1971 - R - 87 Mins.
|Director: James H. Kay|
|Producer: Chalmer Kirkbridge Jr.|
|Written By: James H, Kay|
|Starring: Katharine Houghton, Joe Dallesandro, Rita Gam, James Congdon |
|Review by: Chris Beaumont
|Official Site: www.subversivecinema.com/|
Every once in a while a movie comes along that makes you question your commitment to the medium. 'The Gardener' is one of those films. I like horror movies, but there is something that I require from my horror movies -- actual horror.
Stay out of the greenhouse.....
When I first heard of this title, I was attracted to its description. Here is the quote that convinced me to see it: "The Gardener is a flowery mix of 70s mod-art film, grindhouse horror and Italian giallo!" This statement is flat out incorrect. This movie is just a slow, dry, dull drama with slight supernatural overtones. On top of that, the plot is non-existent. It was a chore to sit through.
The story follows Ellen and John, a wealthy couple staying at their home in Costa Rica (actually, it was shot in Puerto Rico). Ellen finds that a friend of hers had passed away. This leads her to the beautiful garden that she left behind. She is then introduced to the man responsible for the beautiful landscaping, Carl. Ellen ends up hiring this man of few words, and, apparently, few shirts.
There is something strange about this man. The plants seem to respond to him and grow bigger and more beautiful just because he is there. He takes these plants and places them around the house, to the delight of Ellen, and the chagrin of her cook, who, according to the press release, possesses great knowledge of Voodoo, yet there is no real indication of this in the movie. I guess, if you are a native of Costa Rica, you must have knowledge of Voodoo.
As the, uh, story moves along, we watch these rich people sit around and complain while vintage 70's cocktail music plays. They start to complain about the preponderance of flowers, and how the quiet Carl is a strange character indeed. Occasionally someone would lay down among the greenery and just expire, nothing gruesome or bloody, they just died. Eventually Ellen becomes suspicious, despite her friends insistence that she is crazy. Her investigation turns up a number of dead women, which leads to her climactic showdown with the mysterious gardener.
Joe Dallesandro stars as the title character. He had made a name for himself after appearing in films such as 'Flesh for Frankenstein' and 'Blood for Dracula.' Here he gives a stoic, wooden (hehehe) performance. He walks around stiffly, barely delivering his few and far between lines of dialog. Co-starring with him is Katherine Houghton, her first film after 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?' She doesn't exactly light up the screen, but then again, the script doesn't do her any favors.
'The Gardener' was written and directed by James H. Kay, this being his, thankfully, one and only film. The script is awful. The dialog is anything but believable, and it is delivered as if it is being read off cue cards. The film is devoid of any tension or suspense. It just plods along from scene to scene. The exposition is kept to a minimum, we don't learn of any motive, or reasons for what he does, it just is, and there isn't much of "it." The direction is as wooden as it's lead actor. The lighting is flat and camera work is pedestrian at its best point.
Bottomline. Avoid this stinker, that is unless you suffer from insomnia. In case of those sleepless nights, this may be just what you are looking for.