Shot in 2004, special effects pro and first time director Roy Knyrim’s ode to giant rodent films like Food of the Gods has been floating around for far too long. Finally making its DVD debut this spring, Cemetery Gates is a sly and clever take on a sub-genre that has long past its prime.
After a mutant Tasmanian Devil is freed from its laboratory prison by a pair of bumbling eco-terrorists, scientists Amie Wolf and Reggie Bannister (Phantasm) set out to recapture the experiment gone astray. Complicating matters more than they already are is the fact that the raging rodent is terrorizing the woods near where Bannister’s son and a small group of friends are shooting a low budget zombie film.
Featuring a fun cast of genre newcomers and a hilarious set of cameos from KNB effects gurus Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero – as a pair of burnt out hippies tripping on some serious peyote – director Knyrim gives the mutant beast genre a astute and exceedingly bloody ribbing, offering up backwoods redneck wackos, sex obsessed stoners, totally random bystanders and one of the dumbest blonds to ever grace the silver screen as fodder for the ferocious fiend.
Since Knyrim’s background is in effects, the film really hinges on the ghastly nature of the kills, and in that matter, Cemetery Gates leads the pack of crimson cinema. A gorewhore’s wet dream, the film features everything from total head crunching splatter and massive eviscerations to sanguine showers of gruesome guts. In fact, I’m hard pressed to recall a film lately that employs more blood than this fantastically epic display of carnage. But what makes the film more than a series of awesome attacks is the ridiculous performances from the cast. It’s apparent that no one on set was taking this film seriously, as well they shouldn’t, and that level of ease makes going along for the ride so much more fun.
I’ve always been a big fan of films that send up genres, and horror almost always takes itself too seriously. Which is why, watching a truly bad horror film is such a waste of precious energy. When everything fails in horror, the only bloodbath on screen is the mutilation of celluloid and the only red that the audience sees is the rage that makes them want to kill the filmmakers for sucking hours of their lives away. Now, maybe its just the repressed 14 year old boy in me, but when someone so steeped in the traditions of the genre, steps up to say, “hey, don’t you just want to see some buxom blonds bathed in blood” we all go…hell yes!!! By dragging Berger and Nicotero into the mix, Roy Knyrim pays respect to two acknowledged masters of the macabre at the same time he’s skewering everything about what that stands for. It’s fun to watch, and if you’re in on the joke, so much the better for you. I know that, as someone who watches hundreds of horror films a year, a gore-tastic shockfest with a spattering of low brow humor is far better for my sanity than a marathon of Uwe Boll and M. Night Shyamalan films any day.