Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Dead and Buried
Dan Gillis is the sheriff of Potters Bluff, a small seaside town in Rhode Island where not much happens. The sheriff’s monotonous days come to an abrupt end when a visiting photographer is found in his car on the verge of death, the apparent victim of a car accident. The sheriff becomes suspicious, convinced that the photographer was the victim of foul play. Before he has the opportunity to question the poor fellow, the photographer is murdered in the hospital.
Soon other tourists are murdered and Gillis begins to question the trustworthiness of his friends, family and acquaintances as he investigates the grizzly crimes. What the audience knows but Gillis doesn’t is that the tourists are being murdered by the everyday friendly townsfolk of Potter’s Bluff (this is established in the prologue). Gillis’ investigation is later thrown for a loop when the dead tourists begin to reappear in his town, seemingly fine. Just what is going on in Potters Bluff?
Wow, I’m so glad I didn’t know anything about this nasty, little film! Dead and Buried turned out to be a wonderful discovery and it comes with excellent credentials, having been written by Dan O'Bannon (co-writer of "Alien" and writer/director of "Return of the Living Dead") and Ron Shusett (co-writer of "Alien") with special effects by Stan Winston. Opening with an eerie, simple piano theme accompanied with shots of a misty, seaside town, the film immediately establishes an otherworldly feel. Cinematographer Steve Poster steeps this idyllic setting with lots of shadows and fog achieving a claustrophobic, inescapable sensation. At times I was reminded of The Fog and Halloween III and more than once Twin Peaks, especially during a random scene where the town’s elderly mortician discusses his embalming techniques with a clearly distracted Gillis. The deaths are violent and unsettling. One scene involving a needle jabbed in an eye evokes D’Argento.
I was somewhat disappointed in the M. Night Shyamalan “twist” ending, which was completely unnecessary. One death-by-acid-injection is completely unconvincing and no doubt provoked titters from the audience at the time. Overall, however, Dead and Buried is a brisk, unsettling horror film that has been overlooked due, no doubt, to the large glut of early 80s horror movies. I didn’t know anything about this film but I always remembered the cool movie poster, which intrigued me. Terrific fun.