I would like to start this off by thanking Shawn and Danny for letting me contribute to the awesomeness that is Italian Horror Week, and commend them for taking up the Doc Terror mantle. I can think of no one else better suited to do so.
In the late 70s and through the 80s, Zombies were hotter than Studio 54. It all started with Romero’s legendary Dawn of the Dead. Being such a fan of Night of the Living Dead, Dario Argento got involved and even edited a cut for the European market entitled, Zombi. It was a massive hit and oft imitated. Lucio Fulci even made a loosely based sequel called Zombie, or Zombi 2, if you’re a purist. After that, zombies were fair game.
Enter 1980’s Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror, a full-on schlock-tastic good time from director Andrea Bianchi. It follows a horny group of people staying at a huge villa for a weekend of rest and fun. Little do they know that Professor Aires, has discovered something astonishing at an archaeological dig in an Etruscan catacomb. Apparently, the ancient Etruscans found a way to beat death and go on living in their tombs, peacefully pondering the afterlife they’d never see because they can’t die. That is, until the Professor came back and started banging on the walls of the cavern, waking up the long-dead Etruscans.
Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror is a text book example of a fun film. Obviously, you’re not watching this to be enlightened on filmmaking or to study the intricacies of story; you’re expecting to see gore, at the very least, with a bit of comedy and maybe some T and A. Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror is totally absurd and that is ok. At one point, one of the protagonists suggest to let the Zombies in the house because, “maybe they aren’t after us, but something in the house.” Right? Apparently, this was some sound-ass logic because, they just let the Zombies walk on in. There is also a scene, and it just so happens to be my fave, where the Maid was pulling 2 shutters closed and a moldy Zombie bullseyes her hand with a throwing knife, pinning her to the wall. As if that ridiculousness wasn’t enough, the Zombies then lift a scythe over her head from the ground, and pull it down slowly until she’s decapitated. Oh, and who doesn’t love a hot breast being munched on by an undead Oedipal son?
Speaking of, the truly creepy part about this film wasn’t the Zombies, but rather Peter Bark, a little person playing the role of a 10-12 year old boy, Michael, who really “loved” his mother; who was portrayed by the stunning Mariangela Giordano. Peter Bark was cast due to child labor laws, and due to the fact that he had to perform an unsavory act on his Mother. He’s also responsible for perhaps the most iconic frame of the film: the creepy eye opening!
The look of the Zombies is wonderful. Most are just grotesque masks worn with the actor’s faces blacked out. There was even a nod to Fulci’s titular Zombie, with one of them rising out of the ground maggots pouring out of its eyes. It’s never known how long these Zombies have been “sleeping”, but it was long enough for their skin to deteriorate…but not their clothes! Designers back then must’ve had access to the most supremely durable fabric. Actually, it worked out well, budget-wise because they producers didn’t have to worry about showing the grotesqueries under the robes.
If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path, mindless, horror film, look no further than Burial Ground: Nights of Terror. It’s a truly great B-movie and has everything you could ask for: awesome day for night shots, great music, an inane plot, awesomely bad makeup/masks, and just a smidge of Sleaze sprinkles.
Jon Wamsley is the founder of www.horrorparlor.com and loves all things horror. His favorite horror film is Phantasm, but his favorite director is Lucio Fulci. He's also a production associate for Eibon Press.