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Review: Burial Ground – The Nights of Terror (1981)

5 min read
When the moon turns red, the dead shall rise!
When the moon turns red, the dead shall rise!

Unrated / Color / 85 Minutes
Directed by Andrea Bianchi
Also Known As: Le notti del terrore
Purchase it: (DVD) | (Blu-ray)

Greetings everyone! “Holly Hobgoblin” here with a review for Adnrea Bianchi’s BURIAL GROUND: THE NIGHTS OF TERROR! Just a heads up before you continue: There will be spoilers about the film in my review, so continue at your own risk!

BURIAL GROUND begins with a bearded man digging into a stone wall. He suddenly stops and lifts a stone tablet; from his expression we can tell he is thrilled with his find. The next scene is of him gathering some equipment and hurriedly walking out into a forest.

It must be a long walk because at times the sky is light and in other shots it appears to be nighttime. But not to worry, he is carrying a flashlight the size of a boombox; it must run off of a small car battery! He enters what appears to be a crypt and then attacks the wall with a small pickaxe.

He is so enthralled with the hole he has created that he fails to notice a large tomb sliding open, which proves to be the last mistake he will ever make. A creature emerges from the tomb, its head resembling something akin to a rotten plum, and it is not smiling.

When the bearded man notices the creature he greets it, saying “I am your friend.” (Which, when translated into zombie means “I am delicious, please eat me.”) Unfortunately for the bearded man, the other zombies have also come out to play, and he becomes an appetizer for the living dead.

Italy's early tests of zombie-repellent beards did not end well.
Italy’s early tests of zombie-repellent beards did not end well.

It is at this point that the music changes from some random notes on an electric keyboard to a jazzy little tune. The setting to a winding road in the countryside that leads to a huge, gated mansion. A man in a tweed jacket is parked out front and trying to open the gate; his name is George and he apparently owns the mansion.

In the car is his significant other, Evelyn, and her creepy son Michael. (To say that Michael is a little creepy is like saying that the zombies in this movie are a little rotten.) Evelyn is impatient and asks George why he did not call ahead to have the servants open the gate.

George responds that he purposely has no telephones in the mansion so that he can relax (or be mauled by the undead). It is then that the rest of the gang pulls up in their cars, including two other couples: Mark and Janet and Leslie and James. Eventually the gates are opened and everyone enters the mansion, where they are greeted by two uniformed servants named Kathleen and Nicholas.

George asks the servants where Professor Ayres (the bearded guy who tried to become BFFs with the zombies) is, but no seems concerned that he has not been seen for some time. Once everyone has settled in, they all pair off and start having sex. (Well, except for Michael that is.)

We see that Leslie found some old lingerie and put it on for the mustachioed James. He remarks that she “looks like a whore” but he “likes that.” The camera cuts from a nude James spooning Leslie (thank you camera I was getting nauseated) to Evelyn and George engaged in some carnal pursuits.

Suddenly Michael appears (creepy little cockblocker), and Evelyn leaps out of bed (leaving her more exposed than had she stayed under the covers, a literal Freudian slip) to scold Michael. While all of this vaguely disturbing softcore stuff is happening, a bunch of zombies in colorful housecoats, begin filing out of the tomb, and slowly tread towards the mansion.

Before there was "Dramatic Gopher" there was Peter Bark!
Before there was “Dramatic Gopher” there was Peter Bark!

In the meantime, everyone has put their clothes back on, and each couple heads out to pursue their respective hobbies. Mark goes with Janet (who looks a bit like Paris Hilton) and has her pose for some photographs. James and his fabulous mustache are writing a letter outside, and the servants are inside the house being terrorized by exploding lightbulbs.

At this point more zombies are pouring out of the tomb and emerging from the ground, many of which appear to have some old Play-doh stuck to their faces. Meanwhile, the sight of Janet sprawled on the ground has aroused Mark and he has set aside the camera to mount her.

It is at this point that the audience is shown one of the most effective birth control methods ever developed. A zombie with worms coming out of his eye socket interrupts Mark and Janet as they writhe on the ground. As the two lovers back away from their unwelcome visitor, other zombies ambush them from the surrounding bushes.

While all of this excitement is happening outside, Evelyn, Michael, and George are enjoying target practice in the missing professor’s workshop. Who needs clay pigeons when you have ancient artifacts to shoot at? Creepy Michael picks up an old rag and sniffs it, then tells his mother that it “smells of death.” What the hell kind of little kid says sh*t like that?

Before any further conversation can take place, a zombie stumbles into the workshop. George, being kind of a dick to begin with, begins questioning it, but as you and I know, zombies aren’t brilliant conversationalists. The zombie just stumbles towards them, until they handily back themselves into a corner.

George tries shooting the zombie (interesting side note; the zombie’s blood matches his outfit) which does nothing, and he gets eaten. Evelyn and Michael escape and meet up with the other survivors of the zombie onslaught. Instead of getting the hell out of the mansion, they discuss the situation at length until they are joined by a herd of zombies. (Or would that be a gaggle? Or perhaps a bevy of zombies maybe?)

That has to be the best "Oh f*ck, I'm screwed" face I've ever seen!
That has to be the best “Oh f*ck, I’m screwed” face I’ve ever seen!

