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  • Writer's pictureGabe Powers

Burial Ground 4K UHD Review

Severin Films

4K UHD Release: March 26, 2024

Video: 1.66:1/2160p (HDR10/Dolby Vision)/Color

Audio: English and Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono

Subtitles: English

Run Time: 85:13

Director: Andrea Bianchi

Note: This is a new review, but I ended up recycling a lot of ideas from my original Blu-ray review. If you’re only curious about the upgrade in video quality from the Blu-ray to 4K UHD, please skip to the Video section. Content exclusive to this collection is highlighted in red.

George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978) was a worldwide hit and milestone motion picture, but, thanks to the production assistance from Dario and Claudio Argento, it opened in Italy almost a year ahead of North America (albeit in an exclusive cut prepared by Dario), where it became a juggernaut, leading to a short-lived, but very lucrative spate of locally-made zombie movies. The key entry was Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2 (aka: Zombie and Zombie Flesh Eaters, 1979) – a gore-soaked, exploitation vehicle that became its own template within the fad. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your point of view, most of the cash-ins were lacking Fulci’s technical aptitude and artistic skills. All that remained was the sex, the violence, the vulgarity, and the trash.

Sitting atop this particular heap of sub-Fulci bad movie delights are Marino Girolami’s Zombi Holocaust (aka: Doctor Butcher, M.D., 1980), Bruno Mattei’s Hell of the Living Dead (Italian: Virus - l'inferno dei morti viventi; aka: Night of the Zombies and Zombie Creeping Flesh, 1980), and Andrea Bianchi’s Burial Ground (Italian: Le notti del terrore; aka: The Nights of Terror, Zombie Horror, and Zombie 3, 1981). Whereas Zombi Holocaust and Hell of the Living Dead hedged their bets on aping the island-bound Zombi 2 and mimicked the jungle adventures of Umberto Lenzi & Ruggero Deodato’s cannibal movies, Bianchi and his cohorts opted to mash-up Fulci’s Mediterranian zombies with the gothic and occult elements of earlier Italian horror films, along with the rented castle location (in this case, Villa Parsi in Italy), groggy tone, and sexploitation emphasis typically seen in horror movies from Eurocult legends Jésus Franco and Jean Rollin. The results are at times jaw-droppingly weird.

The screenplay is credited to workhorse writer Piero Regnoli, though, given the speed of Italian B-grade productions at the time, he probably supplied little more than an outline and the rest was made-up on the fly. While Zombi Holocaust and Hell of the Living Dead are hilariously over-plotted, Burial Ground’s narrative boils down to ‘people go to a creepy castle, have sex, and are rather surprised to be murdered by zombies.’ The laughs aren’t found in the situation as much as the braindead dialogue and characters’ baffling reactions to the situation.

Regnoli’s by-the-numbers story flips right off the rails, thanks to Bianchi’s input. It’s not just his slapdash direction, but his clumsy attempts to ape Fulci’s irrational gothic aesthetic, in which victims are too stunned to fight back as they’re slowly devoured or otherwise maimed by the living dead. In Fulci’s world, it makes dramatic sense, as the otherwise illogical actions of an H.P. Lovecraft narrator who is so utterly mortified that he can’t even describe the eldritch horror that he is witnessing. Bianchi’s world lacks the mystique, so characters instead appear laughably inept and unable to perform simple actions, like running away. It may sound frustrating, but it’s actually a big part of Burial Ground’s unique appeal.

Then there are the casting choices, which includes frumpy, boxy, middle-aged men in beefcake roles and, most bewildering, a shortish adult named Peter Bark (Pietro Barzocchini) in the unlikely role of a 12 year-old boy (he was 20-plus at the time of filming) with an unnatural attraction to his mother, played by producer Gabriele Crisanti’s good luck charm and romantic partner Mariangela Giordano. Crisanti claims Bark was hired so that they could shoot longer hours than they could’ve with a minor, but it seems more likely that he was cast so that the filmmakers could ethically fulfill the Oedipus complex subplot, which itself seems to only exists for the sake of the punchline, wherein the zombified boy reappears and his mother, so happy to see him, offers him (her 20 year-old playing a 12 year-old) her breast for nursing, only to have it viciously bitten off. This isn’t merely Burial Ground’s most memorable sequence – it’s something that was of such vital importance to the filmmakers that they seem to have assembled a script and cast around it. That’s the kind of movie that Burial Ground is.

It’s important to understand that, while he wasn’t quite a Bruno Mattei-level hack, Bianchi was never a good filmmaker. Instead, he was one of a majority of working Italian filmmakers that did his job, collected a paycheck, and moved on to another project. His output was eclectic, unified almost exclusively by strong sexual content. He made erotic comedies, erotic melodramas, and softcore spoofs of popular horror releases, before giving up all pretense and making straight up, hardcore porno flicks. Along the way, he gained a measure of fame for Burial Ground, the insane vigilante thriller Maniac Killer (1987), and a sexploitative giallo called Strip Nude for Your Killer (Italian: Nude per l'assassino, 1975).

