• Grave Robbers (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: September 29th, 2020.
    Director: Rubén Galindo Jr.
    Cast: Fernando Almada, Edna Bolkan, Erika Buenfil, Ernesto Laguardia
    Year: 1989
    Purchase From Amazon

    Grave Robbers – Movie Review:

    Three years after he found success with Cemetery Of Terror, Rubén Galindo Jr. returned to the “dumb kids messing with the dead” genre again with 1989’s Grave Robbers (not to be confused with the 1988 films of the same name that Vinegar Syndrome also released!). Known as Ladrones de tumbas in its native Mexico, this film has a few similarities to his earlier effort but which stands out on its own enough to absolutely make it worth a look.

    The film begins with an opening sequence set in the 1800s where a monk has turned to Satanism and, as such, is being put to death by his brethren for killing off women in the name of the devil. Before the big rubber axe hits him in the face and sends him into the great beyond, he tells them that if they kill him he will return to carry out his mission of bringing the spawn of Satan to life! It’s a fairly typical horror movie trope, bringing to mind Mario Bava’s classic Black Sunday, but it works.

    Cut to the present day (or at least what was the present day in 1989), and we're introduced to a gang of teenagers, all denim-clad for extras coolness, who make extra money by robbing random graves in lonely old cemeteries late at night. One the night we meet them, they've found an old tomb to raid and when they make their way into it they find all manner of jewels and gold. When they dig a little deeper, however, they find an axe lodged in one of the corpses. It looks valuable and so one of them removes it only to, of course, resurrect the Satanic monk from the opening scene.

    True to his word, the sinister monk goes about his sinister business, hoping to finally and truly bring about the spawn of Satan. And anyone unlucky enough to get in his way? Well, there’s that big ol’ axe that will come in handy for just such occasions! If a resurrected Satanic monk weren't enough, a girl named Olivia (Edna Bolkan) and a few of her teenage buddies are out in the woods partying it up camping one night when they find themselves being chased and roughed up by a killer! Good thing Olivia's dad is Captain Lopez (Fernando Almada), the Uzi-toting chief of police. He gets hot on the killer's trail before he strikes again, or at least he tries to…

    While the plot and acting here are a little messy, Grave Robbers is absolutely worth checking out for the horror movie fan in your home. The film is worth seeing for the special effects as this is one gory little film. Innards are ripped out, faces are smushed, hands are chopped off and more, and the camera shies away from none of it. Oh, and once you see it, you won’t forget the film’s awesome decapitation scene either. Thankfully, the effects are actually quite good and as such the filmmaker's pull it off quite well even if at times the movie borrows very, very heavily from Friday The 13th Part 2.

    Like Cemetery Of Terror before it, The Grave Robbers is a fast paced film that gives us just enough set up to allow it to switch to the modern day setting and get on with the gory goods. The story is neither complex nor really all that original but as an eighties horror film, it's a fun ride and it's plenty entertaining. The film also has some decent atmosphere, with the evil monk at times making us think of the Blind Dead films. The soundtrack is pretty cool, the movie is nicely shot and the movie turns out to be a whole lot of fun.

    Grave Robbers – Blu-ray Review:

    Grave Robbers arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1.85.1 widescreen transfer taking up 23.5GBs of space on the 25GB disc. Presented “newly scanned & restored in 4k from its 35mm original negative,” the picture quality here is very strong. A very big upgrade over the old fullframe (open matte) DVD release from BCI Eclipse/Deimos Entertainment (which looked fine for its day), the transfer offers excellent depth and detail. Much of the film takes place at night, often times indoors in dimly lit conditions, but shadow detail remains quite strong. Some very minor compression artifacts might be noticeable in a couple of spots but otherwise there’s nothing to complain about here, the image is free of any noise reduction or edge enhancement issues and boasts strong black levels and very nice color reproduction.

    Audio is handled by a 24-bit Spanish language DTS-HD 1.0 Mono track that sounds quite good. The track is nicely balanced, the dialogue is clear and there’s pretty decent range here as well. Optional subtitles are provided in English only and a Spanish language Dolby Digital Mono option is also included.

    Extras start off with a commentary track from the guys at the Hysteria Continues podcast. Like most of their tracks, this has a decent sense of humor to it but they cover a lot of ground, noting the influence of Catholicism on this picture and Spanish language horror pictures in general, how this film compares to North American slasher pictures made around the same time and how the picture is as much a zombie movie as a slasher picture, and details on the history of the cast and crew. They also talk about how the characters feel like they could have come out of a Friday The 13th movie, similarities to Berserker, how some of the grave robbing bits are reminiscent of Indiana Jones movies, the possible influence of Italian horror filmmakers like Mario Bava and a brief history of Mexican horror films in generally. As the track progresses, they also discuss the use of gore in the film and in Mexican media in general, the effectiveness of the murder set pieces as well as their own thoughts on the movie in general.

    The disc also contains a featurette called Unearthing The Past which is an interview with director Rubén Galindo Jr. that runs just over nineteen-minutes. He speaks here, in English, about his work in the industry on various projects for film and television in all sorts of different genres. Very grateful for the chance to talk about this movie, Galindo talks about the difference in tone between Grave Robbers (which was meant to the Latin market) and Don't Panic (which was made to look like an American film), where some of the ideas for the story came from including why the grave robbing would happen in the first place, how most of the cast members were quite well known in their market, the influence of American trends and the success of his films in the Latin market at the time. He also covers where he took his inspiration from in the horror industry, how much he enjoyed making Grave Robbers because when he made it he was trying to please himself, what it was like on set and having to deal with some unexpected rain from time to time, intentionally shooting much of the film in low light conditions as well as the film's release and big success.

    We also get some absolutely killer reversible cover sleeve art. The first 3,000 units purchased directly from Vinegar Syndrome get a very nice limited edition, matte finish slip cover (designed by Richard Hilliard) with some cool spot varnish embossment on, which is a nice touch.

    Grave Robbers – The Final Word:

    Grave Robbers is a blast, a really fun horror movie with the right mix of gore, atmosphere and charmingly goofy eighties touches to keep it interesting from start to finish. Vinegar Syndrome has done an excellent job bringing this one Blu-ray in a great presentation and with some nice extra features as well.

    Click on the images below for full sized Grave Robbers Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Jason C's Avatar
      Jason C -
      That is a sweet slipcover. Any T&A?