42nd Street Cinema

Burial Ground (1981)

After contributing to The Blood Sprayer's Italian themed week, I've been reacquainting my love for the country's splattery output. In fact it's been quite a while since I reviewed anything that wasn't Italian and in continuation with this trend, I'm going to share my thoughts on Andrea Bianchi's dismal submission to our dearly beloved zombie sub-genre.

Known as: Le notti del terrore in Italy and widely recognized as Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror, it's an abominable yet oddly eclectic entry, as it borrows the 'house invasion/siege' element from Romero's seminal Night of the Living Dead (1968), unintentionally incorporates the clumsiness of Zombie Creeping Flesh (1980) and combines sex & horror together in a fashion so similar to that of Joe D'Amato. This culminates in an awkward mishmash of grindhouse glory and brutal nihilistic misery and yet, as good as that may sound, you'll be swiftly disappointed, as Bianchi's superior level of ineptitude and hackery run rampant (much like cast members) in Burial Ground.
Written by Piero Regnoli, who also had a hand in co-writing Umberto Lenzi's Nightmare City (1980).
Starring: Karin Well, Peter Bark, Mariangela Giordano (as Maria Angela Giordan), Gianluigi Chirizzi (as Gian Luigi Chirizzi), Simone Mattioli, Antonella Antinori, Roberto Caporali, Claudio Zucchet, Anna Valente and Raimondo Barbieri (as Renato Barbieri).

The plot, as thin as it begins with Professor Ayres opening a crypt and being killed by freshly revived zombies. Prior to this, he had invited 3 couples to visit him at his manor to unveil his new discovery. Unfortunately for this motley crew they never find the Professor, instead they come under attack from a horde of zombies. They seek refuge in the mansion and attempt to survive the zombie onslaught.

Burial Ground is something of an irrational mess as it bares no true explanation as to why the dead have risen to feast upon the living. In fact, it serves as nothing more than a showcase of people being gruesomely torn apart by the living dead. There's a scene that essentially rips off the 'impaled eyeball' from Zombi 2 (1979), only exchanging the wooden splinter for a shard of glass. Bianchi dives into the morally absurd with an undercurrent of incest and creates an uncomfortable atmosphere assisted by the aberrant soundtrack courtesy of Elsio Mancuso and Berto Pisano. It will also undoubtedly provide enough of the red stuff to satisfy gorehounds the World over, but let's step back for a moment, put the gore aside and pick apart what other delights Burial Ground has to offer.

First up, we've got this peculiar man-child with an Oedipus complex, who goes by the name of Michael characterized by one Peter Bark (apparently his real name is Pietro Barcella). Burial Ground delves into very dark and perverse territory through the son and mother - 'Michael & Evelyn' characters. There is an overtly clear oedipal lust going on with Michael for Evelyn (Giordano) and this is begins to escalate along with the story's gradual progresses, as his mother seems to become wholly reciprocative of these urges and the potential incestuous relationship is explored with dialogue such as, "When I was a baby, you always used to hold me to your breast. I loved your breasts so much, mama" and "Oh yes darling, just like when you were a baby. Go ahead, darling. I know you want to..." Towards the end of the film, when Michael has been 'zombified', his mother allows him to breast feed (quite literally), only she's unaware he's going to take a chunk out of her chest, adding furthermore to the bizarre Freudian exploration/exploitation.

Secondly, the so bad it's funny dialogue, which is intensified by the dastardly dubbing. One of the film's most notable quotes is unsurprisingly from Michael as he displays his amazing talent of being able to smell death on fabric with, "Mother, this cloth, it smells of death". Along with that, was the inability to spell 'nights' on closing quote of the film. See above image.

Thirdly, the overall look of the zombies, they certainly look as if they've spent years and years steadily decaying. Empty eye sockets, covered in worms/maggots and of course...protruding teeth. Gino Di Rossi, who had previously worked in the special effects department on Fulci's Zombi 2 (1979) and City of the Living Dead (1980), provides an impressive onslaught of ghoulish flesh eaters that are reminiscent to that of Amando de Ossorio's Blind Dead series amalgamated with Fulci's grave rising walking flower pots. Bianchi's zombies are also able to use tools to aid their slaying of the living, including a decapitation by scythe scene.

2 Stars


R. Sterling Gray said...

yeah, the man-child was always the creepiest part of the movie!
"But I'm your son!"

Nickolas Cook said...

Yeah, that "kid" is truly creepy. I recently showed this to a group of friends who had never seen it, during an all night horror movie fest, and it got the reactions I figured it would: one part hilarity, one part disgust, and one part absolute fucking disbelief. HA!
Me? I think it's ingenious filmmaking. Those zombies are just creepy as hell. And the fact that they use weapons (throwing knives?!) is awesome!

Franco Macabro said...

This one has eluded me, since I enjoyed Nightmare City, and the guys behind this one are practically the same creative team, I think I will be checking this one out soon, thanks a lot for this review! I pride myself on zombie film knowledge, but this one had slipped away!

Unknown said...

Hope to find a copy of this! Great review indeed!

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