1: The Opening Scene
DEAD AND BURIED has the most horrific opening scene Iâ€™ve ever experienced and it still haunts me to this day. It seems no matter how familiar I become with this scenario it never fails to unnerve me. Itâ€™s pretty simple; a photographer on a beach bumps into a pretty girl and she offers to pose for him in increasingly seductive ways. Just as heâ€™s thinking heâ€™s gotten lucky, a mob of random townsfolk beat the living daylights out of him, wrap him in a net, and set him on fire. So many things disturb me here; the betrayal, the trickery, the cruelty, the horror of being outnumbered, the way his face is monstrously distorted beneath the netting, the chilly calmness of the attackers, my Frankenstein-like general fear of fire and just the simple nightmare of going from contentment to pure horror so swiftly. Yikes.
2: The Cast
Vastly underrated JAMES FARENTINO (THE POSSESSED,1977) portrays everyman Sheriff Dan Gillis and he sturdily grounds the entire film. Iâ€™d put his journey of existential self-discovery on par with the protagonists of BLADE RUNNER (1982) and ANGEL HEART (1987). MELODY ANDERSON is equally well cast as his sometimes doting, sometimes darkly mysterious wife Janet who can change shades from kewpie doll cute to Noir dame sultry at the drop of a hat. JACK ALBERTSON (WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY) is as quirky as he is sinister and DEAD AND BURIED boasts his final cinematic performance. Horror fans will surely be happy to see ROBERT ENGLUND in one of his early pre-Freddy roles and LISA BLOUNT (PRINCE OF DARKNESS) is the ultimate ice queen.
3: The Cinematography
Thanks to cinematographer Steven Poster (who was also DONNIE DARKOâ€™s director of Photography), DEAD AND BURIED has a distinct look all its own. Itâ€™s gauzy, foggy, murky and Iâ€™d bet, completely immune to being sharpened by a high definition upgrade. Itâ€™s almost like an amorphous dream, soft around the edges, where you canâ€™t quite clearly get a visual handle upon everything. If the overall gritty rawness werenâ€™t enough the story allows a further visual deconstruction via out of focus, BLAIR WITCH-style homemade snuff films that eventually weave their way into the gruesome proceedings as well.
4: The Town
You can almost smell the saltwater when you visit DEAD AND BURIEDâ€™s little town of Potterâ€™s Bluff. There are many visual references to coastal life and franchise stores are nowhere to be found, every joint is a mom-and-pop shop. The entire place feels lost in time and youâ€™re more likely to see a 1950â€™s hairdo than anything resembling then current eighties fashion. Director GARY SHERMAN (RAW MEAT, 1972) wanted the kill scenes to pop and therefore regulated that the color red (even car lights were changed to purple) would not be visible unless it was due to the sight of blood. This consistency of the muted hues makes the filmâ€™s setting (in my eyes) resemble decades away video games like RESIDENT EVIL or SILENT HILL more than its fellow eighties horror films.
5: Stan Winston’s Special Effects
STAN WINSTON is a veritable genius and DEAD AND BURIED lets him show off his talents frequently (he’s not responsible for a lesser effect shoehorned into the film’s climax by producers). The one effect I do want to specifically point out involves a victim bandaged head to toe who comes to a bad end thanks to a hypodermic needle being shoved into his lone exposed eye (!). Here’s the thing; rather than an actor being wrapped in bandages, WINSTON created an entire mechanical body beneath to squirm and react to the horrific fate! I would never have known that based on the film itself. It’s an incredible, seamless effect.
BONUS: Favorite Line:
My favorite line is the last one delivered just before the credits roll but I won’t share that here in fear of ruining the ending for a first-time watcher. Suffice to say it is spoken ALBERTSONâ€™s character, Dobbs the elderly local coroner/mortician and it hits like a casket slamming shut.
Hey all, The other day I wrote a review for a movie but right before I posted it I re-read it and found it to be really cynical and dismissive and it just left me with a bad feeling. I decided what I really wanted to do was gush about a movie I loved instead. Recently Iâ€™ve been re-obsessed with D&B so I wrote this â€œFive Favorite Thingsâ€ post and it really helped me get away from those negative vibes. Iâ€™m thinking Iâ€™m going to do another on HELL NIGHT soonâ€¦
Anyway, I invite all our readers to write a â€œFive Favorite Thingsâ€ post about a horror movie they really adore and send it to email@example.com . Iâ€™ll put together the images and weâ€™ll post it. I think it could be a really cool way to rally around some films that deserve it and I think we could all use the positive energy. Give it a try!
