Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror (1981)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #373

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Also known as The Zombie Dead
Number of Views: Three
Release Date: July 9, 1981
Sub-Genre: Zombie Horror
Country of Origin: Italy
Running Time: 85 minutes
Director: Andrea Bianchi
Producer: Gabriele Crisanti
Screenplay: Piero Regnoli
Special Effects: Rosario Prestopino (zombie make-up), Gino De Rossi
Cinematography: Gianfranco Maioletti
Score: Elsio Mancuso, Burt Rexon
Studio: Esteban Cinematografica
Distributor: Shriek Show
Stars: Karin Well, Gianluigi Chirizzi, Mariangela Giordano, Simone Mattioli, Antonella Antinori, Roberto Caporali, Claudio Zucchet, Peter Bark, Anna Valente, Raimondo Barbieri

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Suggested Audio Candy

[1] Elsio Mancuso & Burt Rexon “Burial Ground”

[2] The Cranberries “Zombie”

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It should be painfully apparent at this point that you simply cannot keep a good zombie down. In recent years, fans of the festering have been handed an embarrassment of wealth where shuffling corpses are concerned and we have George A. Romero to thank for the dead walking so freely amongst the living. Whilst zombie origins pre-date Dawn of The Dead by almost fifty years and can be pinpointed to Victor Halperin’s 1932 relic White Zombie, there can be no denying that it was Romero that shook up the beehive. Dario Argento’s localized edit named Zombi enjoyed massive success in its homeland and Lucio Fulci’s notorious Zombi 2 shared a similar pessimism about the fate of humanity and intention to celebrate this new wave of “splatter cinema”, a phrase coined by Romero himself.

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By 1981, Fulci had opened The Gates of Hell and zombies were walking rife to the tune of impressive box office returns. Alongside the formidable pairing of The Beyond and House By The Cemetery came a far less widely renowned effort from Andrea Bianchi (Strip Nude For Your Killer) bearing the mantle Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror. While Fulci’s masterpieces were vilified for their vivisectionist grue and branded as unsavory, Bianchi’s film managed to escape the wrath of the DPP although, given the fact that it didn’t surface in the US until 1985 and the UK a year later, it would appear as though Bianchi simply decided to keep a low profile until the storm passed. When it did finally emerge it was devoid of thirteen minutes of gory footage and remained that way until 2002 when it was re-released as the lifelessly titled The Zombie Dead.

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Considering how pernickety the BBFC were at the time, it may well have been a shrewd move to lay low, especially given the incestuous sub-plot which, to this day, still beggars belief. More on that later as that is undoubtedly the film’s chief discussion point but, before we suck on the teat of controversy, what of the movie’s less dubious selling points? One thing which Bianchi got squarely on the money was the pace. Whereas films such as Umberto Lenzi’s Nightmare City and Luigi Cozzi’s Contamination required the viewer to traipse through endless exposition and lengthy periods of inactivity to get to the gristle, Burial Ground was out of the tracks like a rocket-propelled whippet and barely paused for breath for the entirety of its 85 minute running time.

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The director was evidently disinterested with anything other than the invitation of sheer mayhem and, within five minutes, the reanimated dead had been relinquished from their eternal slumber and were already taking pot shots at the locals. In many ways, it could be argued that he employed a slasher-like mentality as we learned next-to-nothing about our protagonists, and the next grisly kill was never too far away at any given moment. Not what you’d call cerebral then.

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The zombies themselves, fashioned by Rosario Prestopino, were a mixed bunch and ranged from excellent to downright laughable. Festering, rotten cadavers with maggots oozing forth from every available orifice, they certainly had the appearance of being well past their best before date. However, these were a different breed from Romero’s bare-handed horrors as, despite being similarly arthritic, they were diabolically cunning and even worked as a team to bring down their opposite numbers. Methods of dispatch were also wildly varied and they marked their superiority with every tool in the shed. Pitchforks, scythes, battering rams, even power saws, whatever they could get their grubby little hands on was fair game.


