Had director John Hayes and his collaborators plunged deeper into the inherent weirdness of their story, Garden of the Dead could have become a trash-cinema masterpiece, because the narrative involves zombies addicted to huffing formaldehyde. Unfortunately, Hayes and Co. played Garden of the Dead straight, so conventional execution clashes with the goofy premise. Not helping matters are limp performances by a no-name cast. Some fright-flick fans might be able to groove on Garden of the Dead for its slavish adherence to zombie-cinema clichés and for the handful of scenes that tip into camp, but most viewers will find the picture dumb, flat, and slight. The action starts at prison work camp, where studly Paul Johnson (Marland Proctor) is among the inmates. His pretty young wife, Carol (Susan Charney), visits one day, and viewers get the general sense he might have been wrongly convicted. In any event, Paul and several other prisoners amuse themselves by huffing formaldehyde. (Never mind the way guards fail to notice the convicts periodically disappearing into a shed where chemicals are stored.) When Paul and his cronies stage an unsuccessful prison break, the evil warden punishes them by leaving the inmates stranded in a remote wooded area. Zombies emerge from the ground, killing the crooks and transforming them into the undead. Now zombified, Paul and his pals attack Carol’s Winnebago, then chase her when she drives to the prison for help. The monsters attack the prison, abruptly switching their motivation from menacing Carol to getting more of that sweet, sweet formaldehyde. Whatever. Creatures lay siege, would-be victims fight back with shotguns, and so on. Excepting the weird but woefully underdeveloped drug angle, it’s nothing you haven’t seen before.
Garden of the Dead: LAME