Cemetery of Terror
AKA: Cementerio del Terror
At the local psychiatric institution on the night before Halloween, a mad and incredibly strong serial killer named Delvon escapes from his ward and goes on a killing spree before being killed by the police. Upon hearing the news, his psychiatrist Dr. Cardan insists that Delvon be immediately cremated, because he knows of his patient’s obsession with Satan and the Occult and his plans to come back from beyond the grave. Of course, the police think he’s full of horse hockey and do their best to stall him….
Meanwhile a group of med students are planning a surprise Halloween party with their girlfriends at an abandoned house near the cemetery. When their not-so-smooth attempts at romance fail miserably, they instead decide to explore the house and end up stumbling upon a strange book, partially written in Latin, that talks about raising the dead. In an attempt to salvage the night, the boys go to the morgue and steal the gnarliest body they can find. Naturally, they choose Delvon and they drag his body back to the nearby cemetery to perform their little resurrection ritual, setting the stage for a night of blood, carnage and a suspicious amount of zombies.
This is why you NEVER read from creepy-looking stained books written in Latin. You never know if you’re summoning Satan or a freak rainstorm.
I was looking for a new Halloween themed movie to watch this year and figured I’d give this little Mexican outliner a try when I noticed some of the ratings. But after subsequently watching Cemetery of Terror and reading some of those reviews, I’ve come to the conclusion that many of those reviews calling it “great” or “an 80’s horror gem” were greatly over exaggerating. I get it my dear Mexican friends, we all want to pimp out our local cinematic endeavors. That’s a spirit and an effort I can totally get behind. But let’s not go so far as to overplay mediocre films as if it’s your country’s equivalent of its horror magnum opus. I mean, you have El Vampiro and Cronos to your name, you needn’t try so hard with, shall we say, less than successful examples. Which isn’t to say that Cemetery of Terror is a bad film in any way. It’s not. By B-Movie horror standards the movie stands up perfectly fine. But that’s as far as that film’s descriptor should go. Not grand. Not great. Just…fine.
The greatest ding against Cemetery of Terror is that it doesn’t seem to know what kind of film it wants to be, or what it really wants to do. Like a lot of B-movies it appears to be trying to ride on the coattails of other, more established films. But it seems it couldn’t settle on just one or two of them, so you end up with a mish-mashed plot that’s trying to cobble several different franchise elements together. First you’ve got Dr. Cardan, the killer’s long-time doctor who knows how dangerous his patient is, yet his concern falls on deaf ears, so he’s forced to go and confront the killer on his own as no one seems willing to listen to him. He’s basically your Dr. Loomis stand-in, so there’s your Halloween reference. Then you’ve got your evil book found in an abandoned house that has the power to summon the dead, so there’s your Evil Dead. You’ve also got the insanely strong killing machine known as Delvon, who kills a bunch of people, dies, and then ends up being brought back to life via supernatural means and subsequently turned into an un-dead, nigh-unstoppable killing machine, so there’s your Friday the 13th connection. Then at the end we learn that, despite clearly having no idea what they’re doing, it turns out the med student’s resurrection spell worked a little too well, and the entire cemetery springs to life and the remaining survivors are forced to run from an undead zombie horde, and suddenly our slasher has taken a turn into Night of the Living Dead territory. So basically, the film doesn’t have one single unique bone in its whole body and, while competent, every element of the film is going to feel very, very familiar, and none of the content manages to connect nearly as well as the filmmakers seemed to have hoped it would.
The ending result of this, of course, is that you not only end up with a LOT of plot holes, but a lot of the characters and their motivations and actions also wind up being wildly contradictory, and seem to have been written solely to fit into preconceived tropes or simply to move the plot forward. Like, the girlfriends in this story start off behaving and reacting fairly believably. The ladies cancel their previous plans to go to a rock concert when their boyfriends convince them to go to a swinging ‘jet setter’ party instead, and when they realize they’ve been duped and that the “party” in question is at an abandoned house and is just an excuse for the boys to get them drunk on cheap beer and have some dusty, moldy hanky-panky amongst the mountain of cobwebs and water stained rugs, they are quite reasonably and understandably pissed (I mean, hell, at the very least they could have sprung for the good beer). So naturally they want nothing to do with this lame-ass switcheroo, band together and insist on leaving.
