Friday, November 19, 2010

Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror (1981)

After "Dawn of the Dead" became a hit, the knock offs from Italy came rolling in. It could be looked at as starting with Lucio Fulci's "Zombi 2", but to be honest, the director never intended that one to be an rip off. However, it was the film that got the ball rolling, and along with the likes of "Cannibal Holocaust", lead to the goriest era of Italian exploitation. Soon, gory Italian zombie films became the norm, with films like Fulci's takes on the walking dead, Bruno Mattei's Ed Wood meets low rent splatter flick "Hell of the Living Dead", Umberto Lenzi's running zombie flick "Nightmare City", Joe D'Amato's porn meets Italian flesh eating dead movie "Erotic Nights of the Living Dead", and more came into play. These movies won over converts who frequented the local drive in's, Grindhouse theaters and video rentals, and inspired many to make their own backyard flicks in tribute. One of the most loved of the spaghetti zombie flicks is Andrea Bianchi's absolutely scuzzy 1981 film "Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror."

The plot deals with a dumb professor (Raimondo Barbieri) who awakens the dead via meddling with things he shouldn't. Why? Because that's what people do in these movies. He tries to tell them "No, no. Stand back! I'm your friend!", but as we all know, zombies aren't exactly the type of people who love to make friends, so he becomes breakfast. Long story (well, not really) short, a group of unlikeable, horny and stupider than usual bourgeois types go into a mansion, and the dead attack. Oh, and there's a kid named Michael (Peter Bark), who has a really unhealthy attraction to his mother Evelyn (Maria Angela Giordan.)

From beginning to end, "Burial Ground" is stupid even at times for an Italian exploitation film. Everyone involved makes decisions that are even stupider than the ones you get from even the dumbest slasher movies (one character suggest that they let the zombies in, as there "might be something in here that they want!"), as well as enough plot holes and inconsistencies (I swear to God I saw the same zombie several times, even after it died) and more are in the movie. It even goes far enough to rip off the notorious eyeball scene from "Zombi 2", and spells the word "prophecy" wrong in the end for cryin' out loud! Yet, for all of it's glaring flaws, it's still recommended to fans of unapologetic exploitation, and it's easy to see why it remains such a cult favorite.

The zombies in the movie are absolutely disgusting, all covered with dirt, worms and maggots, and their look-some of them have skeletal faces, and they all resemble a mix of the Templar zombies from the "Blind Dead" films and Fulci's "flowerpot zombies" from "Zombi 2." They also have absolutely disgusting eating habits, which is to be expected, but the glee Bianchi takes in showing bright red innards being consumed by the dead is appropriately revolting. The zombies here are also not that dumb (it says a lot when the zombies are smarter than the people), as they use a variety of weapons - throwing knives, a scythe, a pitchfork, a battering ram and more - in their assault on the living. Hell, the fact that these Etruscan zombies are attacking a group of spoiled bourgeois pigs almost comes off as some kind of social commentary, though I heavily doubt any of that was intended.

The sexual aspect of the film is also worth noting. Seeing that Bianchi once did a giallo film titled "Strip Nude for Your Killer!", as well as several adult features shouldn't come as a shock, as the movie takes an almost pornographic in showing explicit gore, and the fact that the women struggling for their life are dubbed in a manner that makes it almost sound like they are in some kind of orgasmic throes. Then there's the relationship with Evelyn and Michael. Granted, the fact that the actor playing Micheal is a dwarf whose clearly in his twenties or thirties softens it a bit, though I do wonder what the casting was like

Casting Director: Yep, you're playing a kid.

Peter Bark: But I don't even look like a kid!

Fellow Actor: Yeah, he doesn't even...


Anyways, as I mentioned, Micheal has a creepy as all get obsession with his mother, and by that I mean incestuous. He constantly interrupts any chance she may have with other men, and even starts feeling her up. As you can guess, mom isn't too thrilled by this, so she slaps him, which prompts him to shout "But I'm your son!" and run off. Well, he's killed by a zombie, and of course comes back as one. His mother, being not only an idiot, but a creepy one at that, welcomes her son, even pulling out her breast for him to suckle on. Zombie Mike responds to this gesture by biting a hunk off.

I really don't think I need to say much more about this movie. It's not a "good" movie in the traditional sense, but "Burial Ground" is a classic in the field of Italian zombie movies, and a must for fans of sleazy, unapologetic exploitation films.

Rating: 7.5/10

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