Severin Films recently released a Blu-Ray of one of my favorite horror films. The all mighty Burial Ground! A film basically about upper-class sex perverts trapped in a mansion while under siege from weapon wielding undead hordes. Gut eating, incestuous perversion, and strange atmospherics are on the menu in this Italian classic from 1981, directed by Andrea Bianchi. To me, Burial Ground is the most “pure” Zombie film. It does not waste time with subplots or attempted social commentary. Its focus is on the body, decay, desire, and an all pervasive strangeness.
Zombie films, at their best, shine a perverse light on social norms. The walking dead, devouring the living, is both an inversion ( the dead eating the living ), and an examination, of how we as humans live on a day to day basis but tend to sublimate for our own comfort. We eat what once was living tissue to survive, we eye each other's fleshy bodies with lustful and malicious desire. We don’t want to be confronted with the facts of our own mortality, so the Zombie, literally busting down the door to kill us, taps into these really primal fears we have about our brief and tenuous lives. The whole idea of a walking corpse is just surreal and disturbing. The realization that the Zombie is this looking glass version of us, rotting and dead, but still driven with this all consuming hunger, is where the Zombie film gets its power to disturb. Burial Ground, in its pulpy straightforwardness, is, in fact, one of the more interesting and transgressive films to come out of the 1980’s.
For my money, Burial Ground may have the best looking Zombies ever put to celluloid. Special effects master Gino de Rossi delivers these skeletal, maggot ridden, shambling, walking corpses that are the stuff of nightmares. The musical score is fantastic, a combination of 80’s synth and odd jazzy numbers, and is one of the weirdest scores for a film I have ever heard. It perfectly sets the mood with this unsettling morose and doom laden synthy dirge. And you can’t talk about Burial Ground without mentioning one of the all time weirdest performances. Peter Bark as the young Michael, with his much-quoted line, “ This cloth smells of death “, and his constant groping of his mother is just amazing perverse. Peter Bark has developed quite the cult following and has earned a place in horror film infamy. Severin Films did an amazing job with their Blu-Ray, I never realized how colorful and beautifully shot Burial Ground really is, having seen it mainly on bad washed out and drab VHS copies. I think Burial Ground tends to be overlooked by the Fulci and Argento films of that era, and think it’s long overdue for Burial Ground to get another look. Highly recommended.