Dead & Buried (Dead and Buried) (1981)
Dead & Buried (Dead and Buried) (1981)

Genre: Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 34 min.

Release Date: October 9th, 1981 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Gary Sherman Actors: James Farentino, Melody Anderson, Jack Albertson, Dennis Redfield, Nancy Locke Hauser, Lisa Blount, Robert Englund, Bill Quinn

 


 

A

St. Louis photographer (Christopher Allport) arrives on an idyllic coastal stretch to shoot the wildlife, various bits of abandoned fishing equipment, and other detritus. But before he can take too many pictures, he meets a beautiful young blonde, playfully dubbed Lisa (Lisa Blount), who seduces him – or distracts him – as he’s suddenly attacked by a mob of armed men, who beat him with shovels, tie him to a post with a fishnet, douse him in gasoline, and light him on fire. It’s a frightfully spontaneous transition from a peaceful vacation setting to nightmarish violence, made more shocking by Joe Renzetti’s deceptively serene music.

The town is Potters Bluff, clearly a haven for some dangerous denizens. The professional photographer’s charred – but not dead – body is soon found in his car by the police, who suspect an accident rather than a murder attempt. Coroner and mortician G. William Dobbs (Jack Albertson) analyzes the horribly disfigured body, while Sheriff Daniel Gillis (James Farentino) heads the investigation – which is scrutinized by the townsfolk, primarily to see what the authorities know about the incident, rather than out of genuine curiosity. After all, Potters Bluff houses a mysterious clan of killers, who proceed to attack and mutilate hapless visitors, passerby, and derelicts.

Although the cast doesn’t particularly stand out (they range from entirely adequate to moderately unconvincing, with a brief role by a recognizable Robert Englund as a tow truck driver), the screenplay by Ronald Shusett and Dan O’Bannon is certainly of note, since it was the writing duo’s next project after “Alien” (“Phobia” was penned in between, though O’Bannon didn’t receive an official credit), despite the fact that O’Bannon later admitted that he merely doctored the script instead of actually writing it. It isn’t a sci-fi epic, but it definitely shares the same affinity for unexpected violence, creepy scenarios, and the disturbing accrual of bodies. And it makes nice use of the unknown, as the small town harbors plenty of secrets – not only from the conspiratorial nature of the locals and their odd behaviors, but also from abandoned structures (cinematically haunted houses) and slaughtered victims who don’t seem to want to remain dead and buried.

“You’ll catch the murderer. I know you will.” The design of the film tends to resemble “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” but with more of an otherworldly twist (perhaps borrowing some of the flavor of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” through rural arenas, paranoia, distrust, and forced assimilation – as well as “The Stepford Wives,” with its various shared themes). It’s ultimately one man against the whole town, made even scarier by the growing misgivings between Gillis and his wife Janet (Melody Anderson), the only person with whom he can confide. When neighbors and other familiar acquaintances suddenly become suspects to heinous acts, the solitude is altogether disquieting; anyone could be in on the occult scheme.

“I’ll take my secret to the grave.” The mysteries and motives may take a bit too long to come to light (and are decidedly difficult to buy into), but the delays create additional opportunities for boo-moments and gore. Thanks to Stan Winston’s makeup effects, the bloodshed is one of the more redeeming qualities. Unfortunately, despite the fascinating horror concept (something that might work better as an episode of a TV show as opposed to a theatrical release), the end result isn’t entirely satisfactory, opting for a fitting sense of morbidity rather than a sensible resolution.

– Mike Massie

  • 5/10