Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Losing Ground: "Burial Ground" (1986)

Most infamous for a scene involving a child biting off his mother's nipple, this loser Italian zombie film has a high gross out factor, and little else. Be warned, I am about to spoil the hell out of this thing!

In the opening, a bearded Professor Ayres (Renato Barbieri, looking like Rasputin) discovers a "secret" that looses zombies on the countryside, getting himself killed in the process. We never find out how he awakened the dead...

Cut to three horny couples arriving at an Italian villa. They are guests of the late professor, and let themselves in. None of the couples are differentiated from each other. George (Roberto Caporali) and Evelyn (Maria Angela Giordano) bring along Evelyn's weird son Michael (Peter Bark, an obvious little person badly posing as a young boy). James (Simone Mattioli) and Leslie (Antonella Antinori) are here, keep track of them because Leslie is cute. Mark (Gian Luigi Chirizzi) and Janet (Karin Well) stand out only because Mark looks like Michael Keaton and Janet has psychic feelings that something awful is going to happen, and this subplot is never elaborated on. Nicholas (Claudio Zucchet) and Kathleen (Anna Valente) are the house servants who always do everything they are told, even in the heat of the zombie attacks.

There is really not much of a plot here. The zombies stumble upon Mark and Janet, and James and Leslie, while they are all getting it on in the gardens. George and Evelyn and Michael are cornered in the professor's office and George is the first to die as he martyrs himself for his family. From here on out, if a cast member wanders off by themselves, consider them dead. Out in the yard, Janet steps in a bear trap (!), and hobbles around for the rest of the film. The survivors board themselves up in the villa, and wait to die.

Hilariously, Kathleen finds time to serve everyone drinks from a tray before getting beheaded by a sickle when told to go check a window. Later, Leslie goes to find whiny Janet some bandages and gets her head mashed into a pieces of a broken window. Little freaky Michael tries to make out with his mother, is rejected, and partially eaten by a newly zombified Leslie. Poor Nicholas is sent on a fool's errand and killed by the absent professor.

That Mark, he is always thinking. As the zombies use assorted tools to break into the villa, Mark decides they should let them in. He is under the mistaken impression that they are after something other than human flesh, plus they move slowly, so the remaining people should be able to out run the dead. Tell that to the five people just killed. Evelyn, Mark, Janet, and James run to a quiet monastery, where James is promptly devoured by some zombie monks. The remaining group makes it to yet another house, where the film's most infamous scene occurs.

Evelyn sees Michael, and offers her left breast to comfort her obviously zombied son. Michael begins to suckle, then takes a big ol' bite. This is the only murder to occur in front of other cast members (Mark and Janet), and is really gross. The zombies overcome the remaining living, and the film ends.

I love Italian zombie films as much as the next guy, but this film is so monotonous that boredom soon sets in. The gore is effective, local butcher shops must have run low on innards, but director Bianchi must deal with a terrible script. Bianchi pads the film with endless closeups of the maggot covered zombies. As I mentioned, the killings are telegraphed by the default of a victim being alone. Until the actual bloody act, this results in some very boring stalking scenes. Obviously some of the cast has seen a Romero film, only a couple of them know to aim any violence toward the heads of the zombies in order to kill them.

"Burial Ground" is a very gory and very violent film, helped by some pretty good special effects. It is also very boring and very badly acted, not helped by some pretty bad scripting. I cannot recommend it, even to fans of this subgenre. (* *) out of five stars.