These are the faces of women who are, in their own way, all contemplating the quickest, easiest way to kill their boyfriends without being caught.
At this point I’m applauding them for their backbone. But unfortunately all three of them seem to have struck out in the horror boyfriend lottery, because each one of these ‘gentlemen’ turns out to be a massive a-hole who is more concerned about ‘getting back’ at the ladies for running their good time than being a decent human being. So when the guys stumble upon the cheap-o Book of the Dead these three MED STUDENTS (I feel that should be emphasized) decide the best revenge would be to steal a dead body and scare their girlfriends even more. And for some unfathomable reason, THIS WORKS. I’m sorry, but WHAT? I would have been walking my ass home three scenes ago, but oh no, not these ladies. These ladies willingly go back to the abandoned house to engage in some awkward kissing and make-out scenes, because I guess raising the dead during the middle of a sudden onset rainstorm is some kind of immense turn that somehow overpowers all the deceit, trickery, robbery and fear that’s been inflicted on them for the entire evening. Forget Med school, these ladies need a class in self respect and higher standards.
And all for THIS douche?! Of all people? I’d tell her it’s not worth it, but they’ll all be dead soon, so it won’t matter.
So then Delvon shows up and uses his Satanic powers and claw hands, people die, yada yada yada, credits roll, right? Ha! No. That’s just the first HALF of the film. After some very gory and blood-filled death, the film’s second half and subplot kicks in, because of course this film wasn’t planned out well enough and has to have a second, nigh-unrelated subplot, this one involving a group of young trick-or-treaters who decide to go all the way into the middle of the cemetery to test their courage. Which may very well be one of the mildest Halloween hijinks I think I’ve ever seen in an R-rated horror film like this. Hell, the act of them hitchhiking to the cemetery with a strange guy in a creepy, dark van was more terrifying than their cumulative plans for the evening (or even half this film’s plot). But of course kids are slow and hitchhiking takes time, so by the time they make it to their destination the resurrection spell has already been cast and zombies start literally popping out of the ground around them. Horror!
But, not really, because these are some of the shambling-est things in existence and are easily out-maneuvered by the small group of 7-14-year-olds. And these kids, I might add, despite making their own fair share of dumb decisions, still end up being the most competent characters in the entire film. They evade the zombies, evade the killer, save the doctor AND destroy the evil creatures, all in the span of a couple hours. Most of us aren’t that productive in a week. Their competence in acting however was…not so good. But hey, they’re kids and I have low expectations. Plus they looked like they were having fun, and none of them were annoying, so I’ll give them a pass. The other actors… not so much, because they’re adults and I have higher standards. But the kids at least were alright and behaved appropriately for the situation. Not that it’s hard to screw up: See Zombie → Run!. But considering this movie’s track record I admit I had my doubts for a while.
Corpses are literally crawling out of the ground! For the love of GOD: Stop hiding in crypts! I know you guys are, like, 8, but COME ON!
Amongst all the plot holes, poor characterization, mediocre performances, cheesy dialogue and stolen story elements, Cemetery of Terror’s one other saving grace, besides it’s handful of excessive gore, is its energetic direction that keeps the action going at a very respectable pace…At least for the most part. There are a couple of scenes were the camera lingers just a little too long, there’s far too much time spent watching the younger kids running around and screaming in a darkened cemetery, and every time the film cuts away to catch up with the incompetent police or worried parents the story sort of studders, but for the most part everything moves pretty quickly. Did someone do something stupid? No time to worry about it! We’ve already moved on. Not that that fixes any of the film’s many other problems, but it does help gloss over them so you can move on to the more fun bits. And for the most part, the film IS fun. It’s just that it’s fun in a ridiculously cheesy, schlocky sort of way. And not in a THIS IS THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER sort of way, like some people might like you to believe (*cough*liars*cough*). So if cheesy stories with dumb characters and poor plotting are your jam, then feel free to give this one a whirl. Just don’t read any of the reviews beforehand.
Cemetery of Terror is available on a variety of streaming services.
Cemetery of Terror is also available on DVD and Bluray.