(A.k.a. NIGHTS OF TERROR; THE ZOMBIE DEAD; ZOMBIE 3; BURIAL GROUND: THE NIGHTS OF TERROR; LE NOTTI DEL TERRORE [original title])
Ah, BURIAL GROUND. You think of Italian cinema and one of two highpoints spring immediately to mind: Anita Ekberg's famous scene in the Trevi fountain during LA DOLCE VITA, and Peter Bark complaining to his onscreen mother that "this cloth smells of death".
I doubt such caveats are required, but here goes anyway: this review isn't going to be concerned with characterisation, performances, script, logic, technical proficiency etc. Because director Andrea Bianchi clearly wasn't when he made this, one of the purest, most guiltily entertaining horror flicks of the 1980s.
It opens with an aging bearded professor (Raimondo Barbieri) venturing down to the excavation site, handily positioned on the edge of his manor estate's luscious grounds, where he believes he's made a major breakthrough in his studies into magic practiced by the ancient Etruscans, said to be capable of bringing the dead back to life.
Sure enough, his discovery has raised the dead ... and they're hungry!
A short while later, the professor's adult grandson George (Roberto Caporali) turns up with several friends. They've been invited to the old man's plush estate to share in something important he has to tell them. But, of course, he's not around.
No matter. The estate's staff sees to the group's needs and before long each of the three couples have retired to their rooms. James (Simone Mattioli) is excited that his girlfriend has discovered some slutty outfit in one of the professor's trunks and wants to fuck her brains out. Keen photographer Mark (Gianluigi Chirizzi) doesn't want to hear about psychic partner Janet's (Karin Well) deadly premonition, he just wants to fuck her brains out. And middle-aged George is trying to get his new wife Evelyn's (Mariangela Giordano) creepy son Michael (Peter Bark) out of the way long enough so he can fuck her brains out.
Unfortunately for this horny lot, they're soon to encounter a host of crusty-faced zombies who also want to get the brains out of their skulls - but by very different means.
BURIAL GROUND is a breathless assault on the senses. From its wiry electronic soundtrack, all ambient echoes and feedback (akin to the score featured on James C Wasson's NIGHT OF THE DEMON), to the deliriously over-zealous acting and Bianchi's pathological correlation between sex and death, the film races through set-piece after set-piece with cartoonish aplomb.
High-spirited, gory as fuck (Mauro Gavazzi oversaw the crude FX work, and the film is the last credited to him per the Internet Movie Database - he'd worked on the likes of THE DAMNED, WATCH ME WHEN I KILL and KILLER NUN prior to this) and undeniably camp, only the most sour-faced viewer could watch this and remain unmoved.
It's utter tosh, of course, completely devoid of subtext or any discernible cinematic style, but it's tremendously entertaining. And how can you not love a film in which a zombified Michael (portrayed as a child by a guy who was 25 at the time) finally fulfils the Oedipal urges which have been hinted at from the start by taking a bite out of his mother's breast? That's the stuff of legend right there, that is...
The result of a successful crowd-funding campaign, 88 Films proffer a new high-definition restoration from the original 16mm negative for the film's UK blu-ray debut.
The film is presented here in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio, the MPEG4-AVC file proffering a solid 1080p HD rendition of events. The onscreen title is THE NIGHT OF TERRORS. Colours appear to be correct, flesh tones are accurate, blacks hold up well. The print used is clean and images are well defined. BURIAL GROUND, some very occasional moments of motion-blur aside, looks great here - in fact, when comparing it against the Shriek Show blu-ray of a few years back, the leap in quality is quite staggering. I never appreciated how bright and colourful this film actually is.
LPCM 1.0 audio comes in options of the original Italian track (with easily readable English subtitles for the ill-educated among us) and English-dubbed. Both are well worth checking out because there's quite significant, and often amusing, differences between the two. However, this is a rare instance where I'd recommend going with the dubbed track - the film is bonkers to begin with, and this simply heightens that hysteria. Whichever way you go, the audio being offered is clean and clear throughout.
The disc opens to a static menu. There is no scene selection menu but the film does have 8 remote-accessible chapter stops.
Bonus features begin with a 1080p HD rendition of the film's "grindhouse" version - a new transfer struck from the only existing 35mm print. It's darker, duller and contains a fair few specks throughout. All of which suits the film perfectly well, of course. This presentation comes with English audio only, and is considerably softer in definition than the main feature. The onscreen title here is BURIAL GROUND.
The main feature is given the benefit of a most enjoyable audio commentary track from John Martin, resulting in a lot of humour as well as detail.
Next up we get the film's original trailer. This is a whopping 3 minutes and 34 seconds in length and is, of course, spoiler-ridden. It's also a good indication of what a bit of healthy restoration can do for a film...
10 minutes of deleted scenes make for interesting viewing, even if their original audio is forever lost. They're in great shape and accompanied by excerpts from Elsio Mancuso and Berto Pisano's wonderful score.
"What the Fuck?" is an aptly titled 27-minute featurette in which author and historian Mikel Koven, sans beard, dissects the film as best he can while reasoning that Bianchi "aspired to be a hack". He looks not only at BURIAL GROUND but other films in the director's canon, including the likes of WHAT THE PEEPER SAW, STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER and CRY OF A PROSTITUTE. This is a well-read, conscientious and above all entertaining piece, very worth your while.
A 16-page booklet contains an essay and a healthy dose of colourful stills.
BURIAL GROUND is a great slice of cheap trashy early-80s fun. It's gory, it's peppered throughout with gratuitous nudity and doesn't really give a damn about anything other than giving its audience a good time. Grab some beers and enjoy.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by 88 Films|
|see main review|