Title multiplicity is in full effect here: the wackier the movie, the more likely a title mouthful. Burial Ground is known by its original handle, Le Notti del terrore, Nights of Terror, but also Zombi Horror and The Zombie Dead. (That last one seems a bit redundant unless you’re splitting definitional hairs; Zombies could be considered “undead.”)
In Peter Normanton’s The Mammoth Book of Slasher Movies, the author claims it’s “one of the many films released as Zombi 3.”
Whichever way you slice it this 1981 Italian horror, like others of its ilk, leans heavily on mysticism and the lingering curse of long-dead cultures.
Directed by Andrea Bianchi, best known for 1975’s Nude per l’assassino aka Strip Nude for Your Killer (again, it’s kinda implied that if you strip, it’s in order to be nude) in terms of plotting, Burial Ground makes Demons look like Chinatown.
Still, there’s enough ineffable Italian weirdness to carry the day.
Here, an anthropology professor – fertile employment ground when it comes to horror films, if not in real life – conjures up some ancient Etruscan curse at a Roman estate and pays the price.
Through some mechanism conveniently omitted, three couples are invited to the villa and are set upon by the maggot-riddled shuffling undead, one of whom looks like the restless spirit of the Abominable Dr. Phibes.
But it’s the wackadoodle oedipal text/subtext of Burial Ground that’s made the film so memorable to horror fans. You see, one of the women (played by Mariangela Giordano) has a “teenage” son, Michael, played by little person (!) actor Peter Bark/Pietro Barzocchini.
And, to paraphrase The Bard, what a piece of work is this man! He gropes/fondles his way through the movie (“mama, mama!”) and gazes gazely forlorn stares…
It’s Michael who takes an otherwise tawdry Night of the Living Dead clone and elevates it to legend status.
“The earth shall tremble, graves shall open!”
***1/2 (out of 5)
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