The latest double feature in BCI's Crypt Of Terror line of Mexican horror movie double features pairs up two fun eighties entries that combine elements of zombie movies and slasher films into a uniquely Mexican product. Don't go into these ones expecting the gothic atmosphere of earlier Mexican horror films or the wacky wrestling antics so often associated with the country's cinematic output – these are eighties era horror films all the way, complete with the bad fashions and bad music you'd expect from the decade.
Cemetery Of Terror:
Years ago, a cranky doctor named Cardan (played by the immortal Hugo Stiglitz of Lucio Fulci's Zombie who at this point in his career was paying the bills by working in Mexico) was entrusted with a crazy bearded patient named Devlon (Jose Gomez Parcero), but Devlon was no ordinary patient, he was a mass murderer having killed his parents and fifteen other people before being shot dead by the local police force. Cardan, upon hearing the news, tried to get the local officials to burn the body, fearing that Devlon was possessed and could potentially rise again to wreak more havoc, but no one listened to him and Devlon was tossed in the morgue, his fate remaining undecided.
Fast forward a week or two and we've got three medical students who have conned a trio of lovely ladies to accompany them to a creepy old house for a party, having tricked them into believing they'd be hanging out with the 'jet set' and not being fondled in a dirty old house full of cobwebs. Once they get there, they decide to swipe a body out of the nearby morgue and, surprise surprise, Devlon's corpse is the one they pick. They bring his lifeless body to the cemetery, hold a Satanic ceremony, and voila, Devlon rises from the grave and goes on another killing spree and only Dr. Cardan can stop him.
A strange sort of cross between John Carpenter's Halloween (what with the unstoppable killing machine and the obsessed doctor on his trail) and Bob Clarke's Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things (with the dopey teens, the black mass, and the zombies), Ruben Galindo Jr.'s Cemetery Of Terror is a reasonably well paced horror film with some nice atmosphere, some cool locations, and towards the end of the movie, some nice zombie action. It's also very much a product of the eighties and as such, it's pretty dated. Look for a kid in a white satin jacket with an airbrushed picture of Michael Jackson on the back and groove on the primitive Casio inspired soundtrack and you'll probably start having flashbacks to the era when Reagan was in the White House and Pac Man was king.
Stiglitz is fun in the lead role and while he'll never be considered a great actor by any stretch he does a good job playing the obsessed doctor and seems to have no problem hamming it up when the script requires it. The rest of the cast is pretty awful, but it adds to the fun of the film in a roundabout sort of way. Famed Mexican director Rene Cardona's grandson is credited in the cast list during the opening credits. Look for stand out performances from the three girls who get talked into going to the house – they're complete hags, whining and bitching at their boyfriends the entire time and uttering some laughable dialogue along the way.
The Grave Robbers:
Ruben Galindo Jr. returned to the 'dumb kids messing with the dead' genre again, three years later with The Grave Robbers, a film that has a few similarities to his earlier effort but which stands out on its own just enough to make it worth a look.
The film begins with an opening sequence set in the 1800s where a monk has turned to Satanism and as such is being put to death by his brethren for killing off women in the name of the devil. Before the big rubber axe hits him in the face and sets him to the great beyond, he tells them that if they kill him he will return to carry out his mission of bringing the spawn of Satan to life!
Cut to the present day (or at least what was the present day in 1989), and we're introduced to a gang of teenagers who make extra money by robbing graves at night. One the night we meet them they've found an old tomb and when they make their way into it they find all manner of jewels and gold and when they dig a little deeper they find an axe lodged in one of the corpses. It looks valuable and so one of them removes it only to resurrect the Satanic monk from the opening scene.
If a resurrected Satanic monk weren't enough, a girl named Olivia and a few of her teenage buddies are out in the woods partying it up camping one night when they find themselves being chased and roughed up by a killer! Good thing Olivia's dead is the chief of police and as such gets hot on the killer's trail before he strikes again, or at least he tries to.
While the plot and acting here are a complete mess, the film is worth seeing for the special effects as this is one gory little film. Innards are ripped out, faces are smushed, hands are chopped off and more, and the camera shies away from none of it. Thankfully, the effects are actually quite good and as such the filmmaker's pull it off quite well even if at times the movie borrows very, very heavily from Friday The 13th Part 2. Like Cemetery Of Terror, The Grave Robbers is a fast paced film that gives us just enough set up to allow it to switch to the modern day setting and get on with the gory goods. The story is neither complex nor really all that good but as an eighties horror film, it's a fun ride and it's plenty entertaining.
Both films are presented here in open matte fullframe presentations. Matting the movies might have helped a bit, as there's some obvious headroom up top and once in a while you'll spot a microphone making an appearance but overall the framing isn't bad. In terms of quality, Cemetery Of Terror is a little rough around the edges when it first starts and there's some moderate print damage present during the first reel – it gets cleaner as the movie goes on but there's always some specks and mild debris present. It doesn't prove to be too distracting, but it's there none the less. The Grave Robbers looks a little better and considerably cleaner but still has some mild print damage and moderate grain evident in spots. Both films look decent in terms of color reproduction and there's more detail present here than you'd probably expect to see. Everything's watchable, even if there's room for improvement.
The Dolby Digital Mono soundtracks provided for both movies are in their native Spanish language with optional English subtitles that are clean, clear and easy to read. The subtitles for Cemetery Of Terror has a couple of minor typographical errors if you watch for that sort of thing but they're really minor. In terms of clarity, both movies sound fine. There's a bit of hiss in one or two spots and once in a while you might hear a pop here and there but things are balanced nicely and the dialogue is reasonably crisp most of the time. Not a reference quality job here, but a sufficient one.
Aside from some animated menus provided for each film, and chapter stops, this release is barebones. The packaging does include a slipcase cover, but that's not really an extra feature.
While the audio and video presentation is far from perfect, both films are watchable even if they don't come with any extra features. Neither are classics, but they're fun B-movies and are entertaining enough in their own right. Cemetery Of Terror/The Grave Robbers is recommended for eighties horror movie buffs, and makes for a fun rental for the curious.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.