The topic of documentaries and the horror genre, it’s a murky intersection, often one thinks of the of mockumentaries or just plain fakery types, but it’s the real true ones the lean to the paranormal realm. However, factual ones exist often examining the genre, whether its gothic traits, or Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of Slasher Films (2006), Cropsey (2009) or those focused on a movie franchise. Then there’s this other area to discovering those films which cover real life dramas and horrors often used as clichés or situations in our beloved genre. Facing East, a film distributed by Uncork’d Entertainment from director Tommy Baker, his debut with feature presentation, that contains archival footage of legal proceedings concerning the atrocities committed in the name of religious burial procedures namely against poor families.
The overall documentary tells of the exploitation committed against the poor families of Eastern Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky, which sadly earned their name as the “most over-buried cemetery in America.” That phrasing sends shivers down one’s spine, especially to anyone who ever attended or paid for a funeral for a friend or loved-one, the experience already heart wrenching and then adding the greed of the outrageous costs, in today’s price its averages $10,788. The principal narrator was Francis Whitaker and then told by Bob Allen, Beth Caldwell, Phil DiBlasi, and Andy Harpole who brought the anguish of this cemetery’s practices when the grounds were purchased by two Methodist Episcopal churches in 1844 to modern day. In the 1800s the practice of bury mass pauper graves wasn’t illegal, these often contained passersby, slaves, anyone without money would go into a grave of this sorts (actually still done this way in parts of the country), however the practices of then continued until the early 1990s. The main crux of the documentary focuses on a whistleblower employee of the Louisville Crematories and Cemetery Company (the last named used by the company) coming forward in 1989 to inform authorities of the horrendous situations occurring at the cemetery namely, how an individual purchase a plot and it was resold and reused multiple times. Some of the statistics told in the film were very disheartening such as boxes found with random body parts, one included 10-skull heads and another 14-arms, however worst yet on the grounds had a section called baby land. The area contained at least 70-baby graves never done correctly, to the proper depth, barely 12-inches down. Many cemeteries around United States do have an infant section, it often places off to one side and given high level of respect as it contains the most mournful visitors. The families face with additional costs to identify or even move the relatives as the owners left, the cemetery declare bankruptcy and the poor made suffer.
The documentary doesn’t contain may errors but does have a few sound issues, but the actual story is a passion piece with a low budget production from producer Paul Coffey of Ronin Noir Films who thought the initial piece would only take a year to film, but became much more involved. As with any doc, there’s start-middle-end, and herein one learns the ending comes from a non-profit Friends of Eastern Cemetery, who worked to help stop the overgrowth, vandalism and help families get closure.
Overall I found the documentary very interesting, while the practice is conducted understand greedy and vile standpoints, it sadly is nothing new, many owners of these smaller independent burial grounds have abused both the living and the dead.
TAGLINE: The True Story of The Most Grossly abused Cemetery in the Country
IMDb Rating: n/a
Baron’s Rating: 7.0/10