Crypt Of Terror: Cemetery Of Terror / Grave Robbers

Crypt Of Terror: Cemetery Of Terror / Grave Robbers (1985)
BCI Home Entertainment
Cast: Hugo Stieglitz, Usi Velasco, Fernando Almada, Edna Bolkan

BCI Eclipse has signed the rights to the films of Rubén Galindo Jr., a Mexican filmmaker whose horror movies of the 80s hold up pretty well among the fare of the time. Here now we have a double feature DVD, containing "Cemetery Of Terror" – aka "Cementerio Del Terror" – and "Grave Robbers" – aka "Ladrones De Tumbas" as part of the BCI's new "Crypt Of Terror" series. The stylish cover alone got me interested and so I gave the release spin.

In "Cemetery Of Terror" a group of medical students steal the corpse of a killer and prepare him for a Halloween prank. They perform a Black Mass and as a result bring the body back to life. In an ensuing rainstorm the undead killer soon begins stalking them as well as anyone else who may be in the area.

In "Grave Robbers" we see how a Satanist is tortured and eventually killed during the Inquisition, but not before he swears a curse that will bring him back to life if the axe that killed him should ever be removed from his body. Sure enough, a couple of hundred years later a bunch of young grave robbers, intent on finding ancient gold, open the grave and pull the axe from the mummified body they find inside. Almost immediately he corpse comes back to life and begins to kill everyone who crosses his path.

To me, both films, "Cemetery Of Terror" and "Grave Robbers" have a very strong European feel. More than once I was reminded of the horror films by Lucio Fulci or Amando De Ossorio. Certain scenes and the opening of "Grave Robbers" feels a lot like the Blind Dead movies for example, while other moments of cross-pollination can be found throughout, especially in terms of cinematography and shot composition. It is not a bad thing, actually, because it makes you feel at home with these films right off the bat.

"Cemetery Of Terror" and "Grave Robbers" are not particularly good films – and neither are they exceedingly bad – but they are products of their respective times. The plots are just as simple and formulaic as anything that Fulci or De Ossorio did in their films, and both movies do have a very dense atmosphere that perfectly sets the mood for these zombie slasher horror flicks.

As a fan of the genre and the period I had a great time with these movies, actually, and enjoyed them quite a bit, especially since I had not seen them before. The special effects are good and have a good amount of gore for their time, and I was constantly finding myself waiting for that totally over-the-top money shot, Fulci-style.

Both films are presented in a fullframe presentation on this disc. Sadly, I was unable to corroborate the movies' original aspect ratios but I never had the feeling as if shots were cropped on the sides, leading me to believe that maybe, these are open matte transfers. The presentation quality is fairly poor however. Both films are riddled with speckles and scratch marks – "Cemetery Of Terror" more so than "Grave Robbers" – and occasional registration issues cause the image to flutter and shift. The transfer is showing significant grain also, making for a fairly "wild" presentation overall. Interestingly it didn't bother me too much because for some reason it added to the low budget vintage feel of the films, but clearly a cleaned up and restored transfer would have gone a long way. Color reproduction is adequate but the transfers feel a bit too dark. Contrast is generally good, but again shadows are not delineated as finely as they should, rendering too much of the image in impenetrable black. The compression of the films has been done adequately, though occasional compression artifacts are evident. The transfer uses a fairly low bitrate and doesn't even use all the space on the disc, leaving almost 1GB of storage unused on each side of the double-sided disc. That could easily have been put to use for a better image encoding, and if the transfer had been cleaned up a little, the picture could actually have looked pretty presentable. Too bad BCI missed this opportunity.

Audio on the release comes as a Spanish language track with optional English subtitles. Audio is clipped and harsh-sounding and again, it has not been restored or cleaned up, leaving some background hiss in the track as well as the limited frequency response.

No extras are included on this DVD at all, not even a trailer or text information.

On the one hand it is cool to see these Mexican horror films on DVD, on the other hand the presentation on the DVD is not nearly as good as it could been and as DVD owners have come to expect in this day and age even from small low budget horror films. So maybe BCI should rethink their strategy here a little and give the films at least a bit of a clean-up and make sure they are encoded properly – and then have someone proof-read the text on the packaging as well. Typos on a DVD packaging are simply embarrassing to no end.

On the good side, these are two fun 80s horror films here and at $14.98 not too much money is wasted even if you end up being upset about their mediocre presentation.