CampBlood Reviews: Senseless Rants from a Picky Sissy


The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra Larry Blamire 2001

The Road to Rural California is Paved with Good Intentions

This is a tough one. I can honestly say that I really did enjoy this film, even though as I consider myself a snide, back-biting, hard-to-please princess of the pen I really have no right to. It's overlong by about 40 minutes. Nothing really happens. It's derivative and not all that clever in its derivation. The cast isn't even very attractive (gasp!).

And yet, I am finding myself struck with a rare and well-timed case of the "look at 'em put on a show!"s, and am going to be giving The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra a positive review. Those not entirely disgusted by the sudden softening of my otherwise rotten, brittle little heart can read on...

The Lost Skeleton is a cheaply-made ($40,000!) and charming little movie that parodies the rubber-suit drive-in monster movies of the '50s with tongue firmly in cheek and heart slapped wetly on sleeve. The plot is simple: a meteographer and his lovely wife travel to a mountain cabin to study a newly-arrived meteor and its supply of Atmospherium, but their idyllic weekend is complicated by the arrival of a sinister scientist bent on reanimating a skeleton that haunts the rocks of the canyon, an alien couple who have crashlanded on Earth and lost their killer mutant, a woman composed of forest animals who poses as the scientist's date, and a stupid but well-intentioned forest Ranger named Brad. Basic stuff.

The charm of this tale is in the telling, as you might imagine. The actors play their roles fairly straight (ahem) and the stylistic touches (impossible topographies that change between shots, an utter disregard for continuity, and painfully repetitive dialogue) are actually a hell of a lot more sly than they have any right to be (compared to bigger-budget parodies like the Scary Movies or Not Another Teen Movie, which rely on the lowest-hanging fruit as the butts of their jokes, if they're still on the tree at all). True, the over-explaining of the painfully simple plot (a common occurance in low-budget flicks that are obviously trying to pad their running time) gets a bit tedious, but I give the filmmakers points for sticking with the joke through the end and keeping an even tone throughout. In fact, the seriousness of the proceedings is what makes the film so much fun -- you really get the feeling that these folks are bad actors trying to make a good film, not a group of winkers poking fun of an easy-target genre. In a Q&A after the showing (at the maaaaarvelous Sunshine Theatre in Manhattan), actor Dan Conroy, who plays Ranger Brad, said that director Larry Blamire's direction was essentially, "you're a real forest ranger who got hired to make the movie and you're taking it all very seriously. You've had no acting experience whatsoever.", or in essence, "act badly, but from the heart". This seems to be the approach for all involved, and for the most part it works well and doesn't seem cloying or precious.

Fans of the films that Skeleton mimics will have oodles to gawk at: references are dropped to everything from Cat Women on the Moon to Bride of the Monster to Plan Nine from Outer Space. Those who think this sounds like an insider's nudgefest and could be terribly boring to folks who don't have a particular penchant for these films may be totally right: my companion was bored to tears and kept trying to get an apology out of me afterward (I was defiantly unrepentant). So maybe it's not for everyone. But if you're up for a good-natured, uncomplicated, nostalgic meander through some nicely composed black-and-white digital video, a handful of cheezy special effects, and loads of bad dialogue, this is one to catch. And how can you not like a movie that comes with take-home finger-puppets?!

Rating (out of 5):