Burial Ground: The Nights Of Terror (1979)

JULY 2, 2010


Now THIS is how you do it! I don’t remember the exact last Italian zombie movie I watched (I think it was Zombi 4), but I can guarantee Burial Ground: The Nights Of Terror (simply titled The Nights of Terror on the print itself; the Italian title is Le Notti Del Terrore) is better. Why? Because it never lets up! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a zombie movie with so much momentum, even if it is rather repetitive. Add in some creepy incestuous overtones and an adult dwarf inexplicably playing a little kid, and you have what may be the definitive batshit Italian zombie movie.

The great thing about the movie is that it has almost no discernible plot or even three act structure. The zombies are unleashed in the first 15 minutes, and after a series of attacks in various areas on the mansion grounds, our heroes all band together and enter the mansion. The rest of the movie is just the zombies trying to get in, and succeeding. So it’s sort of like Night of the Living Dead, except without the escape attempt, cutaway to the “situation elsewhere” (on TV or not) or group conflict of any sort.

Of course, unless you count Michael’s rejection by his mother as “conflict”. For whatever reason (perhaps being an adult?), young Michael’s frequent close hugging of his mother ultimately leads to on the mouth kissing. The mom doesn’t seem to mind, but when the little bastard tries to get his hand up her skirt, she slaps him and says it’s wrong. Michael is quite upset by this, and he takes off downstairs, where he is instantly killed. Later, the mom finds his body and is upset, but when he turns zombie, she apologizes for before and tells him he can do as he pleases (!!!). Which, since he’s a zombie, means he bites off half her breast, and then she turns zombie as well. So you have the rare moment in a film where a character possibly realizes that refusing to let her own son have sex with her caused both of their deaths. Does it count as irony if it’s fucking gross?

It’s also got some great deaths. As with most Italians, these people have no skeletons, so when a zombie hooks a sickle around the back of someone’s head and pulls, the head slices off like butter. Speaking of the sickle, there’s a hilarious bit where the zombies all grab tools, sort of like a scene in an old Universal monster movie with everyone grabbing a torch before heading off to “rah rah rah” their way over to the monster’s hideout. We don’t get to see them use tools enough, but there’s enough carnage to make up for it. And poor Michael gets his arm ripped off, a rare instance where they don’t just tear at the belly area until everyone has some intestines in their hands.

One thing it doesn’t quite deliver is memorable dialogue, because there practically isn’t any! Once the zombies start attacking, pretty much the only things we hear are exclamations (“Come on!” “Oh no!” “Run!”, that type of stuff). It’s kind of a shame, because the early moments suggest a mis-translated laugh riot, such as when Michael informs his mother that “This cloth smells of death!”. I’d say at least 70% of the movie was without dialogue, including the entire final 10 minutes or so. They make up for it, however, with a quote at the end attributed to the “Profecy of the Black Spider”, which warns us of the “nigths of terror” that will come when the dead arise. And its pasted over the film’s final shot, in which the last surviving human is swarmed by zombies who are kind enough to stop advancing so she can keep screaming for a few more seconds before the freeze frame occurs.

The quote also pops up in the trailer (with “nights” spelled properly), which like most trailers for these things is way too long (almost four minutes!), has no voiceover and spoils pretty much every money shot and kill. But that actually makes it one of the more worthwhile extras, as the interviews with producer Gabriele Crisanti and actress Mariangela Giordano are a bit of a wash. Crisanti’s isn’t BAD, per se, it’s just a bit dull compared to many of his peers, as he’s not as prone to start insulting the actors and the film itself as they are. He does explain why Michael is played by a dwarf adult though (child labor laws), so there’s something. Giordano’s, however, was probably only included to make it look like this special edition was more special, as she can’t remember a single fucking thing about the movie (even what it’s about! “This was the one with zombies, right?”), so she mainly just rephrases the question into a statement and adds a “he was great” or “she was beautiful” to it. She can’t even remember the director’s name! I mean, I have no idea who this woman is and don’t really care, but if I was a big fan of hers and sat down to watch this interview, I’d be pretty goddamn appalled, as she comes off as an idiot. Some still galleries and trailers for other Shriek Show releases are also included.

According to the IMDb, this release is missing a four second shot of a man “turning around and falling back against a shutter.”. Rest assured, even without that obviously brilliant piece of cinema, this movie is a treat for fans of ridiculous zombie films, and would make a top notch revival theater screening (midnight or not). Apparently it DID play the New Bev within the past 2 years, and I am baffled as to how I missed it. Must have been while I was back home or something. Rest assured: if it shows again, I wouldn’t miss it for anything. Especially if it has that shutter shot.

What say you?

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  1. I suspect I will either Love or Loathe this. After "100 zombie movies" though I think I can take your word on it being slightly less rubbish than the last 20 zombie movies I watched myself..

    Whatever happened to the gratuitous Italian horror industry anyway? *sigh*

  2. Damn it! This is the one! A few weeks ago I rented "House by the Cemetary" thinking it was this movie. I was incredibly disappointed when the freakish midget kid never showed up.

  3. but eric, house by the cemetery is amazing

    as is this movie! i smell double feature idea...

  4. House by the Cemetary was amazing in its own way, and I'm glad I watched it otherwise.


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