When I would go into the video store looking for a new shock, I would always pick up the movies that didn’t have any pictures on the box. It just seemed that it was soooo terrifying that they couldn’t show you anything (Hey, I was young)! One such movie was “Burial Ground: The nights of Terror”.
The film opens with Professor Ares (Renato Barbieri) studying ancient ruins in a cave. Unfortunately for him, sometimes things are better left where they are. A horde of zombies rise up and tear their way out, heading towards a small vacation villa in a remote country side.
After the opening, we meet our fresh meat, and fresh they are. We have George (Roberto Caporali) and his wife(?) Evelyn (Maria Angela Giordan) coming out with two other couples; Leslie and James (Antonietta Antinori and Simone Mattioli) and Janet and Mark (Karin Well and Gianluigi Chirizzi), to relax and also hear the findings of the afore mentioned Professor Ares. It seems country home for a fun and sexy weekend. Red flag number one: Evelyn has brought her creepy kid Michael played by the nightmare inducing Peter Bark (if nothing else in this film fucks with you, this kid will). Much has been made about his appearance and demeanor but in this case, you can’t say enough. He’s truly disturbing, like having “The Sinful Dwarf” in a zombie movie, but I digress. Also along for the fun is Anna Valente as the housekeeper Kathryn and Claudio Zucchet as Nicholas, the beef-cakiest butler you have ever seen outside of a porno. I really am surprised that these two don’t get any action.
Anyway, as soon as they arrive, most everyone ends up naked in their bedrooms, which would be great except for the fact that young Michael’s sexual spider sense starts tingling. He knows mom is getting some and he feels compelled to barge in like a jilted lover. OK, trust me, that’s not the half of it. So, while most everyone is getting boned in one way another, the last couple, Janet and Mark, are having a bone of their own. It seems that Janet is a bit of a clairvoyant and has had a vision of bad tidings coming their way. Mark calms her down and they go to bed. I guess mark is assed out in the sex department, but ya can’t win them all I guess.
The next morning, with the professor nowhere to be found, the love fest continues. Both Leslie and James and Janet and Mark throw down in the garden. George and Evelyn try and get crazy themselves inside the Villa, but Evelyn invited Michael (WTF?!?!?!) and the second George moves in for the kill, he intervenes. What’s even crazier is the stare down Michael gives his father. He comes off similar to a dog protecting its bowl of food when you try and touch it. I know and all I can say is that I warned you. Shake it off.
The dead make their way to the grounds and now things heat up (in a more figurative way). While Mark is heating up his lunch on the blanket, he is grabbed by one of the rotting dead. The dead are on the grounds and the real nightmare now begins.
This movie is relentless. It kinda hits you like a boxer, throwing a right, and a right, then a left out of nowhere that leaves you unbalanced. The film does have the typical zombie film esthetic but it has a slasher film structure. We are introduced to a group of sexed up friends and one weird odd ball, out for a fun time at a secluded home. The couples are picked off one by one in a grotesque manner and there is even a bit of a twist with one of the killers at the end. The zombies seem traditional at first but they use tools and weapons to accomplish goals. These zombies are not only very cool, but have an awesome wardrobe change at the end that tips the hat to Amando de Ossorio’s Blind Dead series. There is definitely a Fulchi-inspired dream-like element to this film. After all, Zombie2 had already come out and set the standard very high not just in Europe either. The Zombies themselves move in a slow motion like manner that echoes the vampires in León Klimovsky’s “Werewolfvs. the Vampire Woman”.
Though all the characters have their moments, the real driving force and “meat” of the story is Evelyn and her weird fucking kid, Michael. We don’t know for sure if George is his father or just Evelyn’s lover. That would make sense, allowing for Evelyn and Michael to have spent time alone, worsening her loneliness and desire for physical contact as well as feeding Michael’s Oedipus complex…or maybe they’re just horny. In any case, Michael’s eventual death plays like a metaphorical castration that you could easily loose an hour discussing. Yeah, the film is deep than its given credit for.
Incest themes, much like Satanism, ran rampant in the 70’s and early 80’s thanks to films like “Taboo” and “Forbidden Fruit”. It seems that once porn started exploring these themes to big box office, the mainstream, as usual, followed suit. If you look at the time this film was made, it shouldn’t surprise you too much. The action moves at a good pace and the kills are varied for a zombie film. As a matter of fact, the film is solid all the way around. I actually believe that most of the objections to this film come from the more disturbing sub-plot.
The rest of the group is less fleshed out but like I said, have their moments. After all, you can’t beat James’s line “You look like a little whore, but I like look on you”. Way to go James. That’s a line that takes a special kinda man to pull off without getting slapped. Though most of the cast would list this as their career peak, including Peter Bark, whose Michael is his only credited role, Mariangela Giordano had a long and consistent career including the tantalizing Satan’s Baby Doll (1982), only retiring recently.
Some feel that the ending is abrupt but it ends the only way it can. Remember, this era in film was all about unhappy endings, which in away, were more satisfying sense you never knew what was gonna happen. If you’re hungry for flesh, then this is a film for you. Interesting, gory, and definitely sexy, it delivers the goods on many levels and gives you something you won’t find anywhere else (I promise you that!).