After a reckless shoplifting spree, five, fun-loving teenagers: Robin (Gregory Lech Thaddeus), Tina (Lea Martino), Micky (Beatrice Ring), Johnny (Gianmarco Tognazzi) and David (Karl Zinny), drive their Mystery Machine-type van out of town. Finding themselves stranded in the fog-shrouded woods, they’re spooked by dinosaur sized footprints, werewolves howling (neither of which are mentioned again), and a ghostly horse-drawn hearse drifting along without a driver.
The gang stumble across ye olde world tavern, with neon signs and a TV set, whose grouchy, glowing eyed inhabitants - including a barkeep (Lino Salemme) who looks like Beetlejuice - challenge them to spend one night in a creepy crypt, for a chance to win a fabulous treasure (which includes jewels, gold and an American Express Card). Crazy David accepts and later joined by his friends, discovers a netherworld of maggot-ridden ghouls, zombies and the Grim Reaper himself.
Poor, lovely Beatrice Ring never had much luck in her Euro-horror career, appearing in Lucio Fulci’s Zombie 3 (1988), Aldo Lado’s Love Ritual (1989) and this shoddy effort from Lamberto Bava. Son of Italy’s great horror maestro Mario Bava, Lamberto made a striking impression with Macabre (1980), a tightly scripted chiller (save for its silly ending), then contributed minor films for minor trends before scoring international hits with the Dario Argento scripted Demons (1985) and Demons 2 (1986). Graveyard Disturbance seems like another attempt to reach the teenage audience drawn to those films. Self-aware and straining to seem hip, with characters name-dropping Rambo: First Blood Part 2 (1985), Apocalypse Now (1979), and An American Werewolf in London (1981), it probably horrified teen horror fans of 1987 for all the wrong reasons.
Written by former Fulci collaborator Dardano Sacchetti, the film is constructed like a Halloween haunted house with simple spooks for kids. Angelo Mattei’s impressive zombie and creature effects include a multi-eyed Marie Antoinette look-alike, a toothy child-ghoul in a Heavy Metal t-shirt, and a goofy zombie who grabs the boobs of a crypt-dwelling dead girl and gets a slap in the face! And yet it’s hard to tell if this meant to be a lark or not, since stone-faced metaphysical debate about death and florid social commentary (“When you were conceived your parents were already strung-out, wasted hippies!”) sit alongside goofy one-liners (“Even a TV preacher has more soul than this place!”). Sacchetti reuses the disruptions in time and space concept from City of the Living Dead (1980) and The Beyond (1981), which suggests Fulci wasn’t entirely responsible for the sloppier aspects of those overrated gothic zombie-fests.
A few gags do amuse, including the moment Robin (who frequently goes shirtless, despite the freezing cold) asks for a crucifix to fend off the zombie, only for his friends to reply they're either Mormon, Jewish or non-practicing Catholic. The cobwebbed, dry ice shrouded crypt is suitably atmospheric along with the synth-driven score by Simon Boswell. A set-piece that finds Robin plunged inside a cesspool full of maggoty corpses is pretty icky, but as a horror film this is weak tea. The final confrontation with Death (“Don’t tell me you kids haven’t figured this out yet?”) doesn’t make a lick of sense and there’s a vaguely anti-youth flavour to the ridiculous, Monty Python ending that sees the survivors hauled away by cops for stealing two bars of chocolate. With the ghost carriage scene, Bava briefly pays tribute to his father’s classic Black Sunday (1960), which he later remade (badly). Only after ditching horror for fairytale romances like Dragon Ring (1994) and the Fantaghiro movies did he emerge from his father’s shadow.
Italian director/producer and son of legendary horror auteur Mario Bava. Began working as an assistant to his father on productions such as Planet of the Vampires and Baron Blood, and co-wrote Mario’s final film Shock. Made his directing debut in 1980 with the effective chiller Macabre, which were followed by exploitation favourites A Blade in the Dark, Blastfighter, Delirium and two gore-laden Demons movies, both produced by Dario Argento. Bava’s subsequent work has largely been for Italian TV, his last theatrical film being 1991’s duff Body Puzzle.