The Zombie Dead

Zombie Dead coverThe Zombie Dead
Director: Andrea Bianchi
Year: 1981
Aka Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror; Le notti del terrore

For a detailed look at the film read our forgotten gems article.

Released under several titles and allegedly shot in only four-weeks, this film is a true forgotten gem of the 80s Italian zombie cycle, directed by Andrea Bianchi (who also directed the fantastic giallo ‘Strip Nude for your Killer’) and written by Piero Regnoli (whose credits also include the fantastic Nightmare City), they treat us to arguably the definitive Italian zombie film, combining atmosphere, violence and the obligatory ripped off scenes.

Plot wise the film opens with a professor discovering the location of a secret crypt in an ancient stone where he unwittingly unleashes a horde of zombies who proceed to seek out and feast on the living.  Fading to the opening credits we are then treated to an delightful jazz score at odds with what we have just seen but perfectly setting the scene for the sporadic inconsistency that we are about to witness.

As three couples and one “child” (I use that term lightly) arrive at the Professors mansion to hear about his latest discoveries, they are more interested in their own lust than worrying about where their host could be, and in true Italian exploitative style we are treated to some flesh in the first ten minutes, but thankfully this film does not go down the terrible soft-core route and before you can say basta the zombies are besieging the grounds. Here we encounter our first issue, while the professor unleashed some zombies trapped in an ancient tomb, others appear to rise out of the ground, with the exact reasoning of why or how completely ignored.

As the zombies rise and launch their attack, the film takes on briefly what one could possibly describe as a hammer horror vibe, with this feeling enhanced by the choice of music and even the cinematography.

Trapped inside the mansion, our ‘heroes’ should be safe, but they fucked with the wrong zombies, capable of not just picking up and swinging tools, these peasants are able to organise collaborative efforts (using a battering ram) and the effective use of weapons (slowly scything off a maids head) but you know what, in this film it doesn’t come across as ridiculous at all, but rather showcases the proletariat rising up against the exploitative and decadent bourgeoisie as they storm and take back the mansion.

One of the things that does go a significant way to making this an enjoyable film is the gruesome zombie make-up. Similar in style to that of the clay ‘flower-pot’ zombies of Fulci’s films, which isn’t surprising considering it is legendary Fx artist Gino De Rossi, the undead in this film take slimy and maggot-encrusted to the next level and are possibly one of the most repulsive seen in the genre.

Building on this, the film really goes up a notch with the over-the-top head explosions which really do appear to be an explosive squib on a dummy head full of goo, and rival even that of the unforgettable scene in Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.

Also, neither good nor bad but simply hilarious is the choice to cast a blatantly mid-20s actor (Peter Bark) as a supposed Oedipal pre-teen which simply adds an even more creepy edge to an already perverse character dynamic.

Despite being riddled with continuity errors, mistakes and more (bad audio syncing, acting and illogical character decisions) this is still a fun, underrated film which is much better than it deserves to be and perfectly captures the spirit of the Italian splatter zombie cycle. Featuring several unintentionally hilarious moments, graphic gore and a little flesh this movie has to be recommended for fans of the genre and in particular fans of Fulci’s zombie will get a kick out of this forgotten gem.

3.5/5

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