Burial Ground (1981) review

Burial Ground posterDirector: Andrea Bianchi

Starring: Mariangela Giordano, Roberto Caporali, Gianluigi Chirizzi, Karin Well, Antonella Antinori, Simone Mattioli, Peter Bark

Also known as: Le Notti Del Terrore (The Nights Of Terror), The Zombie Dead

“Mother, this cloth smells of death.” (Michael, Burial Ground)

When you ask someone to name some old zombie movies, the usual suspects inevitably pop up.

The obvious contenders, the ones folk will almost unconsciously start with, are Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead, Dawn Of The Dead and Day Of The Dead.

Then you may get the occasional Return Of The Living Dead, or – if the person you’re asking knows their video nasty history – Zombie Flesh Eaters.

This is all perfectly understandable, mind – all five of the above are fantastic films – but there are plenty of excellent old zombie movies that, for some reason, never quite reached that same level of universal notoriety and acclaim.

One of the finest examples is Burial Ground, or The Night Of Terrors to give it its original Italian title.

Zombie camouflage isn't what it used to be
Zombie camouflage isn’t what it used to be

It’s an early ‘80s Italian horror with almost everything: loads of zombies, countless gory set-pieces, brilliantly terrible dubbing and a 25-year-old man unconvincingly playing a young boy. But more on that in a second.

I say it has ‘almost’ everything because there’s one small thing Burial Ground seems to have forgotten: a plot.

The film opens with a random scientist hacking away at the wall of a cave. Once he gets in he realises he’s accidentally done… something and has somehow woken up a fuckton of zombies.

He dies (“No! Stay back! I’m your FRIEEEEENNND”) and we quickly jump to a big country mansion, where a trio of jet-setting couples are spending the night for reasons that are never explained.

Before long said zombie fuckton makes its way to the mansion and all manner of shit begins descending downwards at an eyeball-bleeding pace.

"Oh Harry, truly you are an EVIL wizard"
“Oh Harry, truly you are an EVIL wizard”

This is literally the entire plot of Burial Ground. Indeed, rumour has it the first draft was just this written on a single sheet of A4 paper:

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

And you know something? It doesn’t matter. In fact, you could argue it benefits from it.

Too many zombie films try to live up to the untouchable Romero movies by trying to piss around with social commentary and throwing all manner of deep, philosophical shit in there in the hope some of it will stick.

Burial Ground pic 3In Burial Ground, the only thing that sticks is blood. To the walls. And it’s great.

Despite the relatively low budget that most Italian horror productions of its era had to make do with, its effects and gory set-pieces are handled fairly well.

The zombie makeup is half-decent and varied, and there’s a bunch of inventive deaths in there, including a scythe decapitation, an eye puncture and a load of exploding zombie heads.

You’d think with all this going on, the most disturbing scene in Burial Ground would be some sort of zombie attack. You’d be wrong. I give you Michael, the 13-year-old ‘child’ of one of the couples:

Burial Ground pic 1

If you think Michael looks a tad mature for a 13-year-old that’s because he’s played by 25-year-old ‘Peter Bark’ (aka Pietro Barzocchini). Which may look fucking daft, but it’s just as well given what he has to do.

You see, Michael loves his mum. I know, that’s nothing unusual, most children love their mother. But he LOVES her. If you catch my drift.

"Evening!"
“Evening!”

This ultimately culminates in one of the most bizarre and uncomfortable moments you’ll see in a film, where a 25-year-old man’s mum breastfeeds him and… well, I won’t spoil the rest. But ouch.

That aside, a final doff of the cap should go to Elsio Mancuso and Berto Pisano for their fantastic soundtrack: its synthy goodness easily makes it one of my favorite scores from that era.

Burial Ground is mindless. If you go in expecting any semblance of plot, a satisfying conclusion, even a single character you can get to know and care about, you will be massively disappointed.

But if you just want a film that says “fuck it, here’s zombies” and then proceeds to chuck as much madness at your eyes as possible, then you can’t go far wrong with this one.

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Burial Ground’s rating earns it a place in the hallowed That Was A Bit Mental Hall Of Fame. Click here to see what else made the grade.

For its breastfeeding scene alone, Burial Ground is also mental enough to make it into TWABM’s special Proper Mental List, a section dedicated to the very maddest films featured on the site. Click here to see what other insanity it joins.

HOW CAN I SEE IT?
The best way to see Burial Ground is the reasonably priced UK Blu-ray release from 88 Films (the version I used for this review). They’ve done a ridiculously good job with the transfer and as a result the film looks much better than I’m sure some would say it deserves to. In the US, your best bet is this DVD version.

SHOW ME THE TRAILER:

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