Grave Robbers (1989, dir. Rubén Galindo Jr.)
Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray
I’m gonna come right out and say it — Grave Robbers (aka Ladrones de Tumbas) is the best slasher film released in 1989. Granted, the competition wasn’t too stiff, but there were some good films, among them Halloween 5, Friday the 13th part VIII, Intruder, and Cutting Class, all respectable entries. But Grave Robbers, out now on Blu-ray thanks to the geniuses at Vinegar Syndrome, has them all beat, and not just because it’s the only film that year to star an Uzi-wielding sheriff.
No, it’s because the whole movie is manic fun from start to finish. Imagine the film-within-a-film from Lamberto Bava’s Demons brought to glorious, shuddering life, and possessed of the same lunatic energy that made Bava’s film so enjoyable.
A Mexican supernatural slasher, Grave Robbers opens with a prologue that recalls Amando De Ossorio’s iconic Tombs of the Blind Dead. A candlelit Satanic ritual, medieval torture devices, shrieked curses, a brutal axe murder…it’s the way all films should begin. Director Galindo Jr shows serious chops right away, with nice lighting and a serious eye for gory practical FX, the likes of which was routinely being chopped out of North American slashers during the censorious days of the late 80s.
Structurally, the film is all over the place. We open by meeting our heroines, four young ladies going on a camping trip…and then they promptly disappear from the narrative for a full forty minutes. Instead, we follow a group of denim-clad punk-rock grave robbers, who stumble upon a hidden tomb and accidentally resurrect the crazed Satanic executioner from the prologue.
And what a slasher villain he is! A bulky, robed skeleton with a massive fucking axe…if there was any justice, this film would have launched a long-running slasher franchise.
Sadly, no sequels ever materialised. In fact, this is the last of three horror films written and directed by the talented Galindo Jr.
In October, Vinegar Syndrome are releasing his first, Cemetery of Terror, and rumour has it his magnum opus, Don’t Panic, is following in November. It’s great to see Mexican horror getting the deluxe Blu-ray edition treatment, as the country has produced many terrific films.
Anyway, back to Grave Robbers. The first act may feel slow-moving to some, but I was in thrall to the gorgeous cobweb-heavy production design and the minimalist, almost Carpenter-esque electronic score. Despite some humour, it’s all played straight too, which is thankfully at odds with some of the insufferably smug, self-referential films coming out of the US around the same time.
Then the second half hits, and it’s a non-stop orgy of killing and madness, which peaks with an extraordinary jail-cell set-piece as wild as anything I’ve seen all year. The inclusion of supernatural elements here works far better than the previous year’s disastrous Friday the 13th part VII: The New Blood, adding a real element of danger to what could easily have been a campy bit of fluff. Just wait till you see how the Satanic skeleton decides to reclaim his gold pendant…I’m grinning just thinking about it.
The Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome is, as to be expected, stunning. A 4K transfer from the 35mm negative, the film has probably never looked better, and handles the low-light situations and splashes of crimson blood with ease. There are a couple of extras included — a commentary track from The Hysteria Continues Podcast, and an interview with director Galindo Jr himself, who looks impossibly young to have directed a horror film back in 1985 — but the real draw is the film itself, a forgotten gem of late 80s Mexican horror. Just be careful not to confuse Grave Robbers (1989) with Graverobbers (1988), also released by Vinegar Syndrome!
In the early Spanish colonial age, the leader of a satanic sect was condemned to eternal damnation by a priest, and was left to rot with an axe forever embedded in his chest. Now, in modern-day, a group of teenage, treasure-seeking, grave robbers accidentally uncover his hidden tomb, dislodging the axe in the process. But what they don’t realize is that they’ve unwittingly re-woken the diabolical killer, who promptly sets out to complete his unholy mission of spawning the son of Satan, while brutally butchering anyone who happens to get in the way…
Heavily inspired by late 80s slasher films, Ruben Galindo Jr’s GRAVE ROBBERS is one of the best-forgotten films to come from Mexico’s oft-overlooked 80s horror boom. With exceptional production value, gruesome death scenes, and a relentless killer akin to his many American counterparts, GRAVE ROBBERS feels right at home with any of the later entries in the Friday the 13th series. Vinegar Syndrome is proud to present this hidden gem of Mexican splatter on Blu-ray for the first time, newly scanned in 4K from its original 35mm camera negative.
You can buy Grave Robbers direct from www.vinegarsyndrome.com/products/grave-robbers-aka-ladrones-de-tumbas
David Sodergren lives in Scotland with his wife Heather and his best friend, Boris the Pug.
Growing up, he was the kind of kid who collected rubber skeletons and lived for horror movies.
Not much has changed since then.
His first novel, The Forgotten Island, was published on October 1st 2018. This was followed by Night Shoot, a brutal throwback to the early 80s slasher movie cycle, in May 2019.
2020 will be Sodergren’s biggest year yet, with two new horror novels being published. Dead Girl Blues is a slasher-noir mystery, and it will be followed by a return to full-blown supernatural horror before the end of the year.
You can follow David on Twitter @paperbacksnpugs
To find out more about David please visit his official website www.paperbacksandpugs.wordpress.com
Find David on Instagram here
The small Scottish town of Auchenmullan is dead, and has been for years. It sits in the shadow of a mountain, forgotten and atrophying in the perpetual gloom.
Forty-seven residents are all that remain.
There’s nothing to do there, nothing to see, except for a solitary grave near the top of the mountain.
MAGGIE WALL BURIED HERE AS A WITCH reads the faded inscription.
But sometimes the dead don’t stay buried. Especially when they have unfinished business.
A relentless folk-horror nightmare from the author of The Forgotten Island, Maggie’s Grave will disturb and shock in equal measure.
Dead Girl Blues
When a young woman dies in Willow Zulawski’s arms, it sets in motion a chain of events that will push her to the brink of madness.
A mysterious video is the only clue, but as Willow digs deeper into the murky world of snuff movies, those closest to her start turning up dead. Someone out there will stop at nothing to silence her.
After all, when killing is business, what’s one more dead body?
Part noir mystery, part violent slasher, Dead Girl Blues is the latest twisted shocker from David Sodergren, author of The Forgotten Island and Night Shoot.