Graveyard Disturbance (1987)
Director Lamberto Bava
Starring Gregory Lech Thaddeus,
Lamberto Bava, son of the highly regarded Italian film director Mario Bava, followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a writer/director, after years of working as an Assistant Director on movies that his father had directed (most notable of those father/son collaborations were perhaps the movies ‘Kill Baby Kill’  and the 1974 cult film ‘Lisa and the Devil’ (Featuring Telly Savalas).
On those, and other movies, Lamberto had performed the Assistant Director duties (which is certainly no minor role behind the camera), but things stepped up for Lamberto in 1977 with the film ‘Shock’ which saw him in a writing role as well as being the films Assistant Director with his father directing. Mario Bava was nearing the end of his own career (and indeed would only direct one more movie after 1977s ‘Shock’) but things were only just starting for Lamberto, as he then began to write and direct his own films.
Mario is widely considered to be a master of the Italian Cinema plying his trade across many different genres over his years as a filmmaker, but it was perhaps his Gothic 1960s Horrors that Mario was best known for, having influenced other future masters of Italian Horror and Giallo cinema like Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci.
So, Lamberto had some big shoes to fill, and the years of working with his father had paid off because Lamberto quickly developed his own flair for writing and directing. Lamberto worked with Dario Argento on his classic ‘Inferno’ and then went onto direct two excellent Giallo/Horror films with 1980s ‘Macabre’, and 1983s ‘A Blade in the Dark’. He then worked with Argento again (Argento producing) on two of Lamberto Bava’s most famous and successful straight up gore horrors with ‘Demons’ & ‘Demons 2’. The success of these now iconic 1980s Horror films led to Production company Reiteitalia announcing that it would produce five made for TV movies which would also go out in the lucrative 1980s VHS rental market, and that all five movies would have Lamberto at the helm as writer/director. As it turned out only four of the announced five movies ended up being made, one of which was ‘Graveyard Disturbance’, which brings us nicely to the actual review.
Being that the movies were made for TV, budgets weren’t as high as the Cinema films Lamberto had been doing but he still managed to inject a dark, moody visual atmosphere in two of the four, one being called ‘Until Death’ (We’ll visit that movie for review soon) and today’s movie in review ‘Graveyard Disturbance’. The film opens with a group of young friends driving through the countryside on a night’s excursion for fun and perhaps a bit of partying. Unfortunately the van gets stuck in some muddy water they attempt to drive through, and the young adventurers have to start off on foot.
At this point, you can already tell that Lamberto is going for a much less intense movie with Graveyard Disturbance than he’d previously been associated with making, it’s tone less dark, and almost tongue in cheek. Our heroes end up at a strange Tavern, where a man with a strange eye patch serves them food and beverage. One of the youngsters sees a large barrel of jewels and money, and not quite believing what he’s seeing, asks the bartender what on earth all that treasure is doing there.
He’s told, that as long as they all put a little money into the pot, all they need to do to claim the prize for themselves is to spend the night in the labyrinth of passage ways below the Tavern.
And as you’d imagine, the teens are up for the challenge. Now up until this point, the film hadn’t had anything that you could call ‘Horror’ going on, it was more akin to a Teen Adventure film, and this would earn Graveyard Disturbance a great deal of poor reviews, verging on the outright nasty at times. Reviewers wanted more films like ‘Demons’ and ‘A Blade in the Dark’ and Lamberto to his credit, wasn’t giving them what they wanted with Graveyard Disturbance, instead you get an odd mixture of spooky visuals as the young friends wander around the passage ways, and even moments of humor as the friends see an undead family sat feasting at a dinner table, only for the monster family to get scared themselves when they see the teens and rush back into their own caskets hiding.
I won’t ruin the ending, but what I will say is this, ignore the bad reviews, because only a bad reviewer would place a movie up against previous work as a sole bench mark for critique. Graveyard Disturbance is a mixture of funny moments, and in places scary moments, and successfully combining the two is what makes this little gem of a horror movie work so well. It was screened first at the Sitges Film Festival in Spain where it was panned, it then aired on Italian TV (as part of the series of four films Lamberto made for TV). TV film critics also missed the joke, and equally hated the film, yet it endured when it was released on VHS, both in Italy, Spain, the UK, Canada and America.
It’s something of a cult film and not the only tongue in cheek of the four movies he made in that series of films (‘Dinner with A Vampire’ was also lighter in mood but it’s certainly less enjoyable than today’s movie in review). Graveyard Disturbance deserves more credit than it gets, I have fond memories of watching the VHS rental as a youngster and must say enjoyed the movie all over again when watching it recently for this Torchlight’s Chillers review.
CHILLER RATING: 7/10
TORCHLIGHTS CHILLERS BY ANDREW JAMES BARCLAY