Film Reviews:

The Zombie Dead/Le Notti del terrore

aka Burial Ground/Nights of Terror/Zombie 3/Zombie Horror

(Andrea Bianchi, Italy, 1981)

[The Zombie Dead]Pretty dreary Italian entry into the zombie genre is notable only for its location work, odd family relationships (more on this later) and whose remote stately home under siege setting is coincidentally (?) mirrored in more recent UK foray 28 Days Later. A professor with lots of grey hair and a big grey beard says "It's incredible! But it's true... it must be!" Although we aren't actually informed of what is incredible, the sight of crumbly-faced living dead monks soon munching at his features suggests that all those hundreds of books in the professor's library must have had something to do with the living dead. A group of wealthy socialite friends of the the professor arrive at the isolated country mansion but their plans for fornicating on the lawn are quickly and quite rudely interrupted. Cue an incessant if sedately-paced body count.

Ignoring the dreadful dub on the UK version I watched, this is a fine example of precisely why I never really got into the zombie movie as a genre in its own right. If you're not interested in tackling the obvious social or political aspects of an apocalyptic vision of the walking dead, then there's really very little you can do with it drama wise. As with many of its kind, the zombies here move so slowly that they couldn't possibly present a serious threat to any able-bodied person. The delirious music is strictly at odds with the dull visuals.

To the script's credit (and this is probably the only one it's due) it wastes no time in having the zombie dead appear, quite without tension, on a bright summer day. Although what appear to be living dead monks are well-tooled up with axes, scythes and the like (one is a knife thrower with something of a dead eye shot - sorry!), its simply a turkey shoot from the mansion's balcony for those under siege - whilst the shotgun shells last that is. Luckily, the stately home has plenty of armoury heirlooms which makes loping off the heads of their slow-paced opponents a bit of a breeze.

If anyone in this film behaved like normal people would behave (even in such abnormal circumstances) then there'd be virtually nothing happening. The illogical and contradictory behaviour reaches it nadir, as does one's patience, in the last fifteen minutes. Take this exchange of dialogue after all the invading zombies have been dispatched:

"Now, let's get out of here.", (sounds sensible) followed immediately by the response:

"We'll bar all the doors. Even the internal ones." (!!?) And then:

"Let them into the house. We can keep out of their reach. They're all so slow!" Eventually, their common sense dawns and they conclude:

"We must get out of this place somehow." Thank God for that.

Presumably, with so few zombies now outside, you simply exit the building, climb into your car that you arrived in and drive to the nearest safe town? Don't be daft. What you do instead is force two hysterical women who have just seen their loved ones eaten alive, one with a potentially broken ankle, to clamber through the undergrowth to an unknown and apparently 'empty' neighbour's house and certain doom. Infuriating. 4/10

Rob Dyer (August 2006)

See also:

There are so many similarly lame zombie films, it seems a tad pointless singling out any others but any more we do review will be added here. In the meantime, for a lesson on how to do a zombie film (and not on a mega-budget either) watch 28 Days Later.

A-Z of Film Reviews