May 15, 2008

Do Zombies Use Soap? Do Soaps Use Zombies? Graveyard Alive Has the Answer.

Graveyard Alive posterIt's been awhile since I've written about any horror flicks in here, and with good reason. I've been through a long stretch of watching lousy to mediocre movies in the genre. There's so much boring, derivative junk out there that it's all too easy to trash any number of such movies or just yawn through the whole thing. Still, the presence of so many bad flicks makes it all the more fun when I do come across something clever to recommend. Graveyard Alive: A Zombie Nurse in Love is just such a movie.

The title is a bit misleading; there's no graveyard to be found anywhere in this film. Instead, what we get here is a flick about the undead that was written, directed and produced by women, and they've finally answered a question that has been puzzling us all for a very long time. That is, what if Night of the Living Dead had taken place on the set of General Hospital? It's a zombie soap, folks, and Elza Kephart and company make it work to produce something clever and distinct in the horror-comedy genre.

Shot in black-and-white, Graveyard Alive simultaneously evokes the feel of an old horror movie and early soap operas. There's melodrama throughout as plain, dull nurse Patsy Powers tries to recapture her high school sweetheart from calculating rival nurse Goodie, whose father runs the hospital at which they work, and land a promotion to head nurse, too. A woodsman is bitten by something and shows up at the hospital with an axe buried in his head — and an elevated libido due to the "mysterious bacteria" multiplying in his body as we learn from the book Zombies: A Modern Menace. The book is owned by Van Helsing-like Ukrainian surgeon-turned-janitor Kapotski who, being ever-vigilant against the zombie menace while swigging copious quantities of vodka, kills the woodsman-zombie in the only way possible; by stabbing him in the "third eye" with a solid silver knife. Not before Nurse Patsy and the woodsman almost have a tryst, though, which ends up with Patsy being bitten on the hand... and then the fun begins.

Becoming a zombie doesn't have to mean that a girl must give up on love, though. Patsy soon figures out that a little make-up and perfume will do wonders and, thanks to Kapotski's tome, that consuming enough human flesh wards off wrinkles and can really give a living dead girl that youthful, healthy glow that men can't resist. Before long, Patsy is transformed into a ravishing sex kitten that is the object of every man's rapt attention. A nip here, a chomp there, and before long there are plenty of zombies about. These aren't lumbering, vicious zombies, though. They generally seem to be having a pretty good time with unlife. Still Nurse Goodie isn't about to let Patsy get her claws back into Dr. Dox, and the story of their rivalry unfolds in tongue-in-cheek soap opera melodrama that culminates in a scene that pays homage to one of my personal favorite scenes from Night of the Living Dead — the one in which the little girl kills her mom in the basement with a trowel. Just watch for the swinging lightbulb.

Graveyard Alive was completed in 2003, but it took three years for it to find a distributor. It's may have bumped up against Shaun of the Dead in the process. After all, how much of a market was there for "zomromcoms" a few years ago? Still, Graveyard Alive is quite different from Shaun and, while not nearly as polished, doesn't really deserve to be compared to it.

I can't think of any other zombie horror-comedies created by women, and for that reason alone Graveyard Alive is worth watching for those who are looking for something a little different. All by itself, though, it's good fun and rather light on the gore as compared to a lot of what's out there. Sure, we get a scene with someone munching on the last bits of a human leg like it was an oversized turkey drumstick, and there is a stabbing or two and one somewhat graphic handling of an unidentified human organ, but that's about it. This isn't a bloodbath by any stretch. You won't be seeing anyone using their teeth to rip away chunks of flesh from a screaming victim in this one, though you will learn how an up-and-coming professional zombie woman keeps her teeth whiter-than-white.

This is one to track down and check out. You might well be glad that you did. Start by checking out the trailer for Graveyard Alive and the movie website.

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