Burial Ground – The Nights of Terror (1981)
What’s It About: Italian produced Zombie flick. It starts off creepily enough with a Rasputin-lookalike talking to himself saying he’s “I’m the only one who knows the secret…it’s incredible!” and next we see him in a cave or crypt hammering away at the stone walls. Well all that hammering is enough to literally wake the dead and he’s instantly attacked and killed by a zombie. It’s never explained how the zombies rise from the dead but it’s already moot at this point, let’s lumber on shall we?
At a nearby mansion, some rich people come to the stay the weekend, or week; it’s never explained really but they happen to know the professor, who was the Rasputin guy. Once they get settled in, about 45 minutes of screen-time, there is two soft-core sex scenes. But before I go further I have to introduce you to Michael the 12-year-old son of one of the guests. Michael is played by Peter Bark who is a 26-year-old dwarf playing a kid with a terrible toupee/wig. He is honestly the scariest thing in this zombie picture. You may be baffled by what I just told you and asking why didn’t they just cast an actual kid to play a kid. That’s a good question and it’s what propels this movie from bad to incredibly awful. But more on Michael later.
So we have two lame sex scenes but its a bit jarring because it starts with one couple and then it cuts to another couple but in such a way that it seemed like the same first couple but young Michael walks in on this new second couple and it happens to be Michael’s mother and her friend. Michael stands and stares at his naked mother, who only happens to be able to cover her bottom half. She then orders Michael back to bed.
Now back to more zombie action as we see them slowly leaving the crypt. It’s apparent now that every zombie is wearing a burlap muumuu or cloak. I don’t know if in Italy they bury the dead in cloaks but I highly doubt it. Plus these are not ancient zombies because they all have large amounts of rotting flesh so they are more-or-less freshly dead. But of course I’m giving more attention to detail than the filmmakers and it’s very possible it’s cheaper to cloak a zombie than destroy regular suits and gowns. This also brings up a good point that I think all the zombies are male or at least have a neutral gender. But by now the guests are at the start of the zombie onslaught. Weirdly enough it starts in the daytime and it also starts with a scene in which we watch all the light bulbs in the chandeliers explode. First of all this room is huge to have 3 or 4 chandeliers and second the lighting in the room never dims after all the bulbs burst. Plus it’s daytime so why are the lights even on? But this strange occurrence baffles even the mansion’s butler and maid.
A zombie attacks another couple (who did not have a sex scene earlier—prudes!) by crawling out of the ground. This is the only zombie that crawls out of the ground as all the others walked out of a crypt. But it’s a good excuse to show a long close-up on his rotting, maggot-infested mask. Its clearly a mask as you can see the black rubber in the nose, mouth and in the eyes. So it slowly crawls and grabs the guy’s leg startling the necking couple. The guy intelligently observes “Whatever it is, it isn’t human!” Well kinda, sorta he’s right. Cue long chase through the grounds of the estate with slow-moving zombies in tow. Some of the make-up isn’t bad on some of the zombies and in the light it was filmed in it could be a little creepy.
Michael has found a rag on the floor. He shows his mother and declares, “It smells like death.” How exactly does a 12-year-old know what death smells like? More zombies enter this odd room that moments earlier Michael’s mother and lover were using as a firing range with a pistol. The lover fends off the zombies with said pistol and apparently the zombies bleed muddy water or clay. The pistol turns out to be useless and the lover dies a horrible zombie buffet-style death. Why is it in every zombie movie the zombies are incredibly skilled at ripping apart flesh? I can’t imagine it’s easy to tear open someone’s skin and muscle mass to dive into a hot lunch of guts. Maybe their bony hands and fingers are better equipped for such a task but they really are good.
Back outside the 2 other couples are fleeing the zombie horde. Hey! Who put that damn bear-trap on the lawn?! It’s bad enough the girls are always tripping in these horror movies but getting caught in a bear trap that is so strong that even a grown man can’t open…sheesh. He better take a break from the bear trap if he wants to defend himself and the damsel from the walking dead. He grabs a convenient yet conspicuous pitchfork and either the zombies are incredibly strong or this guy is so inept at fighting because a zombie just wrangled the pitchfork out of his hands. But before they are smorgasbord the other couple race to their rescue and use rocks to crack open the zombies’ skulls. They also manage to get the girl out of the bear trap. Oh good no injury to her leg. Better run back inside where it’s safe.
Back inside, Michael and his mother fight off two zombie with buckets of very flammable green paint. Zombies are not immune to fire, so good thinking on Michael’s part. The other couples enter the house but we see two zombies hanging around the guests’ cars, which is funny because they are literally just loitering around the cars. Was this to imply that they can’t drive away from the mansion and instead forced to board themselves up in it? Possibly but no plan is even entertained to get someone to the cars to get help. In fact no one bothers to look for a phone to make an emergency call for help!
Usually in a zombie movie (prior to 2000) they just walk slowly and grab, lunge or pounce on a victim. However in this movie the zombies are very competent and intelligent especially in problem solving skills. The maid goes to close a window and a zombie throws a knife (or a stake?) at her impaling her palm to the shutter rendering her immobile while two other zombies cut off her head with a sickle. They also use various weapons like axes to break in the house and even one zombie climbs(!) up a column to the second floor. And it’s not like these zombies are picking up random garden tools that have been left on the ground but there’s a quick scene of a single-file line of zombies entering a garden shed and another line of zombies armed with the weapons.
