REPOST: Ladrones de Tumbas (1989)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is now streaming on Shudder!

OMFG Vinegar Syndrome is releasing Ladrones de Tumbas, or Grave Robbers, for the first time ever on blu ray complete with an interview with director Rubén Galindo Jr.! Here’s hoping that this is the first of a series of Mexican VHS era premium releases! All those rituals and all that blood — it finally pays off!

I am a complete fanboy for Ruben Galindo Jr. who made Don’t Panic and Cemetery of Terror. I’ve never been let down by any of his films so far and I am getting the idea that I may never be disappointed by them after reading the description of this film on IMDB — “Teenagers accidentally resurrect a Satanic killer who targets the local police captain’s daughter to birth the Antichrist.”

It’s like people are making the exact movies I want right now, except they made them in Mexico 31 years ago.

Like all great Satanic movies — I’m looking at you Black Sunday and Evilspeak — this movie starts in the past, as the executioner of the Mexican town of San Ramon throws in with the devil instead of God, assaults a virgin and battles the other monks of his order before he’s stopped with an axe right to the chest. He then says, “Some day someone will come and wrench the ax out. Then I’ll return with more power to father Satan’s son in one of your descendants.”

If you’re not all in, get out.

That descendent is Olivia, the lovely young daughter of Captain Lopez and she is the lone virgin amongst her slasher victim friends. Woe be to them, as they’re camping next to a cemetery that’s beset by — get this — grave robbers. That foursome includes Manolo, his psychic girlfriend Rebeca (trust me, Mexican films are not content to stay within one genre, they’re going to toss in every ingredient) Armando and Diana.

You may wonder if they’re about to find an abandoned church and tear the axe out of the body of the villain, setting this all in motion. Wonder no more. And when the first villagers die, of course the grave robbers are blamed by Olivia’s dad. So he does what any real cop would: he tells them to go find the axe killer themselves. Yes, two people are dead, they’ve been blamed and he asks them to be junior detectives.

I love this movie.

Nearly everyone dies — by axe, by magic, by getting mashed into a pulp, bye bye and adios — until a priest explains that a Satanic idol and the axe itself, not to mention a whole bunch of TNT, are what it takes to kill off the executioner. This being Mexico, the action is intercut with Padre Jeronimo conducting a midnight mass while the cop uses a machine gun to continually blast the undead killer.

This may not be the best movie I’ve ever seen, but it’s edging closer to that space every time I watch it, just by sheer force of will and my belief that if Fulci lived in Mexico, this is the kind of lunacy that he’d have made. As Mexican Nicholas Cage might say, “Eso es un gran elogio.”

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