Graveyard Alive: A Zombie Nurse in Love
written and directed by Elza Kephart
starring Anne Day-Jones and Samantha Slan
review by Stephen Notley
For zombie-lovin' fans who found the new Dawn of the Dead a tad on the unsatisfying side, or for those who fed on it only to find their insatiable hunger for human flesh in movie form whetted and increased, there's good news at the Metro this weekend with Graveyard Alive, a tight and curious little zombie movie from Montreal. Though perhaps "zombie movie" isn't quite right; with its black-and-white film, its odd overdubbed soundtrack and its arch cartoony characters, Graveyard Alive feels more like an extended zombie skit than a full-fledged film.
Every good zombie movie has something to say about zombies, or at the very least uses zombies as a platform to talk about something else (which would probably explain the eerie popularity zombie films have with homebrew DIY filmmakers). Graveyard Alive uses zombies to spice up a mixed-up Betty-and-Veronica-style catfight over a man. We start with shy mousey Nurse Patsy who reads romance novels and gazes lovingly and alonely across the hospital cafeteria at sleazy Dr. Dox (whom she dated back in high school) getting engaged to bitchy blonde Nurse Goodie Tueschuze. Plot arrives in the form of a lumberjack with zombieitis who bites Nurse Patsy. She, in turn, quickly discovers the sexifying power of zombiedom, combing her hair out, ditching the huge glasses, putting on push-up bras and long black tights, and sets out to win her man back from scheming Nurse Goodie, eating several people in the process.
As I said, this works more on the goofy-improv level than as a "realistic" zombie movie, but Graveyard Alive keeps it ticking with some fair wit and imagination. It's good to see a zombie movie branch out from the small-group-of-humans-trapped-somewhere-surrounded-by-zombies plot, and it's even better to see a story where the protagonist (for a while at least) *is* a zombie, having to deal with zombie things on a zombie level. Nurse Patsy has quite a dilemma; now that she's a zombie she's sexy and popular, but if she doesn't eat human flesh her skin starts to peel off and she starts to rot. What's a girl to do? *Not* eat human flesh? And the movie's not shy about the blood and gore, either; when it comes time for Nurse Patsy to chow down on manmeat she really gets into it, smearing goo all over her face, grobbling chunks down her throat, leaving nothing but a picked-apart skeleton. Yum. And gross.
One could argue this is a some metaphorical statement about how women can use sex for power with a half-dingle into something about how society isolates and punishes women, but it's not necessary to probe too deeply; the movie works on its own wonky level. Graveyard Alive has plenty of skin-peeling, rotting-flesh tricks up its sleeves and it builds as it goes along, goofing around for most of its length and then managing to glide into a pretty spooky and good little ending. As a cheapo little home-movie zombie flick Graveyard Alive can't compete with Dawn of the Dead 2004 on fancy computer-generated zombie-smushing effects shots, but since it has some actual cool ideas it doesn't need to. If yer lookin' fer zombie, Graveyard Alive is what's for dinner.