Blu-ray Review: Burial Ground

Italian zombie gore classic Burial Ground is even more sickening on Blu-ray

Every bush league gorehound in the ’80s made it their mission to rent Andrea Bianchi’s Burial Ground (aka The Nights of Terror), the taboo-twisting Italian zombie movie whose reputation spoke of the sort of filthy thrills that would make Lucio Fulci blush. In North America, the general point of entry for us fans was via the Vestron video release from 1985, with its wonky painting of a half-rotted skull face and a moonlit landscape of ghouls reaching out of the cracked earth and hyperbolic warning blasted onto the bottom right corner of the box. Of course, like almost all of the European horror films of this vintage, the gorgeous come-on art was infinitely more beautiful than the product inside. No, beauty was never Burial Ground’s selling point, especially in that muddy Vestron transfer.

Indeed, Burial Ground is one ugly film. The actors are ugly. The locations are seedy. The dubbing is unpleasant. Gino de Rossi’s zombie masks are like crusty boogers and the soundtrack is arch, Moog-heavy electro music and yes, ugly to listen to. But that’s what makes it awesome. That’s what makes it so frightening, so nightmarish and so unforgettable. Hell, even the menu on Severin‘s sexy new Blu-ray release is yucky, with a loop of dry ghouls tearing into deep red butcher shop refuse. Disgusting stuff.

The film begins in a dank, crumbling cave where a hippie scientist thinks he has found an ancient burial ground of some sort of monastic sect and fancies he can revive the dead and then become their master. Or something. Very quickly, the hooded, scabby ghouls rise and, despite his orders to obey him, promptly tear the hirsute prof. to shreds. Meanwhile, a gaggle of the scientist’s horny friends arrive to his huger than huge mansion for a visit, including Mariangela Giordano from Bianchi’s Malabimba: The Malicious Whore. Giordano is traveling with her young “son” Michael, who looks like a wizened Dario Argento. In fact, the presence of the lad is what inspired much of Burial Ground’s infamy. Because this kid aint no kid at all, in fact. Michael is actually played by twenty-something old adult actor Peter Bark, cast due to the fact that there is just so much sex in the movie – including a scene of vomitous and legendary undead incest that Bark participates in – that producer Gabrielle Crisanti had to hire a diminutive adult in a wig to fill the role. The ruse fooled no one.

As the visitors have tons of sex and argue about nothing, zombies attack, wielding tools and making plans, and proceed to lay waste to the cast in vulgar ways. Every inch of Burial Ground is sickening, with an extended scene of Giordano bashing in the skull of a catatonic girl-ghoul until her brains leak paint into a bathtub, being a particularly “ugh” moment. Eyeballs are gouged, heads are hacked off, guts are ripped out and, of course, breasts are bitten off. It’s all so unsavory and stunning and just might be the best Italian zombie movie ever made. Ever.

Severin reportedly found an uncensored negative for the film buried in the floorboards of some house (whether true or not, we love the story) and have given it a 2K scan for the release. It looks amazing, just bright enough and sharp enough to improve the details and the saturated color of the blood, but not so “scrubbed” as to eliminate the queasy, greasy sheen that made the movie such a tummy-turning treat for an entire generation of freaks. As is to be expected with Severin, they dole out some choice supplemental features including a catch-up with Peter Bark, who many of us had searched for for years to no avail. Suddenly, a few years back, Bark showed up at a festival screening, to the delight of his many fans. Also on the disc are interviews with Giordano and Crisanti, who share their memories of a movie that they figured no one else would ever remember. Actor Simone Mattioli also shares his thoughts and there’s an amazing feature that revisits the historic mansion itself and compares its current state to the days when the dead ran wild. Extended scenes and trailers are also included.

Burial Ground lacks the baroque, contolled style and sense of the fantastique that marks the Fulci zombie films (which didn’t stop some distributors from releasing it as a sequel to Fulci’s Zombi 2 in some markets), but as a meat and potatoes, cheap and chunky, loud and lurid slab of Eurotrash, it has few – if any – peers.

Buy your copy of Burial Ground on Blu-ray here.