Cemetery Of Terror (1985)/Grave Robbers (1989)

aka Cementerio Del Terror/Ladrones De Tumbas
Directed by Rubén Galindo
BCI/Deimos DVD

After 175 minutes, there’s not a dry eye in the house. Such are the perils of love and war.

Before the release of this DVD, I knew nothing of Mexican director Rubén Galindo. Now, after careful study, I still know nothing of the man, but everything about stone-washed-jeans-as-art and global veneration for Michael Jackson circa Thriller. We’re separated linguistically. We come together culturally. Now and forever, that’s the way it should be. Through the love (Cemetery Of Terror) and the war (Grave Robbers), Galindo’s aim is true. He shall have heavenly gore. He shall appropriate Halloween for his own gain. And most of all, he shall master the execution of 30 second synth-pop.

An escaped mental patient hits the streets on Halloween night. Who you gonna call? Sorry friend, but Donald Pleasance is WAY too qualified. This is Cemetery Of Terror and we’re not in Hollywood anymore. Get me Hugo Stiglitz, pronto!

Devlon wears no mask and bears no disfigurement, but he’s a disciple of Satan and sports a wet beard. Perfect. After small talk (“What a joker!”) and water skiing, a group of teens settle down for some Halloween partying in an abandoned house (Devlon’s hideaway). The book of “Devlon” leads to Satanic rites in a nearby cemetery. Again, perfect. Stiglitz drives around in a stolen police car. Devlon slaughters the kids. Five tricks ‘n’ treats pre-teens hitchhike to the cemetery and end up at the house. Everything might be haunted. Including the zombies. And my heart.

I hope none of that made sense, because that’s exactly where Cemetery Of Terror sits. Cobble up the gutsy gore and stagnant photography. Ration off the generic Chuck Berry and John Carpenter licks. Swell inside the constant humidity and Halloween anxiousness. Cemetery Of Terror drops somewhere between the old-fashioned spooks of Monsters Crash The Pajama Party and the exaggerated tricks of The Dark Power, but obviously trumps both in terms of trash deliverables. Rubén Galindo swallowed the essence of cheap American horror, made it even cheaper, and drew straws as he went along. The result is magnificent: A fast-paced, no questions asked, gutter-level slasher/zombie romp with every ingredient (mis)placed for maximum pleasure. You can bet your air-brushed Michael Jackson coat on it.

It’s a bitch to admit, but sometimes even the most passionate affairs can lead to trouble. Four years after Cemetery, Galindo hopped on the Death Curse Of Tartu bandwagon with the drab Grave Robbers. There are Satanic spirits. There’s even more gore. Unfortunately, there is no Hugo Stiglitz.

A medieval Satan worshipper is axe’d in the chest and declares revenge through reincarnation. Then, we skip to modern times. Four girls plan an exciting camping trip. One of their boyfriends wears suspenders and manufactures machine guns. They disappear for thirty minutes. Meanwhile, a few young couples ransack underground tombs for gold. Out goes the medieval axe, in comes the revenge! Cops kick some ass during interrogation. Gory creativity escalates. Eventually, the camping trip is reintroduced. The film keeps going. I wish it was Halloween again.

Remember Dawn Of The Mummy? It was incredibly underwhelming. Grave Robbers follows suit. It’s a dragging slasher with a reliance on gore for gore’s sake and little magnetism. Galindo makes a slight move towards effective style (the subterranean exploration scenes for one), but the film is bogged down by aimless gab. The crazed leeway that kept Cemetery alive ‘n’ kickin’ is swapped for a dull series of events with few interesting spikes. As a wind-down to your evening, Grave Robbers is bearable. Just don’t ask for much more.

The teardrops have now dried. Once again, love prevails.

Both films make the jump from Spanish language VHS obscurity with very similar presentations; full frame prints, exceedingly crisp visuals, plenty of vintage grain, and very bold colors. Cemetery piles on the vintage charm, with near constant white scratching and vertical lines. Grave Robbers was cleaner in that respect, but caught a little compression excess at times. Mono soundtracks for both were excellent. The films are presented in their original Spanish languages with optional English subtitles.

Subtitles like “C’mon, brink your mask!” and “I keep feelink a lot of golf.” definitely fall into the supplements category.

Rubén Galindo brings it. The cultural trash spectrum comes together with Cemetery Of Terror, but unravels sullenly with Grave Robbers. No matter. You need to own Cemetery Of Terror. Do it for Hugo.