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CampBlood Reviews: Senseless Rants from a Picky Sissy

 

I'll Bury You Tomorrow Alan Rowe Kelly 2002

A Snowball's Chance in New Jersey

Sometimes it’s fun to watch a film that is so layered with meaning and subtext that it flakes apart like a freshly baked croissant. Sometimes it’s thrilling to wrap your mind around a premise so convoluted that it defies the very laws of logic and reason, seemingly negating the reality is creates for itself even as it operates within it. And sometimes it’s equally satisfying to see a bunch of people just get royally fucked up.

Such a movie is I’ll Bury You Tomorrow, an occasionally clumsy and obviously cash-strapped shot-on-video feature that nonetheless manages to overcome its low-budget trappings through sheer chaotic glee. Filmed entirely in pastoral New Jersey, this film does more than just re-affirm this New Yorker’s belief that the Garden State is a refuge for lunatics: featuring such tried-and-true themes as incest, necrophilia, drug addiction, murder, obsession, torture, and some pretty severe desecration of departed loved ones, IBYT makes New Jersey seem like an absolute paradise to anyone who has seen one too many strip malls or been cut off by one too many SUVs.

I have a feeling that the real town that the film was shot in is not nearly as colorful as the town shown here – sort of in the way that John Waters fans will likely be disappointed if they travel to Baltimore to find an enclave of freakish masturbating crossdressing poop-eaters and instead find a stadium and a harborside California Pizza Kitchen. In fact, one of I’ll Bury You Tomorrow’s strongest points is its audacious cast of characters, ranging from the apple-cheeked “normals” (hunky policeman Mitch, played with a granite-faced deadpan by Jerry Murdock, and his friends) to the completely over-the-top graverobbers Jake and Corey (director Alan Rowe Kelly in a surprisingly sincere gender-bending femme fatale role), and everything in-between (deathmask-faced Nurse Olive, played by New York fixture Linda Leven; earnest and totally hopeless funeral home owners Percival and Nettie Beech; your run-of-the-mill hot trashy stripper). Into this motley mix of freaks and weirdos, insert Alpha Weirdo: one Dolores Finley (the spellcheck-challenging Zoe Daelman Chlanda), a drifter and possible fugitive with a creepy knack for mortuary science and a suspiciously heavy steamer trunk.

As is to be suspected, Dolores’s arrival sets off a chain-reaction of deadly and disturbing events in this community, who seems to have found a maladjusted, co-dependent balance based on secrecy, coercion, and strong-arming. In other words, your typical middle-American small-town community. But Dolores’s intentions are not entirely clear, and her inevitable unraveling while she lives and works in the Beeches’ funeral home is drawn out and prolonged enough to give the other characters time to breathe and play a little.

Now, some of the characters deserve more breath than others. I’ll admit that I developed a very strong fixation on policeman Mitch from the onset, for obvious reasons probably rooted in my early sexualization at the hands of C.H.I.P.S.. Now, what I didn’t realize at first is that besides being a complete babe, actor Murdock -- although playing things very thick and noble (think Royal Canadian Mounted Police) -- has a huge ace up his sleeve that I won’t reveal here, as it provided me with a great deal of satisfaction once it was made known to me after watching the film. Think of it as a Crying Game type thing, only without the pickle-shot (*sigh*). Suffice to say Murdock has a lot more going on than I originally gave him credit for, acting-wise.

Chlanda as Dolores is also a fucked-up mess -– thankfully, she is careful not to tip into melodrama and pulls off some pretty impressive fits of temper as the story progresses. This is the kind of horror role that modern direct-to-video scream queens would die for, and probably screw up royally. But Chlanda has a contemplative, brooding way about her that grounds the character and prevents her flights of lunacy from seeming blithe or cheesy. Likewise graverobbing brute Jake, whose grimy trailer-trash cokehead could have easily come off as a one-note character but whose flagrant insanity matched with impressive stature make him genuinely menacing.

The peripheral characters sadly don’t fare as well – the Beeches are lightly-sketched and the “pining for our long-lost daughter” routine is fairly evident early-on and doesn’t really go far (I much preferred the drama provided by the more actively insane characters -- melancholy just isn't as much fun to watch). The “normals”, as they are, are also pretty disposable – which is likely intentional, seeing as how it doesn’t really end well for any of them.

Which brings me to my next point: this is one of those delightful stories where nothing really goes well for anyone. Freaks and geeks alike find themselves eviscerated, buried alive, shot, stabbed, embalmed, you name it. And although I’ll admit I was a little leery at the beginning of whether or not Kelly was going to give us a payoff for the plodding first 30 minutes (not a bad thing if you know that there’s something good around the bend – but when you’ve watched as many shot-on-video first horror features as I have, a slow start can make you a wee bit suspicious that you may be swallowing your tongue before the movie is over), but by the time the last act kicks in the movie has snowballed into a gleefully anarchic clusterfuck that leaves Port Oram bloodied from nave to chops. Yay!

That said, the movie is still quite long for horror standards (the usual direct-to-vid 89 minute-rule is flagrantly disregarded here), and the fact that the DVD offers dozens of deleted scenes shows that these folks were hell-bent on getting this story out there and had a fun time doing it. Less patient viewers may get distracted before things kick into gear, but it certainly is worth it to hang around until the end, and there are a few fun setpieces to keep things from getting too dry.

Also of note is the fabulous full score (very classic horror), which lends considerable production value to a project that stands well apart from its shot-on-video brethren despite an obviously shoestring budget. It’s amazing what a little care and planning, as well as a genuine affection for the genre, can do. If Kelly can turn out what is a more enjoyable film than most modestly budgeted studio fare on next-to-nothing budget, I’m very interested to see what he’ll do with a little cash in the coffers. As it is, I’ll Bury You Tomorrow’s grisly maniac spirit elevates it above its budgetary trappings and makes it worth the watch.

Rating (out of 5):