoshi demons being fed human remains, and she realizes they aren’t dead! They’re awakening at that moment. It’s a really creepy scene, one of the best in the film, as the ghouls creep from their tables and into the dark corners of the place.
Meanwhile, in another part of the morgue, the body of a young girl, Dana, an apparent suicide, is admitted, but she wakes up on the autopsy table. Alley rushes down to the morgue, Poopinplatz right behind her, screaming “Floofsoms, sic her! Bite her!” When Alley arrives, she finds a massacre, the kyoshi devouring one of the coroners and the others tucking into other available corpses. The survivors, Dana, Jersey, Gordon, and Shepherd are hiding in another room down the hall. The group discovers that even shooting them in the head won’t kill the ghouls. From here, the film turns into a cat and mouse game with the survivors being chased all over the half-empty building (the phones are out and the electricity is spotty!) by the little bastards. Thank goodness the evidence storage room is full of everything from axes to machine guns to a pipe bomb!
Shepherd gets bitten by one of the monsters, and one force-feeds part of its brain to a struggling Poopinplatz. Gordon shoots the crap out of one of the demons, firing several hundred bullets into it, finally killing it but destroying the elevator. Poopinplatz mutates into a giant monster that looks a little like Big Daddy Kane meets Bette Davis meets a muppet. Floofsoms also becomes a nine foot tall white poodle monster with six inch fangs and a ribbon in its hair. Soon, our little group of survivors is fleeing from the ghouls, the giant poodle, and a slobbering laughing Phyllis Diller beast. Will any of them make it out alive?
A special mention should be made of the terrific music by John Lee Whitener, whose only other credit seems to be 1991’s RAGIN’ CAJUN’. It’s an orchestral score reminiscent of Bernard Herrmann, and it’s a perfect mixture of action adventure thrills and eerie horror melodies. Just a great score I could listen to (especially those whips lashing out) without the movie.
The atmosphere of THE BONEYARD is very autumnal, with falling leaves everywhere. You can almost smell the crispness in the air. When the action moves inside, the claustrophobic metal rooms of the morgue intensify the viewing experience. I chalk it up to director James Cummins, who was a special effects man on projects such as THE BEAST WITHIN (1982) JAWS 3-D (1983), ENEMY MINE (1985) and DEEPSTAR SIX (1989). The effects work on THE BONEYARD can be cheesy and scary at the same time. At one point, there’s a brilliant scene when Dana first sees the Floofsoms monster, and the only thing she can do is giggle. Then, it roars and bares its huge fangs, and the screaming starts. The film is funny but turns scary in seconds, setting just the right balance between the hilarious and the macabre.
THE BONEYARD had an obviously low budget; it’s often too dark, the sound design is iffy at best, the love song at the end really sucks, and some of the acting is rather stagy. But it manages to overcome its budgetary limitations with a wildly unpredictable script, likable characters, outrageous monsters, plenty of gore, and two solid performances from Ed Nelson and Deborah Rose that anchor the screwy events in a sort of reality. It’s a real hoot, and quite a nice discovery if you can find it anywhere.
I give THE BONEYARD three mutant poodles out of four.
© Copyright 2012 by William D. Carl