I had never heard of this Lovecraft-inspired horror film directed by Tobe Hooper, director of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I’m a sucker for Lovecraft stuff and this story has elements from the stories such as The Colour out of Space. It starts all right building up the characters and the location enough but the story kind of got messy towards the end and although I did enjoy it it’s not very memorable.
Leslie Doyle (Denise Crosby) gets a job at a run-down mortuary and moves in with her children 7-year-old Jamie and teenager Jonathan (Dan Byrd). Her husband died recently and this move was necessary to get on with her life and provide for her family. They get shown around the place by a local councilman Eliiot Cook and the place looks grubby and neglected. He tells Leslie that with a nursing home and a large interstate road nearby there is plenty of potential business. When Jamie sees coffins on display she rushes to touch one saying “Daddy?” Leslie takes her out and closes the door making her promise not to go in there. The embalming room is filthy mess with some sort of fungal growth
Jonathan takes a look around the rooms upstairs and makes his way to attic which has windows over-looking the cemetery. The cemetery soil is grey and dead with nothing growing in it. Jonathan sees the name Bobby F carved into windowsill. He goes downstairs to the embalming room where Jamie and Leslie have done a good job cleaning the place up. Jonathan asks Leslie if he can have the attic room then says he’s going into town to get a burger. Leslie gives him the car keys and asks him to pick some things for the house. She cuts her finger on the sharp edge of one of the keys of the mortuary, a strange star-shaped key. No-one notices veiny growths of greenish black fungus come out of the vein to absorb the drops of blood.
In town Jonathan goes into a diner but Rita (Lee Garlington) the owner tells him the kitchen is closed but she still has some turkey sandwiches. Jonathan applies for a job that was advertised in the window and Rita likes him and tells him to start the following day. Jonathan tries to introduce himself to some young people sitting at a table but they turn out to be completely obnoxious assholes which tends to a compulsory element of any horror film involving protagonists moving into a new town
Later that night Jonathan is standing out porch smoking and he sees a figure running in cemetery. He has a look around but can’t see whoever it is but he finds a necklace lying on the ground. He tells Leslie about seeing someone in the cemetery and gives her the necklace. She finds a strange hatch at the bottom of a wall but it just leads to a long passage that you’d have to crawl through so they don’t bother looking into it anymore
Next day Jonathan starts at the diner and meets Liz (Alexandra Adi), Rita’s niece who also works at the diner and he barely disguise his lust at first sight. He also fails to cover his crashing disappointment when her friend Grady (Rocky Marquette) comes and she eagerly welcomes him with hugs and kisses. The three assholes are back and they make some reference to Bobby Fowler and somehow this leads to a senseless fight between Jonathan and the male asshole called Cal. Rita chucks out the assholes
Leslie has a look around the cemetery while Jamie runs around putting red liquorice twist on each grave stone in case the people in the graves get hungry. Leslie finds a crypt with its door open and looks inside. It looks undisturbed with several coffins on shelves. There are also stairs going down underground and at the bottom there is a metal door with a plaque saying, “That which is dead can eternal Lie with strange eons even death may die,” which is a direct quote from H.P. Lovecraft. The door has a star-shaped lock so she unlocks it with matching star-shaped key but before she open the door she hears Jamie calling.
Sheriff Howell (Michael Shamus Wiles) has come round to welcome Leslie to the town. Leslie tells him about Jonathan seeing someone in cemetery at night and Howell reckons it is probably kids. He thinks that the boys like to pretend to brave and bring girls her and their heightened emotions leads to the inevitable and Howell promises that together that can help stamp out graveyard babies which would be a great name for a rock band
At the diner Jonathan gets told story of Bobby Fowler by Elizabeth and Grady. The local legend is that Fowler land was poisoned by something that fell out of space. Any crop planted just withered and the cattle rotted in the fields so the original ancestral Fowler became a mortician and turned his land into a cemetery. The family was wealthy but strange and very insular and there was a lot of incest until the most recent generation produced Bobby Fowler who was born so deformed that his family locked him away in the attic. No-one takes Rita seriously when she says Bobby Fowler is still alive.
The film was a very mixed bag The Lovecraft elements are okay but there is not much of the cosmic terror about the film. Many things get brought up but just get dropped as the story goes on.The cast are pretty good but the characters are a bit undeveloped with traits that suit the narrative rather than feeling like real people. The asshole characters are perfect examples of this, existing just as antagonists to the main character and doing stupid things to ensure the hideous evil gets unleashed Jamie. The film has some humour but it could probably have done with more. Overall I’d say this film is unoriginal but entertaining even if gets bit messy towards the end.