I have yet to truly understand just what the hell the folks who made “Burial Ground” were thinking when the set out to make this trashy, Italian anti-epic. Was there some sort of sociopolitical message to perhaps be gained? Maybe it’s hidden in the subtext of it all. Possibly a manifesto of sorts, comparing the zombies to the political climate of the time. But then again, there’s also that whole aspect of porn-worthy nonsequitors…
When I chose to wax nostalgia on Burial Ground, I knew a few things would have to be made abundantly clear: Why and WHY?! Believe me, I know what you’re thinking. Fulci, Romero, etc. So many genius zombie films out there, and I choose THIS one. There’s a lot more cool involved with Burial Ground than what’s seen on its surface and I thought it to be a challenge to unearth this weirdness.
First, you have to consider the fact that this film is literally a hodge podge of other people’s “look”. The zombies look an awful lot like those hooded doomriders in Tombs of the Blind Dead. All the usual fashions and set pieces of the era are there-you know, knit polyester pants, turtleneck sweaters, pubic hair, etc. Not much impressive stuff going on here, I know. Or at least nothing we haven’t already seen. That’s not what makes this film one of my favorites of the era. THAT belongs to one of the creepiest mother/son relationships in the history of cinema, performed by Peter Bark and Mariangela Giordano.
While Giordano was and is considered an Italian film sex symbol, her co-star was quite the opposite. Peter Bark (aka Pietro Barcella) has one credited film role to his name-yep, just Burial Ground. One can only guess that the actor suffered from some sort of genetic deficiency that rendered him so tiny in stature and, for lack of a better term, old-looking. I’ve heard him described as looking like a miniature version of Dario Argento.
All of this plays into the absurdity of the film’s first act and a half. While Bark’s character is meant to be a “child”, he clearly looks older than all of his cast mates. His toupee is second-rate and the dubbed dialogue adds to the perversion of all of this. But this doesn’t even explain the worst of it! NO, the worst of it is the sexual advances that this little freak makes toward his own mother, followed by plaintive questions like “What’s wrong? I’m your son!”-yeesh!
As story-lines funnel together, Burial Ground truly comes into its own in terms of intensity. There’s a lurking, slow quality to the violence. It’s quite grimy/gory and has its own wealth of memorable gore kill scenes. But even still, mommy and Michael’s relationship exceeds all expectations by being sexual and crass.
As ourfinale builds and the group is cornered into this lovely villa by hordes of hungry zombies, the end inevitably begins to close in. Mommy is fighting to save her own life as well as her son, but baby boy has been turned. Now, there are two ways to view what happens next: One way to view it is as a parent who’s unconditional love for her child won’t allow her to view her son as just another undead monster. But the other way to view this (and probably the correct way to view it) is how I do-grossed out!
As Michael approaches his mother, she embraces him with a panicked, broken heart. He lays his head on her breast as she caresses his tiny, freakish head. Michael’s new-found urges get the best of him and he has to feed. So, what’s that mean? Well, it apparently means BITING OFF MOMMY’S FUCKING NIPPLE!!!!! GGGAAAAHHHHH!!!!! I won’t even be in the same home as my mother if she’s not wearing a bra, let alone the notion of putting her breast anywhere near my face. Not an issue for this family. Nope, it was already creepy, but capping it off with this classic scene brings Burial Ground to the forefront of my mind when I think of zombies.
I’ve seen far worse filth in terms of exploitative subject matter. Still, it’s hard to forget the parallel being drawn between sex and death in Bianchi’s own little classic. While his career was spent in the down and dirty film world, Burial Ground is a stand-out film. It’s a great one to show friends who claim to “love” zombie flicks. See how much they really love them…and then lose that friend because they think you’re a weirdo.