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Film / Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror

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Ed Wood, eat your heart out.

The earth shall tremble....
graves shall open....
they shall come among the living
as messengers of death and there shall be
the nihgts [sic] of terror....
"Prophecy of the Black Spider"

Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror (1981) is a Zombie Apocalypse movie from Italian horror and giallo director Andrea Bianchi. It's best known for its exceptionally bizarre, tool-using zombies, and Peter Bark. Mostly for Peter Bark.

The movie begins with the good Professor Ayres making an unspoken but profound discovery during the study of an Etruscan cave, which prompts him to hack away at the cave wall with a pickaxe. Then some zombies show up out of nowhere. He tells them that he's their friend, but it doesn't work: they tear him apart and eat his flesh.

Meanwhile, three young couples, one of which has a child named Michael, arrive at the Professor's country mansion. After a night of softcore sex, the couples wander around the grounds, taking photographs, and wondering where Professor Ayres has gone. Inside the house, light bulbs start exploding for no reason at all except to shock the servants. Zombies then start rising from some very shallow graves and attack. The characters barricade themselves inside the mansion, but to no avail—the zombies locate the tool shed, and eventually break through the doors with a battering ram. Oh, and also, Michael tries to seduce his mother.

Despite the title, the entire movie takes place over a single night. One of the most well-known aspects of the film is that the role of Michael, who is supposed to be a kid, is played by an adult actor with dwarfism, Peter Bark (real name Pietro Barzocchini).

This film provides examples of:

  • Ancient Tomb: Professor Aryes begins the movie by chipping away at the wall in one of these. It doesn't go well for him.
  • Based on a Great Big Lie: While there really was a 14th century Franciscan monk who went under the alias "Ragno Nero" and made some eerily accurate predictions about future events, there is absolutely no record of him ever writing down a profecy [sic] that claimed "the earth shall tremble....graves shall open....they shall come among the living as messengers of death and there shall be the nihgts [sic] of terror....''
  • Bear Trap: There's one in the garden for some reason. Janet steps on it as she is running away from the zombies, and is unable to walk properly for the rest of the movie.
  • Boom, Headshot!: At one point, a character declares that shooting the zombies in the head is the only way to kill them, although how he came upon this information is not explained. He shoots a few with a shotgun, says they only have two shells left, and the shotgun and tactic are both quickly forgotten.
  • Creepy Child: Michael is most certainly one of these. He would be even if he wasn't played by Peter Bark.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The film's UK title is The Zombie Dead.
  • Evil Smells Bad: "Mother, this cloth... it smells of death!"
  • Eye Scream: The very slow eye gouge is a staple of the Italian zombie flick. One zombie smashes through a second-story window, grabs one of the women by the hair, and slowly pulls her eye into a shard of glass. Then the camera cuts, and the shard of glass is jammed into the side of her head. After this, it cuts to the zombie, who stiffly falls backwards from the window sill. End scene.
  • It Can Think: The zombies are capable of tool use, dressing up in disguises, and throwing spikes with amazing precision.
  • Kill It with Fire: Michael points to some cans of paint and says "Mama, set it on fire!" The plan works. It's just too bad they forget about it by the next scene.
  • The Load: Janet, the girl who manages to step in the bear trap does little more than scream, limp, and get carried around. Yes, the bear trap in the garden.
  • Nonindicative Name: Besides the title of the movie, there's the ending quote, written at the top of this page, that appears on the screen just before the end titles. Who is the Black Spider? What is its "profecy"? Does this have anything to do with the zombies? The audience may never know.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: Played straight, until the zombie Peter Bark shows up.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: These are a bit of a mashup. They presumably rose as the result of a curse, because the Professor was making too much racket, or possibly because the plot required them to. They also eat the flesh of the living. Zombification usually spreads after someone is bitten by a zombie, although having shards of glass jammed into one's face seems to do the trick, too. Oh, and the zombies can use tools, and know how to put on disguises. A shot to the head, fire, and in one case, strangulation, will kill them, depending on the scene.
  • Parental Incest: Young Michael really loves his mother.
  • Sinister Scythe: The zombies use a scythe to very slowly decapitate some poor maid. They do this after pinning her a window frame by throwing an iron spike through her hand.
  • Too Dumb to Live: When the survivors are surrounded on all sides by tool-using, flesh-eating zombies, one character suggests that the zombies might just want something in the house instead of them. His solution to their predicament is to open the doors and let them in. Not that it matters, as the zombies know how to use a battering ram.
  • World of Ham: Most of the cast is prone to serious over-acting.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Sort of. Given that the victims of the zombies become zombies themselves, it can be assumed that this is the direction events would likely progress.