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The Garden (June 29/06)

Starring Lance Henriksen, The Garden is the latest in a seemingly neverending line of interminable, flat-out dull straight-to-video horror flicks. Though it's technically well made and rife with surprisingly effective performances, the film is ultimately undone by its excruciatingly slow pace and overly talky vibe.

The story revolves around a mentally unstable kid named Sam (Adam Taylor Gordon), who - following his release from a mental hospital - finds himself forced to live on a ranch with his father and a mysterious figure named Ben Zachary (Henriksen). It's not long before Sam begins suffering from a series of disturbing nightmares - most of which revolve around Ben and his admittedly bizarre behavioral ticks. But despite the skepticism of his father, Sam is convinced that there's something very wrong about this place (the film's title essentially gives away all its secrets).

Featuring a screenplay by Sam Bozzo and direction by Don Michael Paul, The Garden stumbles right from the get-go and never quite captures the interest of the viewer. It's clear that Bozzo and Paul are attempting something slightly different than the usual balls-to-the-wall scary movie, but the pair go too far in the opposite direction - ultimately transforming The Garden into a dull, surprisingly inert little thriller.

Paul's use of creepy imagery to inject the film with momentary bursts of horror proves to be effective, although the majority of this stuff can't help but come off as meaningless (what's with the guy whose mouth has been sewn shut?) The increasingly ludicrous plot developments - most revolving around the religious overtones of Ben's farm - are exacerbated by Bozzo's penchant for speechifying, as the film's characters are finally forced to talk at one another as the movie lurches towards its inevitable conclusion.

While The Garden does feature an expectedly sinister performance from Henriksen, the bottom line is that there's simply nothing here to hold the viewer's interest.

out of

About the DVD: The Garden arrives on DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment, armed with an anamorphically-enhanced transfer and several bonus features (including a commentary track with Paul, a six minute behind-the-scenes featurette, a gallery of stills, and more).
© David Nusair