The Boneyard (1991)

For the most part, this is an effectively creepy horror / action picture, set almost entirely in an underground morgue (the boneyard of the title) over the course of one night. Alley Cates (Deborah Rose), a middle-aged psychic, is called in by cop Jersey Callum (Ed Nelson) to examine the effects of three long-dead children who have just been found on the premises of an undertaker who seems to be a serial killer but claims to be a slave to ancient Chinese spirits. Negotiating a difficult way past the morgue's tyrannical night manageress Mrs Poopinplatz (Phyllis Diller), the cop and the psychic have no sooner arrived than the dead children spring to life as nasty little zombies and a small group of characters is trapped underground.

There's a refreshing refusal to pander to the usual youth market by making a weary, silver-haired policeman and a hefty, middle-aged matron hero and heroine, sidelining the more conventional coupling of a supporting cop (James Eustermann) and a near-suicide (Denise Young), who has been brought in by mistake and revives during the autopsy. The kid creatures are cunning and disturbing, scuttling about in a manner faintly reminiscent of the evil doll from Trilogy of Terror, but the climax takes a detour into Troma territory as Mrs Poopinplatz is revived from the dead as a towering, pop-eyed Phyllis Diller caricature zombie and her vicious poodle is similarly transformed into a giant grotesque. For the most part, a sober, unsettling thriller, but the camp finale - though it shows off fine horror comic effects - seems grafted on. Directed and written by James Cummins.

First published in this form here.

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