Saturday, July 4, 2009

Oedipal Ground & Typos of Terror

Oh, Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror. How does one even begin to tackle such a perfect bacchanal of a film? Do I start with the casting of little person (and possible mini-me clone of Dario Argento) Peter Bark as cinema’s most persistent mama’s boy? How about the precariously placed bear trap resting amid a lovely mowed lawn? Or how about a random quote showing the easy 70sness of the characters: “You’re getting a raise from me all right, but it has nothing to do with money.”

With no real intro, let me offer a quick helping of photographic evidence:

Moving on...

Quick Plot: Three couples travel to a country house to visit an old, already eaten professor friend. Tossed in to much memorable effect is Bark's Michael, a turtleneck wearing preadolescent who resembles a grown up Stewie Griffin if all that trying-to-kill-his-mom business is just really intense foreplay. The opening ten minutes or so are devoted to separating each pair (useful when save for a mustache or lack of mustache, there’s not a whole lot to decipher each character) as they break off for varying levels of cuddling. Copious amounts of necking is put on hold when a gang of hungry and quite crusty zombies crash the fun, chomping their way through one poorly dubbed Italian after the next.

Is there more? Not really, but that’s what makes Burial Ground such a lasting film. Director Andrea Bianchi wastes little time in cutting through some fast nudity (I think there was an Italian law in 1981 that at least one minute of every film must contain some sort of breast) to give us the goods: shamblers, pure and simple. Sure, they break a little ground by picking up a few simple hand tools for extra power, but these are old school undead in a film that knows that’s what its audience wants.

Make no mistake: Burial Ground is not a good film. It’s terrible by 97% of most ranking criteria, from the acting to script and just about everything else. It does, however, expel all the virtues of any bad horror film with incredible watchability. Generous, creative, and sometimes well-done gore plus dialogue and character actions so dumb you almost want to develop a Human Intelligence Hormone and inject it into your DVD player make this a film you can’t help but love. While it doesn’t have any of the actual fright potential as something like Fulci’s Zombie, it does boast enough sleaze to make for a thoroughly entertaining time.

High Points
One of my biggest pet peeves in modern horror cinema is its reluctance to show anything during daylight. Compare the pure shock of seeing Leatherface bash a guy’s head in under the Texas sun with Jessica Biel’s barely lit getaway and you’ll see how well the AM hours can work when used correctly. Despite it’s title (more about that below), the heart of Burial Ground takes place with plenty of light, allowing full view of the grindhousey gore

With maggots squiggling out of holes and skin that resembles my cats’ well-used scratching post, these zombies are pleasantly rank

Low Points
The copy editor in me canot forgive two glaring errors:

1, If you’re planning on including a poetic endquote over the final still, would it kill you to give it a quick lookover to say, I don’t know, ensure the last word is spelled correctly? These nigths of terror foretold by profecies don’t proofread themselves

2. Speaking of that title: Unless you count the blink-and-you-miss-it prologue, the entire film begins around brunch and ends sometime before the next morning’s breakfast. Granted, math ain’t my forte and I’ve never been to Italy, but doesn’t an under 24 hour time frame consist of one nigth?

Lessons Learned
Wearing the antique lingerie you find somewhere in the closet of your vacation house will make you look like a little whore, but most men seem to like that

Next to zombies, the biggest danger in the Italian countryside seems to be bears

When your son walks in on you having sex with his stepfather, avoid the urge to scuttle out of bed and stand half naked for an extended time period, thus showing off your fabulous breasts. By doing so, you risk a) seriously warping an already warped child’s fetishes and b) planting an instinctive target for anything undead to chew on

Anybody with a love of zombie cinema--particularly from that rustily fabulous era spanning the 70s to early 80s--will get a genuine kick out of Burial Ground. This is not a turn-the-lights-off and watch in respectful silence kinda film; this is a movie made for Halloween parties, late nights avoiding work assignments, and background sleaze when cleaning the house. Who needs character, story, or class when you've got creatively done kills, Suspiria rip-off kills, and toupee wearing little people with fantastically vivid memories of nursing?

When this was named the July pick for Final Girl’s Film Club, I was actually quite scared (much more so than by anything in this actual film, natch). How could I begin to deliver any sort of critique or loving tribute to a film that so entertains by itself? The result: I probably didn’t, but thankfully, Stacie Ponder’s circle o’blogs surely have some other wonderful observations on the subject. Head over the the best horror blog on the web and follow some more contributers. It’s like a big virtual gang of writers that, should they all be gathered in one place, could annihilate zombies...with their words.


  1. Ha, ha. Nice. Burial Ground is truly amazing. This is a film that made me, as an adolescent, with Ms. Mariangela Giordano, stop thinking about gore.;) Another blog arguably is the best horror blog, but you write excellent horror reviews too, Emily.

  2. I had a lot of fun with it too. I went into it knowing not to take it seriously. That it was gonna be awful. But sometimes awful is what ya need. Ya know?

  3. And this really is a very dedicated form of awful.
    And B.E., excellent call on the Rachel Dratch resemblance. I still can't help but look at Argento the same way, but thinking of Michael as Debbie Downer will give me a new kick the next time I watch this.