Sunday, July 1, 2018

The Graveyard Story (1991)

Warning: I’m going to spoil most of the film’s plot twists, but believe me, it is better that way!

Rich, retired psychiatrist Dr McGregor (John Ireland) has developed a very special relationship to a dead little girl that starts out with him visiting her grave for vague reasons and her reciprocating with – harmless and friendly – visits of her own after a while. Clearly, something is keeping the kid tied to our world, so McGregor hires policeman turned private eye Ron Hunt (Adrian Paul, but not that Adrian Paul) – a man whose newspaper ad promises he will “consider anything” – to find out what. Ron’s just too happy to do the old man the favour for two hundred bucks a day.

During his investigation, Ron stumbles upon various curious things, like a disturbingly horny journalist (Christine Cattell), or the fact that there’s no information about the little girl’s death in the newspaper archives of said horny journalist. He will find other traces, though, and stumble through a pretty darn dumb mystery plot.

Oh boy, Bozidar D. Benedikt’s The Graveyard Story is not at all a good film. In fact, it is so bad a film I can finally cart out my old chestnut about a film feeling as if it was made by people from a dimension about one step removed from ours again. Parts of the film’s general wonkiness are easily explained by the vagaries of shooting something on a low budget, like the bland direction, the often painfully awkward staging of dialogue scenes (and it’s nearly all dialogue scenes in this one), or the way certain scenes are completely superfluous.

The stiff dialogue, often reminiscent of the English dubs of Italian movies from the 70s and 80s, is clearly rooted in the director/writer not being an English native speaker. Why none of the actors except for Ireland were apparently helping out with that is a different question, but then, calling most of the on-screen talent “actor” is a bit much. Take Adrian Paul, carrying himself with all the vigour and verve of a walking corpse, usually showing no expression whatsoever and going through his lines giving the impression he’s got no idea what he’s talking about (and he certainly is a native speaker). And he’s basically in all of the film’s scenes.

The acting level as a whole is rather dreadful. Most of the cast is, alas, not terribly good in a rather boring way – there’s little of the true weirdness nor the histrionics of the entertaining and enthusiastic bad actor on display – only Cattell and the guy playing Angry Mafia Dude (you’ll recognize him if you inflict this thing upon yourself) are any kind of fun to watch. Ireland is an experienced professional and acts the part, but of course he doesn’t have too many scenes.

But let’s not carry on making fun of acting and dialogue, there’s a whole plot to gawk at, too. Going by the film’s start, one would have expected this to be a ghost story at least on some level, but as a matter of fact, this is a mystery without any supernatural elements; unless you take the increasing stupidity of the plot to be supernatural. It’s not just the little things that make the film quite as dumb as it is, like the question why McGregor makes up the whole ghost story to tell to the detective when he actually wants Hunt to look for his long-lost daughter, or who’d hire Hunt for anything but getting bored to death. To wit, the film’s biggest plot twist is based on the following line of thought: that a woman whose daughter has been kidnapped would, when the kidnappers send her – rather thoughtfully – a child sized coffin (please don’t ask where the kidnappers got it, or I’ll have to make something appropriately dumb up) with a piece of coat sticking out, not look inside of the coffin to find out if her child is actually inside, and if she is alive or dead. Now imagine that, furthermore, the mother and her female boss (basically the kid’s fairy godmother), would decide not to go to the police or any kind of authority at any point in time and would just bury the coffin with the help of a friendly priest (who is also not looking into the coffin, of course). If that makes any kind of sense to you, you’re the writer of this film.

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