One of the best things about the horror genre is its sense of community; whether its on the Internet or at conventions, horror tends to bring people together, even if it’s to watch a person get slaughtered in increasingly horrific ways. The other good thing about horror is that it’s one of the most subjective forms of cinema, with incredibly varied styles – meaning anyone can like a film, even if it’s not “good” by conventional standards.
To foster this sense of community, my good friend Michael Tatlock – from From the Mind of Tatlock– and I have come together to form a Horror Roundtable, where we both cover a recently released film in shorter review form, alternating the posts on both of our sites. Here, we offer up our own opinions, allowing the reader two different views on one film. In future, we hope to incorporate more of the best writers from the horror blogosphere in these roundtables – if you’d like to join, please leave a comment here, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks, and enjoy.
Severin Films’ release of the 1981 horror film Burial Ground released on October 25. Here’s a roundup of what both sites had to say.
Trying to explain the plot for Burial Ground is like trying to solve the world’s hardest puzzle – it’s near impossible, but I’ll give it a shot.
A Professor has uncovered a plaque from a tomb and after discovering the secret (not told to us the viewer), zombies start rising up out of the tombs to feast on the living. The living in this movie is a group of horned up couples and one very strange boy, played by Peter Bark, who at the time was in his ’20s. George, his wife Evelyn and their son(Bark) are staying at the Professor’s house and have brought along their friends for the weekend, with James bringing along his righteous stache. They are going to have all sorts of fun, which really boils down to having sex all over the place, while Michael (Peter Bark) widens his eyes at the nude form of his mother.
Before you can say “awkward”, the zombies starting coming up out of the tombs. The couples scream their heads off, try to express fear and run around like chickens with their heads cut off. They finally make it into the mansion, but the zombies are not your average zombies, as they wield tools and know how to climb structures. People start dropping like flies in gloriously gory fashion and you never do get to find out why the zombies rose up in the first place. Cheesy Italian zombie films are the best!
Why you should watch
- Peter Bark’s performance as the 10-year old son. He is actually in his ’20s and is extremely creepy in this movie. He really does look like a miniature Dario Argento.
- Boob biting scene. Enough said.
- The random sex scenes at the beginning of the movie. Antonella Antinori in sexy lingerie, Mariangela Giordano partially covering up her full frontal nudity in front of her “young” son. It’s all good.
- Zombie monks.
- The practical effects and zombie makeup are really well done. This is a gory film, with lots of guts being torn out and heads being cut off.
- The zombies in this movie use tools and are intelligent to a certain extent. They are still slow as molasses, though.
- Severin Films have restored the film and have a obtained a rather beautiful transfer, with only a bit of rough areas.
- The special features aren’t overly long, but they are enjoyable enough to watch.
Why you shouldn’t watch
- The ending. I’m not sure why Andrea Bianchi decided to end the movie at the most exciting part and throw up a title card instead, but either way, it ruins the fun.
- If you like your movies with a solid plot, you’ll probably be disappointed.
- Hearing Peter Bark saying the boobs tasted salty will forever haunt me.
- No commentary
Burial Ground ranks up high on the WTF did I just watch list. It’s a blast to sit down and make fun of and the special effects are actually damn impressive for the budget. Severin Films offer up a pretty solid Blu-ray, but if you already own the 88 Films release and are Region Free, the decision to buy becomes a bit more difficult. Whatever you choose, though, you’ll have your money’s worth.
Burial Ground Drinking Game
- Take a shot anytime Peter Bark says “Mama”
- Take a shot anytime you hear someone say “Darling”
- Take a shot anytime something inappropriate happens
…and you’re dead.
Burial Ground, also known by its subtitle The Nights of Terror, is Andrea Bianchi’s attempt at Italian zombie horror, mimicking George A. Romero’s Living Dead series as much as it copies Zombie. This is a low-budget flick with a lot of special effects, but it’s clear right away that, for all Bianchi’s aspirations, the most that he was able to glean from these previous violent flesh-eating films was their penchant for showing explicit gut-feasting by extremely rotted cadavers.
