"Burial Ground (1980/Blu-ray/Severin Films)" Review

Those who love trash cinema know they’re playing a dangerous game, that the majority of gems to be unearthed from such prolonged excursions can only be attained by sifting through lots and lots of sheer dreck. A great deal of time is wasted just to get to the good stuff, but these people would surely attest to the belief that individually magnificent sleaze masterworks – the diamonds in the rough, emphasis on the latter – make it worth the effort, however daunting.

 Andrea Bianchi’s filth freak-out BURIAL GROUND has been a favorite of this variety of film fanatic for some time now, and for good reason. It has been treated better than the majority of its peers on home video over the past couple decades, but there’s always room for improvement; or so the folks at Severin Films, who have recently taken it upon themselves to one-up last year’s restoration courtesy of the UK’s 88 Films, would have you believe. It would appear that the former company has been acquiring the rights to Shriek Show’s back catalog of Spaghetti Splatter classics after that label’s unsuccessful run in high def, which is comforting given Severin’s impressive track record. Could this be the BURIAL GROUND release to end them all? Let’s jump into this autopsy and find out.
 Lensed at the lovely Villa Parisi, the famed mansion that was also the site of such iconic films as NIGHTMARE CASTLE and PATRICK STILL LIVES, the “story” is a rather simple one, rendered nearly insignificant by the delectable carnage which follows the ethereal country drive opening titles. A trio of hep, horny couples – and one child, Peter (played by Peter Bark, whose reputation will be discussed in further detail later on) – arrives at the house, presumably on holiday. While the group indulges in seemingly never-ending sexual escapades and explores the grounds, a horde of zombie monks rises from the grave to wreak havoc on their collective picnic. 
 You see, in the film’s moody opening, a dimwitted, thick-bearded scientist ventured into a crypt somewhere nearby the villa and in doing so accidentally awakened the undead from their slumber. It just goes to show that you can’t trust anyone, and in Biachi’s strange world, least of all professionals. Anyways, it amounts to little more than a standard fight-for-your-life narrative from that point on, but stick with it and you will soon see why the film is held in such high regard among connoisseurs of celluloid sleaze. 
 Where to start with this one? Perhaps with the gruesome kills, which will be absolutely off the charts for most; or maybe the fact that actor Peter Bark was a grown man when he was cast as the young Michael? Even then, this is hardly scratching the surface of this essential cinematic sleaze crackpot. Zombie films are hardly quintessential breeding ground for this kind of stuff, and yet BURIAL GROUND brings with it a beautiful barrage of bad taste; everything from pedophilic incest, over-the-top gore and performances to hysterical dialogue and a complete disregard for logic.
 These qualities are no doubt turn-offs for some, and you certainly have to be open-minded to get any sort of enjoyment out of this delightful bit of nastiness, but they unquestionably give the film a uniquely sour flavor. There is so much garbage out there, but BURIAL GROUND is at the very least TASTEFUL garbage; formally, it’s fairly unspectacular, but Bianchi keeps it engaging nevertheless, ensuring that the camera is almost always moving. Think of it as a poor man’s (Andrzej) Zulawski Vision – regardless of whether that works for you or not, it gives the explicit proceedings a surreal kind of ambiance, along with a fantastic score from Elsio Mancuso and Burt Rexon.
 Severin’s package includes, on top of an attractive new 2K scan (sourced from an element discovered beneath the floorboards of a Trastevere church rectory, as the back cover boasts) and both English and Italian audio tracks, a pleasant assortment of extras both old and new. All housed on a single disc, this kicks off with “Villa Parisi – Legacy of Terror”, in which we are given a tour of the estate and all the while, the mansion’s cinematic history is discussed at length. Next up is a festival Q&A with Peter Bark, who retains a warm sense of humor about his unforgettable role in the film, during which he mentions that a book about his experiences making it is currently in the works. 
 Actor Simone Mattioli gets his own featurette whereas actress Mariangela Giordano and producer Gabriele Crisanti are interviewed on “The Smell of Death”. All are incredibly insightful and amusing. Deleted and alternate scenes have also been included for the completest; they don’t necessarily add to one’s appreciation of the film and were rightfully excised but fans will no doubt soak it up. Finally, there is an original theatrical trailer. 
 At first glance, this release may not appear to be as packed as one might have hoped (especially when compared to the label’s recent DR. BUTCHER M.D.). However, if quality-over-quantity is considered, Severin has undoubtedly done it again, not only giving this oddball cinematic marvel the presentation it deserves but also providing delightful supplements for those who consider the film to be primo Euro-trash. It’s not quite star treatment, but it’s likely as good as we’re going to get; and if so, that’s pretty damn good for what is considered by and large to be little more than a skeezy exploitation picture. This release smells of death, and that can be taken as a considerable recommendation. 
 -Ryan Marshall
Director: Andrea Bianchi
Lead Actor/Actress:
Genre: Horror
Blu-ray Release Year: 2016
Theatrical Release Year: 1980
Time Length: 85 mins.
Rating: NR
Region Code: Region Free
Release Company: Severin Films
Website: www.severin-films.com