Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror (1981)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2008-06-29 00:18

Written by: Piero Regnoli
Directed by: Andrea Bianchi

Reviewed by: Brett G.

"You look just like a little whore, but I like that in a girl."

While the zombie genre began in America with White Zombie and went on to be further refined by George Romero, it can be argued that no one does an undead flick like the Italians. The preeminent Italian horror master, Lucio Fulci, is at the forefront of this, of course, as The Beyond, Zombie, and House by the Cemetery are all essentials for the zombie enthusiast. After moving beyond these classics, one manages to find even more gore-filled mayhem from our neighbors across the Atlantic. One such film is Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror, one of the more unique and outrageous entries into the zombie genre for various reasons.

Burial Ground begins with a professor studying an ancient crypt that ends up spewing forth its dead, and, much to the misfortune of the professor, theyíre hungry for human flesh. After a delightful bit of flesh-eating, the film cuts to a group of socialites that will serve as our main characters. In true horror film fashion, these characters have set out to have a good time, but they will soon bear witness to a night of terror when hordes of the undead begin to attack. What was meant to be an idyllic vacation soon turns to a fight for survival against a group of malicious zombies that launch an assault on the huge mansion housing the socialites. By the end of the film, they willlearn that there is no escape from the woefully mispelled Profecy [sic] of the Black Spider, which dicates that "the earth shall tremble, the graves shall open, they shall come upon the living as messengers of death and there shall be the nigths [sic] of terror." Awesome.

As you can see, the film is pretty simple, as itís essentially a zombie film with a slasher/body count aesthetic. You have the simple set up that delivers the bodies, and the zombies work their way through them one by one and use various means when doing so. Unlike most zombies, the undead here arenít shy about using various implements of destruction, like scythes, axes, and even shards of glass. Thus, the filmís stars are the gore effects and set-pieces, as it rarely takes a break from the mayhem and destruction to allow you to breathe. Indeed, after we witness some of the socialites shenanigans during the first night of their stay (including a wicked awkward sex scene), the film becomes a tour de force of full-on zombie mayhem. Burial Ground is like a bizarre version of Night of the Living Dead in that itís not a character drama with racial and social undertones; instead, most of the characters are purely disposable bodies for the gore sequences.

This is not to say that the characters are terribleótheyíre just not noteworthy, with two notable exceptions: Michael and his mother, Evelyn (Mariangela Giordano). The former is notable because heís a 12-year-old boy thatís being played by a then 25 year old Peter Bark, an adult dwarf sporting a bad toupee. Furthermore, the characterís lines are re-dubbed by an adult trying to sound like a 12 year old boy, so the character is just a bit off-kilter, to say the least, but he contributes to the film's surreal atmosphere. If youíre wondering why they had to use a dwarf to play a childís role, itís because they couldnít use a real child for reasons that will become obvious as you watch the film. Letís just say that this film not only offers you a chance to see a child witness his mother having sex, but it also allows you to see him feel her up later. And it gets even better than that later in the film when Michael takes breastfeeding to a whole new level. If thereís any reason to see this film, these two bizarre characters are it. You also get to see Giordano in the buff, and thatís never a bad thing.

However, donít let me mislead you into thinking that this bizarre relationship is all the film has to offer, as the zombie and gore effects are especially well done. De Rossiís zombie designs should look familiar to those that have seen his work in the aforementioned Fulci films. To the uninitiated, De Rossi's zombies look like literal rotted and decayed corpses, as they're covered with maggots and decaying skin. Furthermore, their creative use of the aforementioned implements make them a unique breed of zombie, as they donít just disembowel and dismember their prey; indeed, thereís a notable decapitation, an eye gouging, and even more bloody mayhem. Thereís no doubt that gore fanatics will find a ton to like here, as itís one of the more disgusting zombie flicks out there. Imagine this as a Friday the 13th film with zombies replacing Jason and with the gore cranked up, and you have a good idea of what to expect here.

Those that arenít gorehounds should also find a little bit to like. Sure, the plot is paper (or should I say slasher) thin, but the direction is competently done. Itís not as artistic or well done as a Fulci film, but thereís a very guerilla, hand-held style that captures the mayhem effectively. Veterans of Italian cinema will notice a lot of other staples here, like the use of long, drawn-out takes, dramatic zooms, and weird voice dubbing. If youíre not use to Italian horror, the dubbing will throw you off at first, but believe me, this film doesnít come close to offering the weirdest in that respect (anyone that remembers Bob from House by the Cemetery can attest to that). Once you get used to it, however, it really becomes part of the charm. You also get some signature, upbeat music thatís almost a staple of these Italian films; the horror music cues, however, sound like 60s stock music that further contributes to the bizarre Night of the Living Dead vibe.

All told, Burial Ground is not a masterpiece, but it is a fine example of the Italian zombie genre that every enthusiast needs to see once theyíve worked through the Fulci essentials. Some might prefer Romeroís more cerebral zombie films, and thereís certainly at a place for those; however, there is most definitely a place for Burial Ground, as I rather enjoy its slasher-esque take on the genre. For years, the film had only been available with a cropped, muddied transfer; however, Media Blasters salvaged it from obscurity and has given it a fully uncut, anamorphic release. The transfer looks goodóit is a bit grainy and soft, but you have to expect that given the source material. Likewise, the stereo soundtrack is crisp and clear. All told, this is the best Iíd ever expect Burial Ground to look and sound. Itís available in two configurations: as a standalone release and as part of the second Zombie Pack that also includes Fleasheater and Zombie Holocaust. The pack goes for around $13, and the other two flicks are decent, so Iíd track down the set. At any rate, if youíre a fan of Italian gore or zombie flicks in general, this is one you need to see at some point. Buy it!

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