As an avid horror movie watcher, and despite feeling as if I’ve seen it all, the thing I think that genre fans thrive on the most is discovering that one rare gem that they’d never seen before. As vast as your movie knowledge may be, there are always films that slip through the cracks and you find in your life at a time when you didn’t realize just how badly you needed them. One such movie for me was first bearing witness to the insanity that is Juan Piquer Simon’s 1982 cult masterpiece PIECES.
I had gotten a DVD copy of it and brought it over to a friend’s house while he wrapped up a phone interview for a work-related obligation. He insisted I start without him and he’d join eventually. After 5 or 10 minutes, I literally couldn’t believe what I was watching that I had to stop it and wait for him because I needed to see this with someone. Needless to say, it quickly became one of our all time favorite horror movies, and now a frequent recommendations. It’s not that it was great, or particularly scary. It just had that inexplicable quality to it. It’s a movie that shouldn’t work, and yet somehow it magically does.
BURIAL GROUND is one of those types of movies too.
How the hell I managed to put off seeing this bizarre bat-shit crazy movie is beyond me, but that’s what I love about Severin Films. They take these well-known cult movies, restore them to the best possible versions and release them on Blu, usually filled to the brim with a healthy batch of special features. I’d been familiar with the infamous poster art of a Fulci-esque zombie on it, but up until I plopped this Blu-Ray in my player, I’d actually never seen the film. I definitely would’ve remembered it, because you see – there’s two types of people in the world. Those that have not seen BURIAL GROUND, and those that are forever changed because they have seen it.
I thought I may have seen bits of it at some point, but I was mistaken. You see, shortly after high school, my best friend Steve and I were obsessed with zombie movies, mainly because of our love of DAWN and DAY OF THE DEAD. So, we’d trek into the city regularly to Kim’s Underground, a NYC video store that sadly no longer exists, and he’d take a gamble on some zombie movie on VHS. They all had so many various titles, that we never knew if we were watching ZOMBI 2, ZOMBIE 3, ZOMBIE 4, KILLER BIRDS, CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD or whatever the hell else we stumbled upon. I could tell the quality of the movie based upon the fact that the next time I’d pull up to Steve’s drive way, if he hated it, I’d see the remains of a shattered VHS covering his front yard. Alas, BURIAL GROUND could’ve been among one of these casualties he watched and then chucked before I could see it.
Point being, whether a great wrong had been committed or not, it was rectified when I finally got to watch this gem. Within the first 15 minutes, I had to pause the film, get up and pace back and forth for a few minutes to get my composure. Was I seeing what I thought I was seeing? Does this cult classic defy explanation? Can I even give it a rational review? There’s so much to love about BURIAL GROUND, but I can pin point it to one simple thing that this movie has that no other horror movie in the history of the genre doesn’t have. Peter mother-F-ing Bark.
OK, just to summarize, the movie opens with a professor opening a crypt which resurrects and awakens a group of foul zombies. Back at a nearby villa, a group of friends are gathering for a party when the living dead descend on them. Among the various sex crazed couples is Evelyn, her boyfriend and her young 12 year old son Michael. The thing is… Michael, who is supposed to be a young boy is very obviously played by a grown man. But he’s also a little person, and so the effect is something that’s so weird, it may break your brain. Or at the very least, compel you to keep watching.
The pacing of this thing couldn’t be slower, and yet somehow it magically becomes hilarious. For example, there’s a moment when Michael’s mother Evelyn is doing the wild thing with her boyfriend and their door creeks open. We see the shadow of a head on the door, and for a good solid 45-60 seconds, the shadow continues to grow in the door at a snail’s pace until suddenly Michael walks in. I laughed out loud.
Michael’s sexual attraction to his mother is also cause for concern. I mean, I guess it’d be equally as bizarre and creepy if he were played by an actual 12 year old boy, but having it clearly be a little person who fondles and feels up his mom is beyond weird. When she slaps him, he runs off screaming, “What’s wrong? I’m your son!” Yeah, kid/man-child, that’s exactly what’s wrong! You ARE her son!
There’s also a moment where Michael randomly picks up a cloth off the floor, sniffs it and runs over to his mom and says, “Mother. This smells like death!” Perhaps in the original Italian language, this abrupt and candid observation can be taken seriously, but it’s another bit, that in English, made me laugh. And you know what? The zombies look pretty darned cool, so there’s that as well!
As if getting the movie in a pristine flawless high def presentation wasn’t enough, I started skimming around the bonus features and my jaw dropped when I saw one titled “Peter Still Lives!” No way. Did they find and talk to this freakin’ guy? Is he still alive?!
Sure enough, it’s a Q & A from 2013 that the legend that is Peter Bark took part in. It’s brief and he’s a bit vague with audience questions because he mentions that he’s working on a book (!) about his experiences on BURIAL GROUND, but this was 3 years ago and I see no listing for any book from him anywhere online. (I did find a You Tube interview in Italian where he’s also pimping his upcoming and yet still unreleased book.) But regardless of all that, there’s still something special about getting to see what these wacky characters from these movies that we love look like nowadays.
Other features include interviews with producer Gabriele Crianti, actor Simone Mattioli and Michael’s loving mother herself Mariangela Giordano! There’s also a documentary on Villa Parisi, the historic house location from the movie! All is all, it’s a great package, although the subtitles are a bit off. And by off, I don’t mean out of sync, but they don’t exactly match exactly what the English dialogue track is stating, but with a movie this wacky, what does it matter? I can’t believe how crisp and clear it looks. There’s Oscar winning movies out there that don’t get the loving treatment that BURIAL GROUND gets, but screw those movies! This is the one that counts!
My co-host on the Shock Waves podcast Elric Kane hit the nail on the head regarding people’s thoughts on Italian zombie flicks when I brought this up a few episodes back. Sometimes, horror fans will cite Fulci’s work as “clunky,” when in actuality, they’re thinking of the Fulci knock-offs, like this one. That’s not to say that Andrea Bianchi, who gave us such cult classics as STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER and MALABIMBA: THE MALICIOUS WHORE, isn’t a good director. But Fulci has a unique distinct style of his own that’s evident in every frame of his films, and this is in a world of its own!
I cannot recommend BURIAL GROUND: THE NIGHTS OF TERROR enough. It’s the perfect party movie and will pair up nicely with PIECES, so queue it up as a double bill the next time you decide to throw a PIECES party. It’s exactly what you think it is.
Available direct through: Severin-Films
You can hear us talk about BURIAL GROUND on this episode of Shock Waves embedded below!