Bianchi’s film has become something of a cult classic, but it has gained this notoriety not because of its quality but because of its curious rejection of what most would call a storyline. Piero Regnoli’s script picks up in medias res, a strange decision that eventually leads to some of Burial Ground‘s most interesting aspects; without much exposition to explain why three couples – all of them seemingly distanced from each other both in relationship and in proximity – are meeting at an expansive villa to be shown a professor’s discovery of life after death, the viewer is forced to put the pieces together. Burial Ground could have had a very underdeveloped plot line about these people, but instead Bianchi gets rid of it altogether, leading to some insane reveals – in particular, Evelyn (Mariangela Giordano) and her borderline incestuous relationship with her son Michael (Peter Bark).
While there is no reason to feature these kinds of themes – in fact, Burial Ground eschews any kind of critical thinking about the subject matter – it adds a depth to the film’s natural storyline that exposes the intricacies of character that the film has no time to explore explicitly. Intentional or not, Burial Ground sits well within the category of horror films with conservative ideas about sex and eroticism; most of Bianchi’s film is comprised of scenes where these people have sex, then encounter a number of ravenous maggot-infested corpses. There’s a link here between sexuality and death, although one could certainly blame that on Bianchi’s storied past as a director of trashy erotic films.
While Burial Ground isn’t a particularly good film from a traditional standpoint, its admirable deletion of unnecessary plot lends time for gory, nudity-filled encounters, along with a focus on the beautiful Villa Parisi setting. Its makeup effects are exemplary too, with zombies in various states of decay that emphasizes skeletal putrefying anatomy. The violence is explicit, the blood a bright and vibrant red for humans and gray-green for zombies; ultimately, this is a gore-lover’s dream first and foremost, with precious little downtime between attacks.
It’s a surprise that Burial Ground manages so much fun in so little time despite its lackluster plot, but Bianchi recognizes the things that viewers of these types of films want to see. It’s not a perfect zombie movie, and some won’t be able to appreciate the merits of the film – including nipple-biting, a striptease, and the plight of all those actors who were forced to get up close and personal with maggots – because of its poor acting and missing themes. But it is certainly a product of its time with its own unique offerings, and it’s a film that certainly hasn’t been laid to rest yet.
Severin Films’ Blu-Ray is the second Blu-Ray boutique release for Burial Ground, the first being 88 Films’ disc unreleased in the US. Severin Films has done a different 2k scan, and I have to say that, looking at images from the 88 Films version, this Severin transfer is slightly better. For one, it features some enhanced color and a bit more depth to the images, and the skin tones look natural and even. I appreciate that Severin has opted for a deeper color to this film as well, since the greens of the grass and the red blood really pop. The audio, too, is great with both an English and Italian 2.0 track – some dialogue is a bit muffled, but that’s not unexpected.
As for special features, Severin Films’ release is about the same in that department – overall, you’ll get about an hour of extras, including a modern-day look at the Villa Parisi, a short interview from a festival with Peter Bark, a new interview with Simone Mattioli, older interviews with Gabriele Crisanti and Mariangela Giordano, and deleted/extended scenes. In comparison to 88 Films’ Blu-Ray, this is par for the course despite lacking a commentary track. You’ll also get reversible cover art and, if you were quick with your order, a nice slipcover.
Overall, Severin Films’ Blu-Ray of Burial Ground is a great release for the film itself, but if you already own 88 Films’ transfer, there’s not a whole lot that will get you to pull the trigger to buy the film yet again on Blu-Ray. If you don’t already own Burial Ground yet, though, this package is definitely the one to pick up, boasting slightly better transfer and a nice series of special features.
Both The Moon is a Dead World and From the Mind of Tatlock enjoyed Burial Ground and Severin Films’ transfer, so we’re calling this a Get It! – but with some caveats, depending on if you already own a copy of 88 Films’ release.