TALES FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE
THE GRAVE DIGGER
Color, 2009, 64m.
Directed by Vick Campbell
Starring Anthony Gummer, Noé Blancafort, Anna Latorre, Thais Buforn, Julian Santos
Color, 2014, 52m.
Directed by Vick Campbell
Starring Eduard Benito, Alonso Vinas, Maria Rosa Rodriguez, Alejandro Blanco, Jorge Brana, Tania Garcia, Alexandra Izquierdo, Isaac Mossad, Anarka De Ossorio, Anthony Gummer
Massacre Video (DVD) (US R0 NTSC)
TALES FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE
There's always something fun about do-it-yourself local horror films around the world, and that definitely applies to multitasking Spanish horror fan Vick Campbell, who produces, writes, and sometimes shoots and does special effects for his handful of projects since 2005. Completely unknown in the U.S., he gets his due here with a giddy double feature loaded with ghouls, graveyards, and busty women, not necessarily in that order.
First up is The Grave Digger, a Poe-inspired yarn about a very creepy cemetery in Barcelona where Igor (Gummer), the property's good samaritan caretaker in a top hat, is alarmed by the screams of a young woman recently buried alive. However, upon saving the poor thing, she simply wanders off in a daze to a cave in the woods. Igor immediately goes to young Dr. Banks (Blancafort) who treated her, interrupting a coital session and getting the rundown on the "nerve center" issue that seemed to do her in. As it turns out, the girl also went through a strange autopsy that left many unanswered questions about her strange death. Furthermore, her parents report that on the night of her death, their servant appeared to be possessed and kept repeating the word "Fritzland" over and over. Igor's iffy reputation in town ("He's weird! People say he talks to himself and that he also practices necrophiliac games") means the locals aren't too quick to buy his stories of the dead coming back to life, particularly Banks's wildly irrational girlfriend, Morella. Things get even more complicated when pretty Madeleine (Latoree) arrives in town to visit her brother Jack, only to be informed by his wife, Leonora Fritzland (Buforn), and her brother, the wealthy Baron (Santos), that he died screaming in agony two weeks ago. Now troubled by visions of the dead clawing out of the ground, Igor is paid a visit by the dead Jack and led to that same sinister cave, which is warned to never, ever enter. Upon seeing Jack's empty tomb, Madeleine decides to team up with Igor and Dr. Banks to get to the bottom of the mystery, which also involves spiritualism, family secrets, catalepsy, more premature burials, a talking plant man, a magic crystal ball, gut munching, skull piercing with high heels, and a lot of female vampires.
Though it starts off as a fairly straightforward pastiche of classic Gothic literature, The Grave Digger ultimately becomes quite the nutty experience with an underworld climax involving chained women and a whip-wielding goat demon that steers things in a far more sadistc direction than you'd expect. The story gets a bit convoluted near the end with a lot of scheming characters and interdimensional mayhem, but if you don't think about it too hard, there's plenty of entertainment value to be had as it tosses elements of Roger Corman, Jean Rollin, Paul Naschy, and God knows who else into a one big blender. Campbell manages to pack a whole lot into just over an hour, and if you're in the mood to watch a monster kid run absolutely wild with a video camera, you'll definitely get your money's worth.
The Grave Digger (original title El sepulterero, or The Undertaker) first appeared on Spanish DVD back in 2013, but you're better off with the Massacre Video release as it tacks on a second sort-of feature, Tales from Beyond the Grave (2 de Noviembre Dia de los Difuntos), a short and sweet horror anthology with tons of gore and lines like "The rest of her rotten flesh vanished from their conjugal bed." At midnight on the Day of the Dead, a pasty-faced, mustached undead crypt keeper (Benito) wearing a shawl around his head welcomes us to stories of what happens when the dead aren't properly remembered, visited, or honored, or when the living can't properly let go of a loss. Case in point is Eliza (Rodriguez), who's still obsessed with her late husband (Vinas) and religiously visit his grave in the middle of a sprawling cemetery. One day a stranger (Blanco) walks up behind her and offers to let her see her late husband again in exchange for her immortal soul. "I love you, honey," she says as her husband's portly corpse implores, "Don't do it!" Not being terribly bright, she signs a creepy book in her own blood right there on the spot and takes off for a drink at the local bar where her husband's best friend, bartender Juan, is unnerved when she cheerfully announces hubby will be coming back tonight. Sure enough, when Eliza gets home she gets a rotting, pustulating, worm-ridden surprise waiting in the bedroom, which leads to a deranged slice of undead fornication you have to see to believe.
In story two, a bickering, disrespectful couple goes to begrudgingly goes to a cemetery to track down the grave of the dead first wife of husband Ivan (Mossad), only to be followed around by a creepy blonde in a white baby doll dress. New wife Sara (Garcia) isn't too thrilled when she starts spotting the supernatural stalker, so she unwinds back home with a wildly gratuitous, extended hot shower and an even longer sex scene during which Ivan unwisely allows himself to be handcuffed to the bed. You can probably figure out what happens next.
Finally in story three, dimwitted Eulalia (Izquierdo) decides to buy a used Ouija board despite calling it a "kid's game" and, ignoring the warnings of the shopkeeper, having no idea what it does. Back home she invites over trashy pal Angela (De Ossorio) to come over and try it out, which leads to a jokey seance session that accidentally causes a disturbance at the nearby graveyard. At that point... uh, the two girls rip off each other's clothes and start making out, but there's a macabre punchline involved. Complete with plentiful gore and nudity, a bathtub dismemberment, the funniest fake phallus this side of Tino Brass, talking corpses, thumping Casio music, and magical sex through underwear, it's a brisk, entertaining ride with a lot of enthusiasm for the genre. The third story feels a bit rote after the first two and doesn't deliver the extreme goods quite as much, but at least it earns a place in the history books as the only Ouija board horror story out there with a steamy girl-on-girl scene.
Both shot-on-video features are taken from the masters provided by the Spanish rights holders, which means they look pretty lo-fi with occasional baked-in chroma noise and burned-in yellow English subtitles (complete with loads of wonderfully screwy typos like "I'll kip an eye on you"). Both titles are anamorphically enhanced, with The Grave Digger presented at 1.78:1 (and substantially windowboxed for some reason) and Tales at 2.35:1. Extras include production stills galleries for each title and bonus trailers for Derangement, Fantom Killer, Tumbling Doll of Flesh, Black Past, and Nurse Jill.