It’s probable that Crisanti was the real mastermind here and that Bianchi was along for the ride. As a producer, he became known for making especially junky rip-offs of successful films, including three sequels to Pier Paolo Pasolini's The Decameron (1971) – Decameron n° 2 by Mino Guerrini, The Lusty Wives of Canterbury (aka: Decameron n° 3) by Lucio Dandolo, and Decameron n° 4 by Paolo Bianchini (all released in 1972) – Mario Landi’s grisly Giallo in Venice (Italian: Giallo a Venezia, 1979) and ‘sequel’ to Richard Franklin’s Patrick (1978), Patrick Still Lives (Italian: Patrick vive ancora, 1980), and Mario Bianchi’s Satan's Baby Doll (Italian: La bimba di Satana, 1972). Mariangela Giordano appears nude and is graphically killed in a number of these films.

As a hired gun, Bianchi does his part by putting the most effort into restaging Zombi 2’s flashiest sequences, including a deluge of fire stunts, protracted sequences of zombies removing and chewing on entrails, and a scene where a victim has her eyeball punctured by a broken shard of window glass, instead of the giant wooden splinter famously used in Fulci’s film (strictly speaking, she takes the glass in the temple and it squishes her eye in the process, but let’s not get technical). The production went as far as to hire Gino De Rossi, who acted as assistant to Zombi 2’s effects supervisor Giannetto De Rossi (no relation) and lead on Fulci’s City of the Living Dead (Italian: Paura nella città dei morti viventi; aka: The Gates of Hell, 1980), to recreate the iconic ‘flower pot’ zombie makeup. Unfortunately, Burial Ground’s budget and materials were not up to the Fulci standard and most of the undead are just guys wearing fright masks and burlap sacks. They certainly are cool fright masks, though.

Quality aside, the gore is deliriously extreme, encompassing all manner of bodily damage – exposed intestines, severed limbs, beheadings, the aforementioned nipple biting, collapsed skulls, really collapsed skulls, utterly crushed skulls – but the subpar execution helps keep things manageable for the squeamish viewers that are only watching for Mystery Science Theater 3000-style yuks. Cinematographer Gianfranco Maioletti makes the most of the Villa Parsi estate’s natural beauty, but his efforts are usually undone by nonsensical editing (note that there is no editor credited).

Burial Ground ends with a still of one of the two survivors about to be devoured and the following quote:

“The earth shall tremble…

Graves shall open…

They shall come among the living

As messengers of death and there shall be

The nights of terror…”

It is attributed to “Profecy [sic] of the Black Spider.” There is a Franciscan monk that went under the pseudonym Ragna Nero (or Black Spider) who dabbled in Nostradamus-like prophecies, so this very well may be something he wrote, but the quote is basically a meaningless attempt at eerie intellectualism. What makes it special is that Bianchi stole the whole meaningless intellectual quote thing from Fulci, then managed to mess it up by not spell-checking the final product.


Burial Ground culled a cult following on Vestron Video’s readily-available VHS. It was released on DVD throughout the world, including a R1, 1.85:1 anamorphic disc from Media Blasters under their now-defunct Shriek Show label. Media Blasters then released the first Blu-ray version in 2011. At best, it appeared to be an upconvert of the standard definition transfer, except that it was missing some footage that was present on the DVD. In 2016, 88 Films released a superior, but still iffy Blu-ray in the UK. That 2K scan of the 16mm source was used by Severin for their Blu-ray shortly after, though the color timing between them was slightly different.

Once again, 88 Films beat Severin to the punch with their 4K UHD and, once again, the two studios are apparently sharing a source transfer. Severin only cites a “new 4K scan,” but Mondo Digital’s Nathaniel Thompson (who recorded a commentary for both releases) states that both discs feature a 4K scan from the “best surviving element,” which is, apparently, a 35mm interpositive blow-up. I’ve included screencaps from the pack-in Blu-ray, which utilizes the same remaster minus the extra 2160p and HDR upgrade. I’ve also included a few comparison sliders to further illustrate the differences between the releases (new transfer on the left, 2016 transfer on the right). 

Every subsequent digital release of Burial Ground has been a little better than the last, but the film has a lot working against it, from the smaller 16mm source, which is sort of unusual for early ‘80s Italian horror, to the lack of filmmaking quality (everything is so underlit and shakily shot) and fact that no one can find good, intact material to work from. This is yet another improvement and probably the biggest since we went from VHS to DVD. The old 2K scan was pretty mushy and overly-smoothed, so there was a lot of room to grow.