Great movie with great scares (and a terrific poster as well)! I found out a few years back that Jack Albertson was actually dying of cancer when making this and succumbed not long after filming was completed – you’d never think it given his amazing performance.
Neat idea, unk!
I tracked down DEAD AND BURIED after reading about it in a Fangoria ‘hidden gems’ book, and although I can’t remember much about it (I watched it about 15 years ago) other than its atmosphere and sense of dread, I’ll definitely give it another watch soon.
I heard that too. Apparently he was able to make it to the premiere in a wheelchair. Jack Albertson really is great in this and what an interesting part for a final role!
Wayne Austin Godchild,
D&B seems to get better every time i watch it! And thereâ€™s some aspects of it I think I understand better now that Iâ€™m older. I think I was about 14 when I first saw it at a drive-in- loved it ever since!
This is awesome, Uncle L! Hmm, now I need to figure out which movie to do this with…
Excellent! I was hoping you’d participate!
Nice. It is such a deeply atmospheric horror film. This is one of those films that migth be less accessible and unappreciated due to the things that I really like about it. I find that the direction, cinemetography and performances give the filma an evil dream-like quality, but I know that many younger viewers do not share this opinion.
Great idea with the FFT. I just need to pick one…
Also – Wayne – https://archive.org/details/fangoriamagazine
has a nice Fangoria collection. Some real classics.
I remember seeing this at the cinema or drive in (sadly, of very few I thought was worthy of my time in those busy days to bother seeing), as something that inside told me it might be quaint and something different, just like I thought in my head about the independent The Evil Dead when it came out, although I had not seen reviews for either or if I had, they had been panned by pompous reviewers but given a glimmer of hope due to their conceded “originality.”
On the outside, this movie looked like scores of other movies promoted at the time, before one took the risk to see it. Additionally, aside from the gruesome special effects at the time that would be commonplace today, I sense a quaintness and style to the movie that would not have been beyond the realm of some of the better supernatural ABC Movies of the Week that were released in its Golden Age, with a few known stars as opposed to the “raw” shocking films of unknowns, like Night of the Living Dead or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I think it reminds me of the milder George Hamilton film, “The Dead Don’t Die,” which featured the best scene ever of the unforgettable Reggie Nalder – the “funeral parlor” scene, which was unforgettably kindertraumic to this kid when even seen on afternoon broadcast TV in the early-mid 70s.
In my personal experience, as well as it appears many here on the site, while the movie did not change my life or its outlook, or the movie industry in general, I can give it about the nearest high compliment in that things about it “stuck with me,” and “I never forgot about it”, unlike the flood of cookie-cutter films of that now-appreciated age (while I like my films grainy, faded and with sound pops to give the nightmare fantasy of another world (even in my non-horror films), which the Seventies and earlier provides, after the 1980s my taste for films sputters out – I am particularly tired of the foul-mouthed, obscene, self-obsessed and spoiled teenagers grousing over their harried parents these days (in film and elsewhere), and find myself cheering for the monster to relieve their parents and the rest of us of their menace).
As a scientist in my former profession, I really appreciated the scene with the acid hoses and effective nasal irrigation (as someone with sinus problems and need to irrigate daily myself, I have considered a similar remedy). I have not seen this film since 1981 when it came out (although I have secured a copy along with others yet to see), I never forgot that scene, or the aforementioned eyeball one.
I wonder if the writers of this movie could have been remotely influenced by what I believe to be maybe the spookiest thing ever shown on TV – the early 60s Thriller episode, “The Incredible Dr. Markesan” – maybe itself a candidate of my own “Five Things” entry?
If anybody’s interested, my new book, “Two Masters and Two Gospels, Vol. 1,” is now out on Amazon and everywhere else, and it has a LOT of true weirdness within its pages.
Just out of curiosity….what was the film you had originally planned on reviewing?
So true. D&B does play like a bad dark dream about mortality. Very adult with no teen characters (except maybe the hitchhiker who doesnâ€™t last long). Iâ€™ve always loved it but appreciate it even more as I get older.
I picked up DEAD DONâ€™T DIE on VHS recently. Havenâ€™t seen it in years- canâ€™t wait to watch again! That acid hose scene is something else! Congrats on your new book!
I did a triple feature of BODY COUNT (86), BLOOD LAKE (87) and MOONSTALKER (1989) BC was passable but the other two really tried my patience- I may still post it later- Iâ€™m glad that it at least inspired me to write about a move I love instead!