Burial Ground: The Nigths of Terror (1981)

Director: Andrea Bianchi

And yes, I spelled the title that way for a very good reason that anyone who’s seen the film (or even just the trailer) should understand…

Anyway, HOLY FUCK. Andrea Bianchi seems to be one of the more obscure figures of Italian cinema, and I gather that insofar as any of his films are “well-known”, this is it. And insofar as it’s well-known, it’s not for “good” reasons. I’ve always been under the impression that Nigths (sorry, I have to call it that) was generally regarded as one of the worst examples of horror cinema in history, and, let’s face it, that’s not an unfair judgement. It’s also a kind of masterpiece of the “so bad it’s good” school, and much as I hate “so bad it’s good” as a critical descriptor, well, I can’t think of a better one to apply here. So, a bunch of people rock up to this country villa near an Etruscan cemetery where a friend of theirs has been doing some sort of research… said research somehow manages to revive an army of the dead for reasons the film never really explains, and before long the assorted friends and lovers are being besieged inside the villa by some remarkably resourceful zombies. Bianchi is admirably quick to get to this point: little time wasted on the minimal set-up and characterisation, and never mind explaining why the zombies are there, just get on with them chowing down on the rest of the cast. The actual zombie makeup is staggeringly awful, making absolutely no bones (if you’ll pardon the expression) about its own badness, no effort to convince at all… you know, without even looking too hard, on at least one of them you will see the blacked-out mouth of the performer behind the “skull” that’s supposed to be his face. Magisterial.

However, the film’s true high point of notoriety actually lies in the casting of a young man called Peter Bark, who plays Michael. Michael is a boy of about twelve or so. Peter Bark, if IMDB is right, was 25 when this film was made. Now, even granting that Peter Bark was (apparently still is) a little person, I can’t imagine who thought an adult midget actor would actually work on-screen as a not quite pubescent child… especially a child whose relationship with his mother is, frankly, a little bit wrong, and culminates in the film’s most notorious scene. Really, Nigths is something “special” indeed. I don’t think I’ve had quite so much fun from quite so bad a film in a long time. Outstanding, mind-warping stuff.

Written for the 4th Annual Italian Horror Blogathon at Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies

One thought on “Burial Ground: The Nigths of Terror (1981)

  1. Kevin J. Olson October 29, 2013 at 5:56 am

    Yeah, this one is something else, isn’t it? I just talked about it in my review of Zombi 3 that this is probably the closest thing we every got to an actual sequel to Fulci’s Zombi 2. The makeup is inconsistent, sure, but there are moments where you can see some of the zombies in the foreground with much better makeup than others, and that the filmmakers really took their time with it. So I don’t know that I agree that the makeup is as awful as you make it out to be. But, yeah, more often than not, the film just shows signs of laziness or lack of budget (seriously, no one could be bothered to spell check at the end?), and you don’t even have to look hard to see where the extras are that they just slabbed quick makeup on.

    The Michael character is the reason the movie was so sought after during its VHS days (it was one of the treasures of the VHS era as it was extremely hard to find due to being out of print for so long), and it’s the reason, to this day, that I think so many still either have seen the film or at least know about it. But Burial Ground is also just an unique zombie film. Yeah it’s shoddy in many parts and pretty wacky, but I love how Bianchi just gets right to it. The film is edited down to the essentials–it’s what a zombie movie should be. And I love how, as you point out, resourceful the zombies are as they take up weapons (my favorite being the scythe scene) and a battering ram! Again, it’s gorier and more in spirit than any of the Zombi 2 follow-ups.

    Also, the scene with the bear trap. Hilarious. Great capsule review, James!

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