Directed by Don Michael Paul
Produced by Stephen J. Cannell and Michael J. Dubelko
Written by Samuel Bozzo and Don Michael Paul
Director of Photograpy Thomas L. Callaway
Music by Jon Lee
Cast: Lance Henriksen, Sean Young, Brian Wimmer, Adam Taylor Gordon, Claudia Christian
2005/92 mins/Color/Dolby Digital 5.1
1.77:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Anchor Bay Home Entertainment DVD
Low-budget horror is such a common phrase that the words almost seem redundant. (This is evidenced by the fact that people go out of their way to point out a big-budget horror movie.) In fact, many of these movies work due to their low budget, as they often feature a lack of pretense and a small number of locations which only increases the power of the movie. However, there are some movies which strive for more and the financial short-comings of the production leave something to be desired. THE GARDEN is a film with a story of epic proportions which is played out on a teeny-tiny stage.
As THE GARDEN opens, we meet Sam (Adam Taylor Gordon), a young boy who experiences visions and nightmares, and who often cuts on himself. He has been hospitalized under the watchful eye of Dr. Cairns (Claudia Christian), but he's now been released into the custody of his father, David (Brian Wimmer), a recovering alcoholic. As they are driving to the home of Sam's mother (David and his wife are separated), their truck is involved in an accident on the land of an old man named Ben (Lance Henriksen). Despite the fact that they are expected at home, David decides that they will stay on Ben's farm -- where David will work for Ben. Sam isn't very crazy about this idea, not only because Ben doesn't have any modern conveniences such as TV or computer, but also because the old man is very creepy.
Despite Sam's protests, David settles in very quickly on the farm and begins to act very strangely. Sam searches the barn and finds many odd and violent looking devices. Sam is enrolled in the local school and is surprised to find that the teacher, Miss Chapman (Sean Young) focuses on the Bible. As the story progresses, Sam begins to have strange and disturbing visions, and he begins to realize that Ben is even more sinister than he first appeared to be.
Hopefully I won't be giving too much away if I expound on that synopsis (If you're afraid that I will expose too much, please jump ahead) -- I don't feel that I will as the film tips its hat fairly quickly. You see, Ben is actually Satan and he's been living on Earth for a long time. But, he's tired of this and he has a plan to bring about Armageddon and thus tipping the scales in his favor. And Sam and David are to be a part of this plan.
Now, this is a really interesting and clever idea from screenwriter Sam Bozzo. The problem with THE GARDEN is that this very small film is forced to take this large idea and make it more of a psychological thriller which is filled with many subtle hints and cues. The problem with the end of the world is that it is really very subtle and thus, the film suffers. The movie actually includes a great deal of Biblical imagery, including The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, but it just feels "small". I liken THE GARDEN to SIGNS where we see how a global disaster effects one small farm. And, adding insult to injury, when Ben gives Sam a "Spider-Man" comic book, claiming that it's an original from the 1960s, it's plain to see that it's "Marvel Tales", a comic which reprints "Spider-Man" stories. Yes, I know I'm nitpicking, but that's part of my job.
So, despite some attempts at fancy imagery, director Don Michael Paul is forced to try to make THE GARDEN work through pacing, dialogue, and acting. Sadly, the film suffers here as well. The pacing of the film is rather slack and aside from the truck accident, not much happens in the first half of the film. Sam does have some disturbing visions, but in the end, they don't add up to much. (Are there zombies on the farm? I could never figure that one out.) The story never really gels, as it's hard to understand why David decides to stay on the ranch (Yes, I grasp that he's ultimately there against his will, but it doesn't feel legitimate in the movie.) Many will want to see the film due to the presence of Lance Henriksen, but this is merely another one of his "creepy character" performances and honestly all Ben does is speak in riddles and offer people beverages. (Seriously, if you watch the film you'll see that I'm right.)
I found THE GARDEN to be a pondering bore. My wife said that she found the idea of the movie to be scary. And therein lies the problem -- THE GARDEN does present an interesting idea, and an admittedly scary one, but the execution never lives up to the promise and the end result bears no fruit.
THE GARDEN sprouts on DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The movie has been letterboxed at 1.77:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks very good, as the picture is very sharp and clear. There is basically no grain here, nor are their any defects from the source material. (I was convinced that this was a digital production, but the credits point to the fact that it was shot on film.) The colors are good, as is the balance between the light and dark scenes. There was some mild video noise at times, but otherwise the transfer looked good. The DVD features a Dolby Surround 2.0 audio track. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects with no distortion. The stereo effects are noticeably good and there is a moderate amount of bass from the front speakers. The surround sound is discrete, but the rear speakers do come alive during Sam's visions.
THE GARDEN DVD features a smattering of extras. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from director Don Michael Paul. This is a good, if not unspectacular talk, as Paul gives a very detailed account of the film's production. He's very good at pointing out general facts, such as locations, but he's also quick to thank those who assisted in making the film. "THE GARDEN: Behind-the-Scenes" (6 minutes) is simply on-set video footage of several scenes being shot. The extras are finished off by a trailer for THE GARDEN, a STILL GALLERY, and a text BIO of Lance Henriksen.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2006. ©