Now On Blu-ray: BURIAL GROUND, CREEPSHOW 2, SLEEPAWAYCAMP(s), SCALPS From 88 Films UK
Over the last year or so, UK indie cult home video label 88 Films has made a name for itself by releasing solid editions of in demand 70s and 80s horror and genre films. Through both their Slasher Classics and Italian Collection lines, 88 Films have filled in many horror fans' wish lists for HD slaughter.
Recently they sent us a care package of their newest releases, and asked us to take a look, so here we are. Keep reading to see what we thought of Andrea Bianchi's Burial Ground, Creepshow 2, Sleepaway Camps 2 & 3, and finally low-budget grinder Fred Olen Ray's Scalps.
- Michael Gornick
- Stephen King (stories)
- George A. Romero (screenplay)
- Domenick John
- Tom Savini
- George Kennedy
- Philip Dore
1981's gut-muncher Burial Ground is one of the more notorious films to emerge from the post-Dawn of the Dead explosion of Italian zombie films. George Romero's mall-set classic inspired a slew of undead zombie flicks from Italy, not all of them great (or even good). Leading the charge in terms of both quality and speed was genre master Lucio Fulci, whose Zombi 2 (a.k.a. Zombie, Zombie Flesh Eaters, etc.) started the trend, but sadly not all imitators were quite up to his standards. Which leads us to Andrea Bianchi's (Strip Nude for Your Killer) Burial Ground, one of the lesser additions to the canon.
Burial Ground tells the story of a group of a bunch of zombies killing and eating a bunch of locals along with a professor and his family, who have all been invited to a country mansion for the weekend. The story is really pretty pointless, as Bianchi doesn't spend a whole lot of time fleshing out anyone's motivations or characters. What the film is really about is zombie hunting hapless humans trapped inside the mansion, and that's what happens. Repeatedly. For ninety minutes.
I'm obviously not a huge fan of the film, however, when I mentioned casually to some friends that I was rewatching it I was astonished to find that many of them are genuine fans. The film is objectively bad in that it is poorly made, poorly written, and poorly executed, however, it seems that these are some of the same elements that have made it a popular cult film while I wasn't looking. Sure, there are some pretty entertaining pieces to Burial Ground, and I will admit to being occasionally entertained, but there's not nearly enough meat on these bones to put together a full coherent film.
One of Burial Ground's most enduring legacies has nothing to do with the zombies at all, but with Bianchi's single stroke of bizarre genius that is the Oedipal relationship between the professor's wife Evelyn and her son Michael. Michael, played by little person cult hero Peter Bark, looks in no way like the child he's supposed to be. Evelyn and Michael share a truly unnerving incestual relationship that involves extended nursing scenes and full on groping at frequent intervals. This relationship between the two characters is easily the most entertaining by virtue of its sheer absurdity. Unfortunately it isn't nearly enough to sustain my interest for the entire film, and thus, I'll stick with YouTube clips from here on out.
The zombies, designed and executed by Italian gore specialist Gino De Rossi (City of the Living Dead, House by the Cemetery) have the particular look that fans will quickly associate with the Italian zombie genre. Unlike American zombie films which have typically striven to retain the humanity of the beasts through fairly minimal facial make-up, Italian zombies tend to completely dehumanize their monster by completely eradicating the facial features so that the creatures are indistinguishable from one another. In this case, De Rossi's zombies mostly just look like they feel face first into a mud puddle. It's not his finest hour.
There are dozens of reviews of Burial Ground that will counter my opinion point-by-point, but I just can't get into this film. However, if you are a fan, I must imagine this is the way to go.
88 Films' release of Burial Ground was one of their more anticipated Blu-rays thus far. The film had already been released in HD by American cult film label Shriek Show, and that disc left a lot to be desired. However, fans can rest easy in upgrading or replacing that old disc as 88 Films' version does away with the need for it. The new high definition restoration from the 16mm negative is quite solid, miles better than Shriek Show's, and the audio (I tested the English audio) is also very good. Films of this ilk tend not to be archived meticulously, but I can't imagine this looking a whole lot better.
In terms of extra features, Burial Ground is accompanied by a decent, though not overwhelming selection of contextual material. First up
is a commentary with film expert John Martin moderated by Calum Waddell. There's nothing out of the box fantastic about the commentary, but for those who
enjoy them, you could do a lot worse. The other substantial extra is an interview with Mikel Coven who talks about the films of Andrea Bianchi in great
detail. While I'm not a fan of the film, this interview was very informative and definitely worth my time. Also included in package is a “Grindhouse
Version” of the film transferred from a 35mm release print. It looks like shit, but it's kind of supposed to.
If you're a Burial Ground fan, you'll love this. If you are not a Burial Ground fan, it's still a pretty good package all around. If you've never seen Burial Ground, it's hard to give this one a full on recommendation; however, if you have seen other Italian zombie films from the early '80s and really enjoyed them you'll probably dig it. Burial Ground is out on Region B lock Blu-ray from 88 Films.