Dead and Buried (1981)

Potter’s Bluff is one of those perfectly gorgeous New England coastal towns. You know, the kind where visitors are beaten, tied to a post and set on fire while people take photos of them. And then, when they survive, nurses stab them right in the eyeball with a syringe.

Dead and Buried was written by the Alien team of Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett and featured Stan Winston special effects, so the poster was justified in shouting, “From the people who brought you Alien…” Unfortunately, those people do not include Ridley Scott, as we have Gary Sherman directing this (he also helmed Poltergeist III). That said, O’Bannon disowned the film, claiming that Shusett had actually written it by himself but needed O’Bannon’s name on the project to get it made. He never made any of O’Bannon’s suggestions before it was produced.

Sheriff Dan Gillis (James Farentino, The Final Countdown) is our hero and he is working with Dobbs (Jack Albertson, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and TV’s Chico and the Man), the town’s coroner/mortician to solve the murders that have gripped their small town. And with each one, a photo of the murder is found.

As Gillis rushes to a suspected attack, he accidentally hits a man, whose arm is stuck in the grill of his car. The man attacks the sheriff, then takes his arm and runs away. Further research shows that a tissue sample of the man shows that he has already been dead for four months.

The sheriff begins to suspect everyone, including Dobbs, who he learns was fired from his last job for conducting unauthorized autopsies, and his wife Janet (Melody Anderson, Flash Gordon), who has begun to teach witchcraft to her students.

It turns out that Dobbs has learned how to reanimate the dead and that nearly everyone in town — I’m looking at you, Robert Englund — are under his control. He considers himself an artist who improves the lives of the dead after he controls them. Just then, the sheriff notices that his hands are rotting and Dobbs offers to repair him. That’s because he’s been dead all along, as his zombie wife had killed him during sex, a scene he watches as its projected on the wall.

Dead & Buried has a great trailer that it lives up to. While it feels very Carpenter-esque, it lacks the style and verve of his films. That said, there are some interesting touches, such as the director avoiding the color red throughout the film so that the murders would be more shocking.

If you can find a copy, I’d certainly recommend this movie. I’d been wanting to see it for years and while it’s not the best horror film of the 80’s, it’s something different that isn’t so well known.

UPDATE: This film is now streaming on Shudder!

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