Sam has been having a tough time lately, his parents are divorced, he rarely sees his father, and for the past several months, he has been haunted by reoccurring nightmares involving gnarly old trees and serpents. In fact, Sam’s dreams have become so intense that he has taken to physically harming himself while caught in their grasp. In order to try and save their child, Sam’s parents have had him checked into a mental health clinic to undergo some concentrated psychiatric treatment. With some minor successes in the bag, Sam is released to his father and heads home to work out the rest of his difficulties. When an unexpected accident leaves the Father and Son with no means of transportation, they are taken in by Ben Zachary (Lance Henriksen), a craggy old man with a strange secret growing in his front yard. It seems that Ben Zachary’s land is the fabled Garden of Eden, and the fruit tree that shades his lawn is the Tree of Life.
If you know your Old Testament and you know this is a horror flick – then when push comes to shove, you gotta figure out that old Mr. Zachary is none other than Satan himself – seems about as obvious as an Michael Bay movie.
Ok, that’s it; I’ve blown it for you. You may as well just turn off the T.V. and skip out on one of the dullest horror films I’ve ever had the displeasure of setting my weary eyes upon. What’s that you say, give us a bit more vitriol to go with this pile of steaming trash.
Overflowing with way too much exposition, and a barrage of scenes that offer little more than the actors looking pensive, The Garden felt like five movies – five long strange never-ending tales that were designed to suck the very soul from my body. Perhaps it felt that way because it took me 5 sittings to finally make it through the film!
Director Don Michael Paul has spent most of his career in front of the camera and shows little promise helming his second feature film. His first, the Stephen Segal slugfest Half Past Dead was made a few years back, and even though I am absolutely certain that I have seen it, nothing about the movie, springs to mind. This is the same problem that The Garden faces. The film is just there; it’s missing anything even approximating memorability. Once the closing credits rolled, I strained to even recall the opening frames of the film – although in some twisted defense of the film – I did start it almost a week earlier.
Now, with that glowing review of the film in check, lets get down to the reason that any self-respecting gorehound is going to rent this puppy, and that is – Lance. Just a cursory glance over his illustrious career reveals some 120 film appearances, including several of my favorite films including Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Right Stuff, Aliens and Near Dark. Genre fans can always point to Lance’s turns in The Horror Show, Scream 3 and the recent Alien vs. Predator fiasco as proof that even in the midst of tragedy King Lance can get it done. But with 20 films on his plate between the time The Garden was filmed and the end of this year and only the upcoming Abominable, looking remotely like a winner, I gotta say…Brother, you’re spreading yourself way too thin on this refuse. Make Nancy Reagan proud next time and just say no.
I hate to watch a solid premise wasted almost as much as I dislike seeing one of my favorite actors talents squandered on drivel. But with the lackluster dialogue and inept direction I’m not certain that any combination of things could have saved this movie from total meltdown – making The Garden a true tragedy of biblical proportions.