There’s a nice scene of one of the guests using a shotgun to blow-off the heads of a couple of zombies until he runs out of ammo. Do they search for more ammo? No. The girl who was stuck in the bear trap only suffered a bruise so she’s alright. Another girl leaves to get something for bear trap girl and has her face torn open by the broken glass in the window when a zombie grabs her hair and pulls her through. So the whole boarding-up-the-house plan failed miserably within a matter of minutes—and it’s a two story mansion. Bear trap girl is left to defend herself against half a dozen zombies with a spear of some sort. She stabs the same zombie about 6-7 times and wet gloppy clay-like blood ripples out. Now technically there shouldn’t be any liquid coursing through these zombies’ bodies but maybe its just wet earth contained within. But again I’m thinking too much.
Michael is distressed especially at seeing his mother kill a couple of zombies with a machete. She consoles him but he wants to MAKE OUT WITH HER even trying to get to third base!!!! No lie. There is an incestuous subplot to this zombie flick. She slaps some sense into him and he flees saying: “What’s wrong, I’m your son?!” I’ll let that all sink in for a moment for you. So I guess that’s why they couldn’t cast an actual kid but a small adult so they can shoe-horn in this ridiculous and sinister subplot.
So now Michael runs away to another room and gets himself killed by the broken glass victim who of course is now a zombie. Mother finds poor dead Michael while the zombie is eating his severed arm. Mother then bashes her head in on the porcelain tub with an aftermath of blood and mud. So I was correct in second-guessing why there would be a mud-like substance coming from the older zombies when it’s spilling out of a freshly made zombie.
When it seems that all hope is lost to the survivors one guy declares that maybe the zombies don’t want them but perhaps something in the house. Their next plan is to LET THEM IN! But before real stupidity can take affect the whole mansion is penetrated by the walking dead when a group of them use a battering ram to open the main doors. So not only can they use tools but they can also cooperate with each other. These are one tough horde of zombies to face. The butler tells the guests that there’s an armory in the mansion. Good thinking. Could’ve been more useful 25 minutes ago but nonetheless there’s an armory. The butler is then attacked and killed when the professor comes out of a door and feasts on his neck. The professor uses a knife to cut away his flesh and this bothers me because he’s a zombie and shouldn’t be using utensils, it just feels wrong.
The two remaining couples make it to a nearby monastery and of course enter it. Big mistake as every monk here is a zombie and quickly kill one of the fellas. The others run to a work-shop and try to board it up. Michael is already inside and his mother immediately runs to him, embracing him. He goes for her breasts and she obliges revealing her boob for him to suckle. (I KNOW I KNOW!!!) Well he’s an incestuous brat but also an incestuous zombie brat and he tears off her boob with his teeth! The other survivors are on borrowed time now as the outside zombies break their barrier. The zombies continue their impressive technological display when they kill off the last man standing with a table saw. The mother is finished off by Michael and her dead lover and the bear trap girl is last seen with the worst written epilogue in cinema history, complete with two typos!!
Is It Actually Scary: As far as zombie movies go, this is kinda creepy. Like Night of the Living Dead these zombies are slow and abundant but in contrast more seen in the daylight making their rotting corpses more prominent. These zombies use weapons and are more skilled with their hands than any other zombie I’ve seen before. They are never used for comical effect like say the original Dawn of the Dead. I wasn’t scared per se but at times I was creeped out a tad.
Scariest Moment: Any scene with Michael hands-down. Casting a very odd-looking little person with a horrible wig to play a kid should give anyone a very uneasy feeling. Add to that him trying to make out with his mother and bite her breast off should make you turn away.
Best Part/Kill: The sickle decapitation was nicely done.
How Much Gore: This zombie romp delivers on the gore department in spades. Disembowelments, check. Decapitations, check. Crushed skulls, check. Impaled in the face with broken glass, check. Throats ripped out, check. Ironically the bear trap did not deliver on the gore.
Dumbest Moment: My whole What’s It About section above is a complete synopsis of dumb. The casting of Michael with a dwarf adult is dumb. The epilogue with two typos is ignorant. However, if I had to pinpoint the most imbecilic scene in this half-baked zombie fest is the bear trap scene. I will say that having someone pinned down by a bear trap and a horde of zombies attacking is clever on the other hand the trap comes out of nowhere on someone’s estate. Did the countryside have a bear problem? It would’ve been great if at some point we were able to see a bear fight a few zombies (which would’ve brought my Schlocktoberfest bear fight tally to 3!). But fine a bear trap on some rich professor’s grounds I can live with that but it didn’t even break her ankle. She wasn’t wearing lead boots just regular ‘ol boots. In reality it would’ve snapped her foot clean off. Also the title is stupid considering we only see one night of zombie carnage instead of the nights of terror the title promised.
Best Line: “How do I look?” “You look just like a little whore, but I like that in a girl.”
Any Nudity: Two sex scenes and one lingerie scene. Not bad but then there’s the bare breast in the scene when Michael tears it off his dear mother.
Overall: I’m conflicted because on the one hand the zombies look decent and there’s great gory kills but everything else reeks in this film worse than that rag Michael finds that smells of death. I would have to say this is the worst planned, shot and acted zombie film I ever seen. Although the pacing is done fine with the zombie attacks happening roughly 25 minutes in and from there it’s really non-stop. Michael is the highlight no question however it’s not a good highlight. The incest plot is completely pointless (and I mean completely) and is so bizarre and repulsive that I question the filmmakers morals. But excluding that I still would not recommend this picture to anyone unless they absolutely HAVE to see every zombie movie ever made. And to them I say Good Luck!Score: 3 (out of 10)