Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror (1980)

"What up, guys?"

Andrea Bianchi's Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror is an unpretentious film that gets down to the business of blood and boobs fairly quickly and doesn't let up until the final reel. Some bizarre casting decisions and downright ludicrous dialogue make this film a hell of a lot of fun to watch, even if it makes you feel stupid in the process.

The film opens with the impressively-bearded Professor Ayres (Raimondo Barbieri, even the actor's last name is derived from the Italian for "beard") excitedly chipping away at the walls of an Etruscan tomb. Unfortunately he awakens a bunch of zombies, and despite his protests of "I'm your friend!", that's the end of the follically gifted academic. They'll be hacking up hairballs for days!

Following a cheerful credits sequence, we are introduced to the six unlikable assholes who will be on the menu this evening. They consist of three couples: James and Leslie (Simone Mattioli and Antonella Antinori), George and Evelyn (Roberto Caporali and Mariangela Giordano) and Mark and Janet (Gianluigi Chirizzi and Karin Well) . It seems the Professor has gathered them here for... some reason. Also present are the maid Kathleen (Anna Valente) and butler Nicholas (Claudio Zucchet). We also meet Evelyn's son Michael (Peter Bark), a 10 year old boy played by a 25 year old rat-faced midget and dubbed by a grown man affecting a child's voice. He's got a serious oedipus complex and he's the scariest thing in the film.

I'll say one thing for the characters in this film, they don't waste any time in getting down to business. Leslie models some lingerie she's found (hope it's clean) and James starts with the smooth talk ("You look like a little whore, but I like that in a woman.") George and Evelyn get down to it, but they are interrupted by her freakish offspring, who creaks open the door and walks slo-o-o-owly into the room while the couple look on in horror. He's not subtle.

The next day, George and Evelyn head down to the basement for a bit of pistol practice. I think the garden might be a better place for that, what, with all the priceless artifacts scattered around here, but what do I know? Michael the mutant steps in when things inevitably turn amorous (ladies love the guns, amirite?) and you get the impression he's angling for some pistol practice of his own. Soon some zombies appear. George attempts to shoot them, to no effect, and gets his intestines torn out through his hideous skin-tight top.

Meanwhile, Janet and Mark are frolicking in the garden when they too are attacked by a zombie. They stand around for a while, watching it approach and saying things like "Oh Mark, I'm so frightened!", before their three brain cells kick in and they run away. James and Leslie hear their cries and rush to their aid. Together, they manage to bust open some zombie heads which, in a nice effect, shatter like maggot-filled pottery. During their escape back to the villa, Janet gets caught in a bear trap (must be to keep the damn kids off the lawn) but they manage to free her before she becomes breakfast.

Sealing themselves up the villa, they attempt to hold off the marauding zombies. These zombies are pretty smart, too. They can scale walls, they're a dead aim with thrown weapons and they can swing a scythe with the best of them. A couple of humans are picked off and in the ensuing chaos, Michael uses the opportunity to cop a feel. Evelyn stops him before he can close the deal ("What's wrong? I'm your son!" he protests). Awk-ward!

Mark comes up with the baffling plan of letting the zombies into the villa ("they're slow and we can outrun them!"). He figures the zombies just want to come inside and have a nap or something. Rather than laughing their asses off, everyone agrees to put the plan into action, and soon two more people have become zombie chow. The survivors hole up in the attic, and during the night the zombies get bored and leave.

The next morning, instead of hopping in their cars and driving away (think of the carbon emissions!) they decide to wander aimlessly through the countryside. They find a monastery, but all the monks are crusty old zombies, for some reason. James is toast, but the remaining three escape to a nearby building.

Zombie Michael shows up and Evelyn, probably feeling guilty for turning him down earlier, offers him her nips. Needless to say, Michael takes breast feeding to whole new level! Mark and Janet try to escape but Mark cops a circular saw to the skull (the zombies show remarkable skill in operating it for ancient Etruscans) while Janet becomes lunch. The film ends with a title card that, fittingly, manages to misspell both "prophecy" and "nights".

The effects artist, Rosario Prestopio, was assistant to Gianetti De Rossi on Zombi 2, and in this film he does a good impression of De Rossi's work. The zombies look suitably crusty and dessicated, but some of them look pretty lousy in closeup. While they don't approach the excess of Zombi 2, the gore effects are competent and plentiful. The film also has a wacky synthesizer score that fits it perfectly. While rough around the edges, this is a film that knows what people like (zombies, boobs, midgets, beards) and gives you plenty of it. If nothing else, you will be consistently entertained.

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