Directed by Don Michael Paul, 2006
In the realm of direct-to-DVD horror, The Garden is a unique find for a multitude of reasons. Lance Henriksen is the most obvious motivation for any genre fan to watch this contemporary but isolatory tale of good versus evil. However, not only does the rest of the cast pull their weight, but director Don Michael Paul shoulders the burden of the lower budget with ease.
Maybe I’m becoming jaded by the wealth of direct-to-DVD flicks that take no risks or show no energy in the directorial department, but I was actually surprised by The Garden’s look and feel, which really elevates it high above the derivative, shot-on-Digital-Video look that plagues rental shelves these days. The blocking and framing shows a lot more inspiration than what you’d expect, which goes hand in hand with a fluent taste for savory scenes between lowly man and the devil.
The story revolves around a son and father who, after getting into an ‘accident’ are forced to spend some time on Lance Henriksen’s ranch. Only – and I say this with no intent of spoiling anything, because you’ll sense it from minute one – Lance Henriksen isn’t just some guy who lives in the middle of nowhere, but is Satan himself. His ranch is equipped with its own Garden of Eden, where Henriksen tries to lure the father in an attempt to bring on the apocalypse.
It is is a pretty hefty story, which allows for some fantastic biblical imagery (the four horsemen of the apocalypse even show up), but the script isn’t perfect and really becomes the only fault I find with the movie. Though an over zealous tow truck driver gave me a list of passages to read when he picked me on the side of the road a few weeks ago, I have still not read the bible cover to cover, so maybe my religious ignorance is at fault here, but I had a hard time following the motivation or logic (religious logic, that is) behind a lot of it. The main problem is that no sense of urgency is ever created. Once we learn that Lance Henriksen is trying to bring about the apocalypse, there is never any over arching sense of dread that he is actually going to do just that. It all happens rather calmly, which worked nicely in the beginning, but I want a climax to be actually climactic.
But even when comprehension of the script becomes stale, the film still carries into attention worthy territory on the back of Lance Henriksen’s badass performance and Don Michael Paul’s ambitious direction. The Garden is a must see for any fan of Henriksen’s, and a contender for rental by anyone who appreciates a film which aims higher than its demographics’ standards, even if it loses its footing from time to time towards the ending.