They all make a run for it, but Leslie and Janet basically slow the group down to a crawl. (Note from Holly: Here’s a special tip for all of you fashionistas out there – High heels are never ideal footwear for running from the undead, and are just about the absolute worst shoe choice when running on grass and gravel.)

As they all flee across the mansion’s front lawn, Janet, having already proved herself to be useless, immediately steps on an animal trap and gets her knee-high suede go-go boot caught in it. The zombies approach but luckily there happens to be a pitchfork nearby, which Mark brandishes at one of the flesheaters. Unfortunately, Mark has the motor skills of a newborn kitten and loses the weapon to a zombie.

In the garage, Michael and Evelyn are once again backed into a corner and set zombies aflame in self defense. (Am I the only one that finds it worrisome that the creepy kid carries matches at all times?) Michael and Evelyn escape the garage and meet up with the other survivors by the parked cars.

Unluckily for the besieged humans, the zombies are waiting, (even zombies need to bum a ride every now and then) so everyone makes it to the house and barricade themselves inside. Even in times of emergency these folks like to keep the servants busy so they have Nicholas and Kathleen bring them some stiff drinks on silver trays.

Kathleen is then sent to inspect the rest of the second floor where she promptly finds an open window and wisely sticks her head outside. A gathering of zombies waits below, and Kathleen loses her head, literally. Hearing a struggle, James and his mustache go to investigate, only to find Kathleen’s body. Being the classy guy that he is, James tosses her headless corpse to the ravenous zombies below.

Now these zombies are pretty clever because they arm themselves with axes and begin hacking at the doors to the house. James finds a rifle and fires upon the zombies, scoring a headshot in the process. However, this does not really discourage the zombies, as they simply move to the other side of the house and begin climbing a trellis.

The zombies have become advanced tool users! We're all doomed!
The zombies have become advanced tool users! We’re all doomed!

Leslie wanders away to look for bandages and is promptly pulled through a window and bitten by a zombie. Janet also wanders off and finds a ceremonial weapons storage room where she fends off a zombie with a spear, while Evelyn backs into another corner, (what is with this lady and corners?!) clasping Michael to her breast.

After the zombies have been repelled, the audience is repelled by watching Michael open his mother’s dress and get to second base with her. The shuddersome little bastard comments, “I’ve always loved your breasts,” causing Evelyn to realize her momentary lapse in judgement. She slaps the little pervert and he runs off, only to get chomped on by a zombified Leslie in the bathroom.

Mark, being as smart as he is coordinated, decides to let the zombies in and hide from them, while Evelyn goes looking for Michael. She finds Leslie eating his arm and avenges her Oedipal brat by smashing Leslie’s head on the marble bathtub. Overcome with grief, Evelyn runs screaming hysterically back to the group, whose (moronic) plan to hide from the zombies is working fairly well… until Professor Ayres appears and kills Nicholas.

So THIS is what happened to the kid whose head melted in HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH!

The survivors huddle in the courtyard until the next morning. The zombies had a big night and apparently slept in, giving the group a chance to stumble through the Italian countryside. They discover a monastery and wander inside, then James and his mustache go searching for monks. He finds them gathered around the dinner table, and as James beseeches them for help he is shocked to discover that (gasp!) the monks are of the zombie variety. For his stupidity, James becomes part of a nutritious breakfast.

Mark, Janet, and Evelyn interrupt the monks’ breakfast, forcing the zombies to give chase and leave a half-eaten James to get cold. The survivors end up in a workroom where they are promptly surrounded by zombies, including Michael. Having lost none of his charm during zombification, Michael bites his mother’s nipple off after she offers her bare breast to him. (“Mom tit: The other white meat!”)

Mark and Janet are now the only two left and it is clear that they aren’t going to be rescued or escape. The zombies force Mark to get up close and personal with a circular saw and slowly surround Janet, leading to a freeze frame of a superimposed quote from the “Profecy of the Black Spider!”

The Black Spider: Prophet and terrible speller.
The Black Spider: Prophet and terrible speller.

No one is going to mistake this movie for a masterpiece. The plot is minimal, the characters one-dimensional, and the scares non-existent. The mix of nudity, gore, and Oedipal action is pretty obviously tossed together to garner attention and keep you watching. What the movie does have going for it is that it’s so bad it’s good.

Since buying the DVD I have watched BURIAL GROUND twice, and both times I have been thoroughly entertained. This is the perfect movie to play the home version of MST3K with. If you watch it alone you may not want to do your commentary out loud or else could risk getting a lot of strange looks from the neighbors.

Judging from the people involved in making this movie, I doubt they were attempting to make cinematic history either. The director, Andrea Bianchi (a.k.a. Andrew White), worked mostly in the giallo genre. His most notable films, besides BURIAL GROUND, are CHILD OF THE NIGHT and STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER.

I should also note that the writer, Piero Regnoli, worked mainly on grindhouse movies such as the classic zombie-ish epic, NIGHTMARE CITY. (A personal favorite of The Vault Master!)

Also, the weird, psycho-sexual stuff in BURIAL GROUND, is slightly less shocking when you realize that Michael was portrayed by an adult actor named Peter Bark, and not an actual child. Regardless, Peter’s performance is quite unnerving and will always remain the most famous aspect of this cult classic.

If you enjoy zombie films, particularly bad ones, I highly recommend this one, and hereby award BURIAL GROUND: