Monday, July 28, 2014

Northville Cemetery Massacre (1976)



          The high point of Northville Cemetery Massacre—which is actually a biker flick, rather than the gory horror movie one might expect, based upon the title—occurs when several bikers get thrown into a county jail after getting needlessly hassled by redneck cops. As the cyclists pass around a reefer provided by a dealer who’s been thrown into the slammer with them, the amiable voice of Michael Nesmith appears on the soundtrack. Nesmith, a once-and-future member of pop group the Monkees, did the score for Northville Cemetery Massacre, and he also wrote and performed several songs. So, while the onscreen dudes toke, Nesmith croons like a country-and-western troubadour: “A friend with weed is a friend indeed.” For sheer novelty’s sake, nothing else in Northville Cemetery Massacre matches the peculiarity of a Monkee singing the praises of sweet Mary Jane. That’s because, excepting a surprising amount of gore during murder scenes, nothing in Northville Cemetery Massacre has the power to surprise.
          The story is a familiar grind during which bikers roll into a small town, get accused of a crime they didn’t commit (in this case, a rape), and then battle angry locals. The twist, such as it is, stems from the fact that rape was actually committed by a sleazy policeman (Craig Collicott), who persuades the victim’s father that the bikers were the culprits. Cue instant vendetta, with the cop and the father, abetted by a big-game hunter, mowing down bikers. The violent cycle culminates in a shootout that takes place in a graveyard, hence the film’s title.
          Despite sketchy production values and some iffy acting, Northville Cemetery Massacre has some pleasant passages. For instance, a biker captures counterculture angst by lamenting that “all you gotta do is have long hair, ride a scooter, and wear colors, and everything you do is illegal.” In fact, all of the scenes of the bikers hanging out have a realistic vibe. Between interesting-ish scenes, however, is lots of padding. Predictability and superficiality are problems, as well, since character development clearly was not a priority for the filmmakers. FYI, one of those aforementioned filmmakers, codirector and co-cinematographer William Dear, later built a respectable career making, among other things, the gentle family film Harry and the Hendersons (1987). Go figure.

Northville Cemetery Massacre: FUNKY

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