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John’s Horror Corner: Grave Robbers (1989; aka Ladrones de tumbas), an obscure Mexican horror film that isn’t awful.

October 9, 2022

MY CALL:  I’m not recommending this, but it’s not terrible either. I simply had to see it because I had never heard of it until today.  MORE MOVIES LIKE Grave Robbers: For more Mexican horror (or moreso movies taking place in Mexico), consider Demonoid (1980), Dolly Dearest (1991), Cronos (1993), The Ruins (2008), and Hellraiser: Revelations (2011).

This obscure Mexican movie comes from co-writer and director Rubén Galindo Jr. (Don’t Panic, Cemetery of Terror). The themes are all too familiar. Satanic rituals, impregnating women with the Antichrist, Armageddon espoused by the birth of that Antichrist… that old story.

Centuries ago, during his torture-coerced confession for his crimes of attempting to forcibly impregnate and ritual sacrifice a young woman in the name of Satan, a surprisingly muscular cultist (Agustín Bernal; El Ninja Mexicano) curses his Archbishop accuser that he will one day rise again and enact his Antichrist-fathering ambitions upon the daughter of one of his descendants.

Skip to present day, and the lucky girl is the daughter Olivia (Edna Bolkan; Cemetery of Terror) of Police Captain Lopez (Fernando Almada), and she is going camping with her friends on the same weekend that some grave robbers roll into town. Guess whose long-hidden grave they’ll find?

Hoping to find gold, the group of young grave robbers (including Erika Buenfil; Cemetery of Terror) stumble into the underground torture chamber of the cultist’s demise and accidently resurrect him. Now risen as an undead executioner armed with the axe that killed him long ago, the cultist begins murdering everyone he encounters. Not really sure why. Maybe he’s just cranky from being dead for a couple hundred years.

The deaths are hokey for sure, but they are bloody, flesh-rending and occur on-screen. So I guess I can’t complain. This isn’t really that bad, even if it’s not very good either. Overall this undead killer feels a lot like generic brand zombie Jason Voorhees (or even Evil Ash from Army of Darkness) with an axe and a humbler budget as he mows through a handful of grave robbers, campers and locals. There’s frequent axe-cleaving-face shots. Even with little follow-through, that’s fun to see. I chuckle every time.

There is one particularly memorable death scene in a prison cell when the killer somehow “magically” tears through a grave robber’s stomach as if from inside him. The aftermath leaves a gory gaping hole in his stomach with guts strewn about—a very Lucio Fulci visual.

The ending is more like the finale fight scene in a dark action fantasy movie (e.g., Conan the Destroyer), but with yet clumsier execution. And then the movie is just over. And that’s fine for a breezy 90 minute obscurity that I had never heard of until today.

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