The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra: B-Movie Extravaganza

The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra: B-Movie Extravaganza

We are living in what some refer to as the post-post-modern era, a cumbersome term that is, itself, somewhat post-modern. Essentially, PoPoMo is just a dumbed-down version of the original approach. It embraces irony for idle amusement and not so much for meaningful commentary and it has a genuine love for its source material. Films like the loving homages of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg are the high-water mark for cheeky movies that simultaneously parody and show appreciation for the whole-cloth genres that have delighted popcorn crowds for decades. But they aren't the only ones in the game.

In that sense, Larry Blamire has taken it upon himself to lead the love parade for all things classic B-Movie. Those creature features from the 1950's and 60's have long been fodder for anachronism-driven laughs, with plenty of homages sprouting up over the past two decades. From the embrace of sensationalist reels like Reefer Madness to the glorious character study of Ed Wood, the lasting fame of B-Movies resides in their inherent badness and the misplaced enthusiasm of everyone involved with their production. It wasn't until 2004's The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra that a proper mock-up of the style hit the scene, however saturated with cultural consciousness it already was.

Cadavra hits all the right notes in its imitation. The most important factor is just how spot-on the actors are in their winking woodenness and inept sincerity. A good performer can make excellence look effortless, but it takes a true talent to consistently mimic a complete lack of talent. Cadavra's cast is a mix of first-timers, friends of the director and veteran working actors, but they all have a peculiar chemistry that allows them to play up the awfulness for maximum laughs.

This movie assumes that the audience is in on the joke, so really its premise is that a horrible B-Movie is being made, not just the movie's own plot. That's why it's so easy to enjoy Cadavra's hopelessly convoluted script and overcrowded scenes. Watching this movie is like a scavenger hunt for the genre-referencing jokes among the mess. Every now and then a reaction shot lingers too long or a line is delivered in a mumble. All of the strings and zippers show. Half the time it's a wonder that a boom mic doesn't pop into frame. But what really makes Cadavra a successful joke movie is its ability to reach back into the pathos of a bygone era. Many lines are tinged with a subtle, oblivious misogyny and the moral message of tolerance tacked on at the end is instantly subverted by the conspicuously white, fair-haired cast. Even one of the villains, Animala, has the look and the allure of a suburbia-menacing beatnik, a touch a less conversant director would neglect.

Since The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, Larry Blamire has released a number of other B-Movie parody films, including a proper 2008 sequel The Lost Skeleton Returns Again. None of these exercises have really been as good as the original, nor have any of them been all that necessary. The magic of Cadavra is that it was made much in the same way the classics were made. It had an under-shoestring budget, a cast of relatives and it even made use of Bronson Canyon where so many monster movies of old were filmed. While Blamire's subsequent efforts don't really have the punch or relevance of his first project, The Lost Skeleton Of Cadavra is good for a laugh.