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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Burial Ground (Blu-ray)
Burial Ground (Blu-ray)
Severin // Unrated // October 25, 2016 // Region Free
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted October 29, 2016 | E-mail the Author
Okay, so now a gaggle of zombies are shambling around some ancient, decaying tombs. Abruptly cut to a romantic picnic in the garden! Moving on, now a photographer is snapping shots of his lover frolicking by a fountain. A butler and maid look on in horror as the hideous lights in a chandelier flicker on and off before exploding. She screams hysterically! More exploding lights. Just when you think they've ran out of bulbs, there's a third, identical chandelier to go pop-pop-pop-pop-boom! So, back to zombies caked in paper maché and live maggots as they slowly lurch onward.

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Andrea Bianchi had scores of credits to his name before helming Burial Ground -- Strip Nude for Your Killer among them -- but watching this, you'd kind of wonder if the guy had even seen a movie before, let alone directed one. Despite somehow having a credited screenwriter, there is no plot to speak of beyond "zombies mount a siege on a ritzy Italian villa". No setup beyond a professor poking around in some ancient tomb. Borderline-zero characterization. As little dialogue as they could get away with. Moments are kind of just randomly stitched together. Zombie assaults drag on for ages. There's no rhythm or...or...cinematic vocabulary to be found. You do get this Dario Argento lookin' wee man in his mid-twenties passing himself off as a little boy, trying desperately to fuck his mother. Shit! I think he heard me.

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Like, not some kind of underlying Oedipal subtext; straight-up groping and propositioning her -- trying to guilt her into it with a "what's wrong? I'm your son!" when he's rebuked. This family is among those spending a weekend or something in a professor's palatial estate, so of course they find a room full of sculptures and start firing a pistol into the wall, well before they've clued into the presence of the walking dead. There's a parade of exploding zombie heads. These ghouls are handy with gardening tools and can even fire up a table saw. Now there's a bear trap in the middle of the garden. Why not? A library sound effect for a cracked whip stands in for a machete. There's a line of dialogue that goes something like "I have an idea; let's let the zombies in the house!", thinking that maybe they're after something else in the villa and don't actually want to eat them. You get to see a zombie chomp off a woman's titty, which I guess is a fetish that screenwriter Piero Regnoli can't get enough of since he did something kinda similar in Nightmare City the year prior. When all else fails, crash zoom! Even if nothing fails, crash zoom anyway! Every gutmuncher is a special snowflake: each with such wildly different makeup designs that they look like they've been culled from eighty-four different zombie flicks. As all over the place as the effects are, the dubbing is even further out there. ...and those glorious analog synths! I think I'm love.

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If this review reads as rambling and completely incoherent, then good! The same goes for Burial Ground, an ineptly shat-out trashterpiece that utterly fails in every conceivable, conventional way. It doesn't even muster a single worthwhile scare. Fistfuls of gross-out grue, yeah, but suspense or genuine horror, not so much. At the same time, I'm head over heels in love with it. Burial Ground is sleazy, it's gory, it's fat-packed with ghouls of every possible flavor, it's eightysomething minutes of nonstop zombie carnage, and it's so completely off the rails that I just can't turn away. It's more than a movie; it's an experience and just too deliriously fun for words. If you've given Burial Ground a look before and feel like it's something you endured rather than watched, then there's nothing I can say to convince you otherwise. It's not like there's any nuance or subtle metaphors that you may have overlooked that could give you a greater appreciation for what Bianchi and company have crafted. It's shit. It's my kind of shit, though, and it's shit on a level that few other filmmakers have ever mustered. If you're similarly afflicted, I'll say Highly Recommended and move onto the technical stuff.


Video
Shameful confession: Severin Films' Blu-ray release marks the first time I've ever subjected myself to Burial Ground. So, if you're seeking out a meticulous comparison between this disc, Shriek Show's universally reviled BD, and the recent special edition in the UK from 88 Films, you're gonna have to set your sights somewhere else. The good news is that there's no shortage of better informed reviews floating around. If you're okay settling for a neophyte's kneejerk reaction, then brace yourself, 'cause here we go.

