Grave Robbers (Ladrones de Tumbas)

May 29, 2010 at 6:08 am (5 Heads, Grave Robbers) (, , , )

Grave Robbers – 1990 – Mexico

As this blog’s first post, reviewing Horror of the Humongous Hungry Hungan (1991) would be appropriate, but I’ve seen Hungan enough times to write its novelization, so tonight, I opted to check out Grave Robbers—a competent, but boring and uninspired Mexican demonic slasher from Ruben Galindo Jr. (Vacations of Terror, Cemetery of Terror, etc.). The DVD format is great. Movies like this (lame or not) would be lost if not for cheapie DVDs (I’m a mega-lover of 50 movie packs). On the Crypt of Terror: Horror South of the Border box set, I’ve watched several yawnful flicks directed/produced/written by Galindo, all copies of 80s American movies lacking in anything to really make them “Mexican”—although The Demon Rat was cool (in the near future, people wear gas masks all the time and pollution has spawned freakish rat men).

Grave Robbers starts during an Inquisition of some sort, with a satanic ritual and torture on the rack. This part is classy. There’s an eerie candlelit dungeon and robed monks, low-key lighting and striking photography. Flash forward to present day and we’re in regular Galindo-movie turf. Grave digging teenagers fall into a hidden catacomb and accidentally resurrect an undead warlock (if he scares you pansies, send me $1.50 and a SASE for a drawing of my face—an image that would drive you insane with terror). He stalks them into the woods full of movie lights and there is a series of bloody axe murders. Eventually a tough old police officer and a priest get involved, then stay tuned for the climactic spiritual showdown…

Whatever. Grave Robbers is so average. Sure, there are a few atmospheric moments and the effects are competent, but it’s got more professionalism than soul—obviously schemed up by business people, not true fans. Boring. There’s no likable characters, especially the stupid grave robbers (who are treated sympathetically), and too much screaming and running, lacking in the energy that makes screaming and running great (see Friday the 13th).

But let’s end by saying nice things so the spirit of Grave Robbers doesn’t come haunt us.

(1) Awesome music during opening credits—layers of murmuring, droning chanting. Perfect for shrinking heads or making your own pact with Satan to.

(2) The Inquisition scenes show flare, mixing the darkly ceremonious atmosphere of Mario Bava’s Black Sunday (1960) with the kitschy imagery of a Paul Naschy flick.

(3) The graveyard and tomb sets are awesomely classic. You’ve got to love rolling mist and walls of cobwebs.

(4) There’re a few inventive POV shots as the killer peers from his massive hood.

Rating: 5/10 Shrunken Heads. Perfectly middle of the road. True genre fans (meaning you) will find things to dig, but that’s why you’re a genre fan.

9/1/2015 Update:

To see if my opinions have matured in five years, I watched Grave Robbers again. It is still derivative crap. However, I admire how the plot follows several groups of characters: the grave robbers, a police officer, and some unfortunate campers. The characters are at least somewhat developed (comparatively speaking). I like the psychic teenager, who uses her dowsing abilities to find graves to rob. Also, the large cast of characters equates to a large body count—13 by my calculation.

Everyone screams way too much.

Rating: 5/10 Shrunken Heads. This is the only film I can think of where grave robbers are the good guys.

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