If you’re looking to add an international flavor to your spooky season, why not head down to Mexico for supernatural horror with a touch of slasher action? Grave Robbers delivers the shocks and fears and not just to those of us who suffered through four years of Spanish class in high school and college. The film reminds us all why it’s not good to go camping or head into a cemetery looking for treasures.
Centuries before in the Mexican city of San Ramón, things were very active in the local Catholic church’s torture chamber that’s used for people to confess during the Inquisition. Turns out that their Executioner (Salvador‘s Agustín Bernal) has become a Satanist. And not just a run of the mill Devil worshipper. They interrupted his plan to ritually attack a virgin to make their child the Antichrist. Instead of just taking this conflict of interest to the HR department, the priests execute the executioner using his own beheading ax. Before he dies, the executioner swears he will be back and he will give Satan a child. The priests tell him that as long as the ax is in his chest, he’ll be powerless. Turns out the priests were almost right since centuries did pass before one fateful night.
The local sheriff’s daughter is excited to get to go camping with her friends that are visiting from Mexico City. But they’re not the only people in the woods that night. Turns out six kids have also come out except they aren’t going to be making s’mores. They’re dropping by the nearby cemetery to do a little grave robbing. The local culture believes that you can take gold with you to the afterlife if you have it stuffed in your coffin. One of the girls has a psychic ability to determine if a grave is full of gold. When she finds a juice grave, the boys dig down and find nothing. She can’t believe she’s wrong and goes into the plot to kick around a little dirt. This leads to a major surprise as she plunges through a false bottom and dives into the old torture chamber. There’s lots of gold among the bodies that were allowed to use it as a catacombs. They also discover the Executioner’s corpse. Naturally one of the boys has to be King Arthur and see if he can pull the ax from the skeleton. This is when really bad things start to happen.
Grave Robbers has quite a few fine plot twists to keep it from being reduced to undead corpse with an ax chops up the local kids. There’s a purpose to his night of vengeance. Director Rubén Galindo Jr. and his crew keep up the tension and the carnage. The contemporary action takes place in one night so there’s no letting up. The gore effects are pretty gross including odd places that the Executioner’s arm pops up. The film has feels true to its location and not just people in Mexicans acting like they’re roaming the graveyard near Crystal Lake. You know this is a Mexican production about Mexican teenagers getting chased by a Mexican undead Satanist. This is an authentic shocker from the other side of the Rio Grande.
It’s strange that an exploitation film distributor didn’t create an English dub of Grave Robbers back in 1989 to put in theaters. But the real life horror story is that by 1989, screens for indie exploitation films was shrinking fast as the major studios upped the number of prints they released for their major films. The indie theaters were focused on the art house crowd so they weren’t looking for slasher films as they waited for the next Merchant-Ivory production. Grave Robbers is an amazing discovery from 1989 that smells fresher than anything from that era that lurked in a vault.
The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfer was struck from the negative and brings out the creepy charms of the cemetery. This looks so much better than if the film had come out on VHS at the end of the ’80s. The audio is DTS-HD MA Mono. There is only a Spanish track. But that’s ok since most of the dialogue is screaming. The movie is subtitled in English.
Audio Commentary from The Hysteria Continues! The horror fans give background on both the film and director Rubén Galindo Jr.
Unearthing the Past (19:25) catches up with director Rubén Galindo Jr. He explains how after making Cemetery of Terror and Don’t Panic, Grave Robbers was a horror film made for the Mexican film market. He didn’t want to have to bland things up to fool people into thinking they made the film in California. He’s still active in the Mexican entertainment industry.
Vinegar Syndrome presents Grave Robbers. Directed by: Rubén Galindo Jr. Screenplay by: Carlos Valdemar. Starring: Fernando Almada, Edna Bolkan, Erika Buenfil, Ernesto Laguardia & María Rebeca. Running Time: 88 minutes. Released: October 27, 2020.
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