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Our survivors were penned up inside a real authentic Gothic castle in a nod to Night of The Living Dead as they attempted to endure wave upon wave of sneak attacks. As already mentioned, characterization was secondary to gruesome detail and Burial Ground rattled along at an alarming clip which compensated for any lack of finesse in its woefully stilted direction. However, for a movie so packed with incident, one highly suspect dynamic stood out like Richard Kiel with a thumb injury. I’m talking of the relationship between Evelyn (Mariangela Giordano) and her twelve-year old son Michael (Peter Bark). Where the hell should I start?

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“Mother, this cloth smells of death!”

In Bianchi’s defense, dwarven Bark was 26 years old when he played the momma’s boy. Not that that would have reassured Giordano when being forced to make out with her son while he fondled her breasts, as he looked suspiciously like a date rapist with his duplo hair and a face only a mother could possibly not wretch at. Thankfully, she rebuffed his advances, to which a bewildered Michael uttered the words “What’s wrong? I’m your son!” But 26 is way too old for breast-feeding and it was just too bizarre a concept to entertain. Any thoughts that he may indeed be a wrong ‘un were founded early on as he took on the voyeur role while mom got her stable door’s bashed in. But full-blown incest was a step too far and it appeared that Bianchi had decided to sidestep any further controversy. Had he fuck!

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“You’re getting a raise out of me alright, but it has nothing to do with money”

Once poor innocent little Mikey had succumbed to the relentless zombie invasion, he got another shot at hanging from his mother’s udders, only this time she was more receptive to his advances and even flopped her left one out of its hammock to offer a little extra incentive. Poor woman had already been forced to accept that she would outlast her own flesh and blood so any contact now had to be a good thing surely? Not once he chewed off her areola it wasn’t. The comedy value, should your skin be as thick as Keeper’s, was phenomenal and provides reasoning alone as to why Burial Ground is still worth a look over thirty years later.

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“You look just like a little whore, but I like that in a girl”

It wasn’t big, neither was it clever in the slightest. There was no thought given to why they existed or the repercussions of their hostile takeover and instead it focused solely on the running and screaming which served it well for repeat viewing. There were still plenty of Italian staples present such as the implementation of long drawn-out shots and dramatic zooming but, these aside, it marked something of a designer original. If films such as Bruno Mattei & Claudio Fragasso’s Zombie Creeping Flesh aka Hell of The Living Dead and Marino Girolami’s Zombie Holocaust are your bag then you may wish to offer this your bosom. Just don’t come crying to Keeper if you bite off more than you can chew.

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Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10

Grue Factor: 4/5

For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: If there is one thing synonymous to the zombie breed then that would have to be hunger. Here they chowed down with gay abandon, with more entrails than you could shake a muddy stick at and lingering shots of them masticating the gizzards of their quarry. Moreover, their effectiveness with weaponry also led to some wondrous moments of more conventional splatter. The death of the house maid was my personal darling, both for invention and grim lasting imagery as the zombies decided against climbing the trellis and instead decapitated her from ground level using an elongated scythe. Watching the severed head drop into their appreciative hands as they quarreled over first bite was a moment of sublime brilliance and the moment when another survivor tossed the remainder of her carcass to the droves below, ensuring not a scrap went to waste, may just be the smartest thing anyone in Italian zombie horror ever did. As for nudity, the fact that Bianchi’s recent credits had included Strip Nude For Your Killer should answer any questions there.

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Read Zombi 2 Appraisal

Read The Beyond Appraisal

Read The House by The Cemetery Appraisal

Read Anthropophagus: The Beast Appraisal

Richard Charles Stevens

Keeper of The Crimson Quill

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  1. Looks super fun and gory. Never even heard of this one! I’m sold! Looking for it on Amazon as I type. lol

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