There’s still a general haze of fuzz and chunkiness to the blow-up source, but the 4K scan squeezes more detail from the print and there’s less overall digital artifacting. The important thing is that the footage looks more like actual film now, instead of a telecine smear with nice digital grading. To my eyes, however, the even bigger improvement is found in the dynamic range. Even at 1080p and shrunk to fit the page, you can probably see how flat and limited the old transfer was. Just imagine the extra boost HDR enhancement offers. And it’s needed, because Burial Ground is a really muddy movie. In terms of color timing, I didn’t hate the older disc, but, like a lot of Italian HD transfers from the period, it skewed warm with orange skin tones and yellowed cool hues. The new timing isn’t as vibrant, but I don’t think it was meant to be. The green gardens are still lush and the red gore is still shimmering, they’ve just been dialed back a hair.


Burial Ground was, like most Italian genre movies from the era, shot without sound and dubbed in post into various languages for release worldwide. There is no original dialogue track – they’re all dubs. Severin has included the original English and Italian dubs and are both presented in uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono. I personally prefer to watch the film with an English dub, because of the nostalgia tied to my earliest viewings on VHS tape. Not to mention the fact that the goofy English performances are generally funnier than their Italian counterparts (likely on purpose). 

If you’d prefer the Italian dub (which has significantly better lip sync, since the entire cast appears to be speaking Italian on set), this disc and the Blu-ray are an improvement, since the previous release featured a compressed Dolby Digital Italian track. Overall, the English dub is a bit cleaner and a little more dynamic, while the Italian mix is flatter, but more consistent. Elsio Mancuso & Burt Rexon’s score is a delightfully dopey mix & match affair that cuts between library sources, jazzy motifs, and, when things get spooky, almost overwhelmingly aggressive synthesizer cues.


Disc 1 (4K UHD)

  • Commentary with Nathaniel Thompson, Troy Howarth, and Eugenio Ercolani – This track was originally produced for the 88 Films 4K re-release. Mondo Digital head Thompson and Howarth, author of Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films (Midnight Marquee Press, 2015), are paired once again, this time with help from Ercolani, the writer/co-director of Italy Possessed: A Brief History of Italian Exorcist Rip-offs (2020). The trio takes an understandably silly tone while covering the wider careers of the cast & crew (Ercolani has a lot to add from an interview he conducted with Peter Bark), the history of the Villa Parsi location, dubbing practices and performers, behind-the-scenes anecdotes and gossip, and Italian gore and zombie movies in general.

  • Commentary with Calum Waddell and John Martin – The second track comes from the earlier 2016 88 Films Blu-ray. It features critic/author/documentarian Waddell, who sort of interviews critic and Italian genre expert Martin. It covers a lot of the same ground as the 2023 track, though I suppose they deserve credit for recording theirs first. Waddell and Martin are tonally more soft-spoken and are covering the film from a British perspective, which, given the Video Nasties era, is definitely different than the American and Italian perspective. They occasionally go off the rails while talking about the whole of Italian horror, but never in an indulgent or boring way.

  • Italian trailer 

Disc 2 (Blu-ray)

  • Commentary with Nathaniel Thompson, Troy Howarth, and Eugenio Ercolani

  • Commentary with Calum Waddell and John Martin

  • Villa Parisi: Legacy of Terror (15:47, HD) – Movie historian Fabio Melelli tours the Villa Parsi mansion, the famous location used for Burial Ground that also appears in Mario Caiano’s Nightmare Castle (Italian: Amanti d’oltretomba, 1965), Mino Guerrini’s The Third Eye (Italian: Il terzo occhio, 1966), Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood (Italian: Ecologia del delitto; aka: Twitch of the Death Nerve, 1972), Paul Morrissey & Antonio Margheriti’s Blood for Dracula (1974), Joe D’Amato’s Beyond the Darkness (Italian: Buio Omega, 1979), Landi’s Patrick Still Lives (shot back-to-back with Burial Ground, 1980), among others. It includes comparison shots/footage between the current location and famous sequences from the movies mentioned.

  • Return to the Burial Ground (13:50, HD) – The only 2023 exclusive featurette is with actor Peter Bark, aka: Pietro Barzocchini, who is interviewed by Eugenio Ercolani while touring Villa Parisi location as it looks today. He talks about shooting Burial Ground, working with the cast & crew, the nipple biting scene, the lack of finished script (happy to know I was right about that one), his other work (including a surreal dancing clip from Italian television), and learning of his cult fame only semi-recently.

  • Peter Still Lives (7:35, HD) – An older, Italian language post-screening Q&A with Bark, who recalls Burial Ground and a few other films (including some short clips).

  • Just for the Money (8:57, HD) – Actor Simone Mattioli discusses Burial Ground with brutal honesty, claiming he only did it for the money. He vaguely recalls a few other minor details.

  • The Smell Of Death (9:20, HD) – These interviews with producer Gabriele Crisanti and actress Mariangela Giordano were taken from the Media Blasters release, where they were presented separately. Severin has cut them together with footage from the movie, making them easier to watch.

  • Deleted/extended scenes/shots (10:24, HD) – These were reportedly deleted by the producers on the actual negative and do not feature any production/ADR sound (they are accompanied by music from the film).

  • Trailer

The images on this page are taken from the included BD copy and sized for the page. They are NOT representative of the 4K UHD. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.



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