Vinegar Syndrome: Grave Robbers (1989) - Reviewed

Beginning in Fifteenth century Spain, the head of a Satanic sect whose demon summoning ritual is interrupted by a group of priests who condemn him to eternal damnation by way of a very large axe buried in his chest, leaving him locked in perpetual torment before hiding his tomb.  Centuries later, a group of young grave robbers searching for gold left with the dead to ensure their ascent to Heaven, stumble upon the hidden burial ground and inadvertently dislodge the fate sealing axe, unleashing a torrent of supernatural energies which manifest themselves in the form of a ruthless killer intent on picking up where the sect left off.  Unlike other curses which only go after the wrongdoers, however, this one goes after anyone and everyone who comes near it with more than a few exceptionally gory deaths left in the killer’s wake.

Equal parts exploitation and familiar genre fare, the recently released Vinegar Syndrome disc of Mexican horror director Rubén Galindo, Jr.’s Grave Robbers or Ladrones de tumbas is one of the great late 80s practical effects driven demonic curse slasher horror movies you’ve never heard of.  A prolific and underrated genre director whose credits include the Halloween horror flick Cemetery of Terror, Grave Robbers offers a unique spin on the genre tropes with colorful production design and lush cinematography.  Though Spanish in origin and setting, Grave Robbers is an exercise in Western influenced genre cinema paying both homage as well as serving up a new look at occult horror. 

A theatrical box office smash in Mexico, Grave Robbers otherwise remained completely unseen in the west until sometime in 2007 with a DVD collection known as Crypt of Terror: Horror from South of the Border, giving viewers their first taste of the cinema of Rubén Galindo Jr.  Though the good folks at Vinegar Syndrome have given this Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street crossbreed new life with a 4K restored widescreen transfer, Grave Robbers still flies under the radar for most horror filmgoers.  Hopefully with time that will change as this was an inspired slasher horror film that somehow hits all the right notes in every scene and gives horror fans something new to chew on.

--Andrew Kotwicki