My first taste of Italian horror from the early 80’s was Lucio Fulcio’s The Beyond. It was a load of bemusing nonsense, but compared to Burial Ground it was high art. Watching Burial Ground is like watching a child repetitively banging away on a toy drum. It’s cute for a minute or two but ultimately becomes a dull monotonous drone that you just wish would stop or change tune.
In Burial Ground, a professor, with an impossibly long beard, unearths some sort of stone tablet with a few markings on it that look remarkably like something you’d see on a Fisher Price toy for infants. He mutters to himself, “I’m the only one who knows the secret. It’s incredible. Incredible,” before he trots back to the site where he discovered the tablet only to be promptly eaten alive by hessian sack dressed zombies with paper mache heads.
In the wake of the professor's premature demise, seven previously invited guests (three adult couples and one child) show up at his luxurious mansion oblivious to the fact that their host is dead. They barely have time to speculate about the professor’s whereabouts and have a quick shag before the zombies descend upon them. What ensues is a seemingly endless series of scenes where the protagonists enter a set from one side, some zombies enter from the other, any/all female characters scream wildly, and the male characters try to find an object to hit the zombie’s piñata head with. I lost count of the number of times this happens. It’s mind-numbingly repetitive.
Like Lucio Fulci, director Andrea Bianchi, makes the mistake of shooting his substandard effects in bright light, and extreme close up. If their appearances were brief and shadowy, they may very well have been scary. But the protracted, brightly lit, shots of the paper mache headed extras stiffly shuffling towards their dim-witted victims is about as suspenseful as watching dish water go down the drain.
Whilst it’s really difficult to know what Fulci’s intentions were with The Beyond, it’s pretty clear Bianchi really only has exploitation in mind. There’s sex, violence and even some incest thrown in for good measure. The incestuous scenes are bit off-putting, but not for the reasons you might expect. The young boy is played by a pint sized man, and his bizarre interactions with his mother play like the worst kind of David Lynch surrealism, rather than anything resembling a convincing portrayal of incestuous love.
Whilst I consider myself a fan of horror cinema I suspect italian zombie flicks from the 70’s and 80's just aren’t for me. With no story, no characters, and crappy effects shot in bright light I'm really hard pressed to find anything to like.