Burglar from Hell is a grimy 1993 SOV horror film about a resurrected Jersey tough guy who goes on a violent killing spree. When a group of friends participates in a seance little do they know the killer buried in their backyard will rise from the dead! Starring Debbie D, Barry Gaines, and a host of talented amateurs the film is a violent yet hilarious oddity from the VHS horror heyday. The Blu-ray from Saturn’s Core and Vinegar Syndrome provides a respectable A/V package along with plenty of special features. Entertaining and gory this SOV horror film is Worth A Look.
“Lets go to our little house that awaits us in falcon street.”
Jersey tough guy Frank the Tank (Bryant Sohl) wears his KOOL cigarettes t-shirt proudly as he roughs up an old lady who he thinks is hiding jewels and cash in her crummy apartment. Turns out she’s also hiding a shotgun! After blasting away the hulk she buries him in her backyard but suffers a fatal heart attack afterward. A year later, 20-somethings Mike (Matt O’Connor, Hell on Earth II: The Arena of Death) and Jake (Ben Stanski) are fighting over why Jake has to leave their apartment every time Mike’s girlfriend sleeps over. Naturally, the two decide to rent a house on the Jersey shore for the weekend with their lovesick buddy Conrad (Barry Gaines, Jacker 2: Descent to Hell) and his witchcraft-loving lady, Token (Angela Jackson). For fun, the group of friends conducts a seance which raises Frank from the dead causing more chaos than their non-stop bickering at each other.
Burglar from Hell is a shepherd’s pie of horror tropes and early 90s optimism wrapped in a tasty crust of cheesy jokes. Utilizing surprisingly good gore effects and makeup applications Director Phil Herman helms a decent zombie slasher flick at the core of this SOV feature. Whether it's gushing stab wounds or Frank the Tank dismembering a victim, the effects are solid though some are sadly hard to read due to lighting and the limitation of the video format. When not showcasing pools of blood Burglar from Hell establishes plenty of drama and racial tension which it works through in its own twisted and hilarious way.
When Conrad and Token arrive things take an unusual turn for Burglar from Hell giving this VHS oddity some emotional depth and racial awareness that it doesn’t deserve but handles confidently. When the gang is driving to the house Conrad reaches across a divide to educate some guys on Black on Black crime versus the Klan’s supposed constant rampage of death in the Black community. “We could just live as one instead of colors”. Conrad then turns and leaves with his friends. Racism solved.
Performances in the film are quotable, memorable, and unforgettable! Not enough can be said about my new favorite villain Frank the Tank. The burly zombie is constantly cracking bad jokes while slicing away at his victims like a low-rent Freddy Krueger. It seems like actor Bryant Sohl would be the funniest guy at your bachelor party or the worst guy to grab a beer with. Just his portrayal of this wiseguy zombie makes Burglar from Hell worth a watch. W.A.V.E Productions regular Debbie D is Heather the sexy girl next door who adds some much-needed eye candy to the feature. Her scene with Frank offers the best moment of the whole movie when the damsel in distress kicks the zombie’s manhood off during the attack! Ben Stanksi and Barry Gaines handle most of the heavy lifting here with navigating roommates, girlfriends, and the onslaught of Frank the Tank with ease.
Unfortunately, Burglar from Hell drags quite a bit which could test a viewer’s patience. Driving scenes and dialogue exchanges are often at a snail's pace which when combined with the constant location changes can render you lost and confused until the next bloody attack. The constant dulling dramedy is coupled with the awful pain of handling a weekend away partying with local Victoria’s Secret models. Ya know, 90s problems and all that.
Thankfully this killer SOV horror always keeps you guessing! With plenty of gross effects, cheesy one-liners, and tasteful nudity this flick will keep you on your toes. Too much padding slows it to a creep but kudos to Burglar From Hell for honestly trying to solve racism and Black-on-Black crime. SOV horror fans will enjoy the flick as an entertaining and grimy production that slows down but never backs down.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Burglar from Hell arrives on Blu-ray thanks to Saturn’s Core and Vinegar Syndrome. The disc is housed in a transparent keepcase with a reversible slip featuring the original NSFW cover art. If you order from Vinegar Syndrome you score a limited edition slipcover. Loading the disc offers the Saturn’s Core logo before landing on the Main Menu screen with scenes from the film playing against typical navigation options.
From Saturn’s Core: “This feature was shot and edited on video. Please be advised that the transfer quality is confined by the limitations of the format.” Burglar from Hell arrives on Blu-ray in 1080p in the film’s original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The AVC encoded image displays the expected SOV patina that makes these films a time capsule of 90s no-budget horror.
This release sports a new transfer from a recently unearthed SVHS master tape giving the film its best look since its release back in ‘93. Colors are approximate though reds, greens, and blues are strong. Black levels are in flux constantly with faces, costuming, and entire scenes disappearing into darkness or consumed by static. Tracking issues abound and scene cuts are rough. I’d recommend watching the film in a dark room to catch all the elements hiding in those pitch-black sequences.
Burglar from Hell raises the dead with a serviceable DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track. Like Frank the Tank hiss and pop are a constant threat here but dialogue exchanges are discernible even when the suspenseful midi tracks are pumping. Volume levels are inconsistent throughout the feature so keep the remote handy.
Saturn’s Core loaded this release with plenty for fans new and old. The addition of two bonus films from Director Phil Herman make this a truly complete package. Start with the Herman interview then move on through the features and trailers.
Burglar from Hell has big aspirations for a no-budget horror flick shoehorning folk horror, racial issues, and relationship drama into a slasher comedy. I can see why cult audiences kept this film alive over the years. It has everything! Phil Herman and his band of friends went all out to create a memorable piece of SOV horror and my new favorite villain, Frank the Tank.
The Blu-ray from Saturn’s Core and Vinegar Syndrome sports an A/V package that presents the film in its best quality given the technical limitations of the source material. The film is entertaining for sure, but with these VHS oddities, it’s at least Worth A Look.