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The short answer is that for a thirtysomethingyear old 16mm gutmuncher, Burial Ground looks pretty damned nice. The screenshots scattered throughout this review really don't tell the full story. In motion, splashed across a big screen, and watched from a reasonable viewing distance, there's no need to grade on a curve; Burial Ground compares favorably enough to a bunch of 35mm genre flicks that've come across my desk over the years. There's a noticeable difference, of course, but it's not nearly as stark as I figured it'd be. The 1.66:1 image is generally nicely defined and more detailed than I'd have thought, although with a run-and-gun shoot like this, the impact can unsurprisingly vary a bit from shot to shot. The gritty texture you'd expect from a 16mm flick is present and accounted for, and despite the very lean bitrate of this AVC encode, Burial Ground's grain doesn't really suffer for it. A lot of shots do have a grimy, yellowish tint to 'em, maybe to help convey a certain time of day, but its colors generally look terrific. There's no damage or speckling of any consequence to get in the way either. The short answer is that I'm thrilled with what Severin has delivered here.


Audio
Two monaural dubs of Burial Ground are offered up here: one in English and the other in Italian. It's nice to see that the Italian track is accompanied by properly translated English subtitles rather than a straight transcription of the English dub. On the other hand, it's a drag that the Italian track is served up in Dolby Digital (192kbps) rather than getting the lossless treatment. I didn't spend much time with the Italian track, but what I heard sounded decent enough. It's significantly louder than the English DTS-HD Master Audio track, making a direct comparison trickier than I felt like fussing with for long.

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Since Burial Ground was shot wild, with everything you hear having been recorded in post-production, the English dub is as valid an option as any. This track doesn't exactly belie the film's age but still leaves little room for complaint. The English dialogue -- as canned and ridiculous as it is -- comes through well. As someone with a bank of Moogs to his name, the whirring analog synths are my absolute favorite part of Burial Ground. The strings and horns don't fare quite so well, sounding like they're playing on a radio in another room, but whatever. No dropouts, clicks, pops, intrusive hiss, or much of anything else manage to get in the way. Nicely done.


Extras
  • Outtakes (10 min.; HD): Presented without dialogue is a quick barrage of deleted and extended scenes, including a peek at our newfound friends driving to the villa, a lengthier striptease, more photography by the fountain, more fucking, more tooling around in the villa's art chamber or whatever it's called, and a whole lot more in the way of shambling zombies.
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  • Villa Parisi: Legacy of Terror (16 min.; HD): This four hundred year old villa has hosted more than its fair share of horror flicks, and we get a guided tour to where some of the most iconic moments from The Third Eye, Bay of Blood, Hatchet for the Honeymoon, Blood for Dracula, Patrick Still Lives, and, yes, Burial Ground were filmed. There are some marvelous then-and-now comparisons that are all the more striking since very little has changed in the intervening decades. As the tour is guided by a film historian, we're also treated to more about the cast's backgrounds, Andrea Bianchi's less than sterling reputation as a filmmaker, and makeup effects artist Mauro Gavazzi being overcome with a compulsion to stab some entirely random person. Far and away the best of the disc's extras.

  • Peter Still Lives (8 min.; SD): I was really looking forward to this film festival Q&A with star Peter Bark, but there's not much substance to it. Questions tend to get a cursory response and sometimes aren't addressed at all. Bark touches on his bit parts in a handful of screwball comedies, briefly describes how he wound up in Burial Ground, quips about the taste of the breasts he suckles on, and notes how many hours of makeup went into realizing the zombie effects.

  • Just for the Money (9 min.; HD): Actor Simone Mattioli doesn't exactly mince his words: he was only onboard Burial Ground for the paycheck. He didn't find the film worth thinking about all that much then, and not much has changed in the thirtysomeodd years since, breezing through his first nude scene, what a good looking man Andrea Bianchi was, the splendor of Villa Parisi, and the gruesome (and sometimes dangerous!) makeup effects. Oh, and that is some batshit extreme moiré-ing on Mattioli's shirt. What happened?

  • The Smell of Death (9 min.; SD): This archival interview alternates between producer Gabriele Crisanti and actress Mariangela Giordano. They speak in greater detail about a stuntman nearly succumbing to a burn gag, how surprisingly successful Burial Ground proved to be, some of the history of Villa Parisi, why a man in his mid-twenties had to be cast as a barely pubescent boy, and the state of effects in those pre-digital days. Kinda lackluster.
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  • Trailer (4 min.; SD): Also included is a rough looking trailer with an English title and Italian audio. I mean, the entire thing is pretty much nothing but screaming, but there's an "aiuto!" in there and stuff.

  • Easter Egg: Under the 'Extras' menu, highlight the trailer and head left to reveal a set of opening and closing titles in Italian. Thanks to commenter Dave Kaye for pointing out the exact location.

Burial Ground sports a reversible cover, and Wes Benscoter has contributed a third set of art for its limited edition slipcover. Also very much of note is that this is an all-region release.


The Final Word
There's weird, there's fucking weird, and then there's Burial Ground. Highly Recommended as long as you know what you're getting into.
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