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Dead & Buried(1981)
Something very strange is happening in the quiet coastal village of Potters Bluff, where tourists and transients are warmly welcomed… then brutally murdered. But even more shocking is when these slain strangers suddenly reappear as normal, friendly citizens around town. Now the local sheriff (James Farentino) and an eccentric mortician (Jack Albertson) must uncover the horrific secret of a community where some terrifying traditions are alive and well… and no one is ever really dead & buried.
For more about Dead & Buried and the Dead & Buried Blu-ray release, see Dead & Buried Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on January 21, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: James Farentino, Melody Anderson, Jack Albertson, Dennis Redfield, Nancy Locke
Director: Gary Sherman
» See full cast & crew
Dead & Buried Blu-ray Review
Don't let this gem get buried under the avalanche of new releases.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, January 21, 2009
Call it black magic. Call it a medical breakthrough. I'll take my secret to the grave.
Look no further than to Dead & Buried for a film that effortlessly captures the essence of the Horror genre. Released in 1981, just as the genre was beginning to take shape as something of a mass-market, mainstream phenomenon where unstoppable brutes and wise-cracking villains sliced and diced America's teenage population, Dead & Buried reveled in the genuine creeps and sheer terror of the unknown. The film is as much a mystery as it is a creep show, slow to unravel and sure to chill to the bone. Combined with a fair amount of gore, courtesy of special effects wizard Stan Winston (The Terminator), Dead & Buried is good old fashioned moviemaking, simple yet elegant, smart but not too complicated, and horrifying but neither reserved nor grotesque.
The small, idyllic New England town of Potter's Bluff is the site of a series of unexplainable murders, murders that seem as random as they are brutal. These killings are well-orchestrated and perfectly executed by not one, but a large contingent of the townspeople, but as to what end remains a mystery. Sheriff Dan Gillis (James Farentino, The Final Countdown) sets out to solve the crimes, and as time moves on, as the body count increases, and he pieces together an odd set of circumstances that seem to point to an even more heinous, diabolical scheme than the whims of a simple madman, he begins to lose his own sanity in the face of pure evil. All of those around him -- including the town's mortician, Dobbs (Jack Albertson), his friend, Harry (Robert Englund), and even his wife, Janet (Melody Anderson) -- seem to be playing a part in the crimes, but Gillis will have to rely on only his instincts and his own two eyes to reveal both the truth and a secret that will haunt him forever.
Dead & Buried is somewhat unique because the film reveals who is behind the killings from the get-go. Rather than simply playing as another "whodunit" with copious amounts of gore along the way, Dead & Buried leads audiences to ask "why?" rather than "who?" As such, the film smartly remembers that it is indeed the "why" that make for true terror rather than the "who," one reason why sequel after sequel of the Friday the 13th, Halloween, and A Nightmare on Elm Street series become diluted and meaningless. Dead & Buried understands the importance of keeping each element in check, and making sure to keep the story -- the "why" of the film, ahead of simply the "who," and, of course, ahead of the gore, which only plays in support of -- not in place of -- the story. Still, there is also a "who" element to the plot that comes to light as both Sheriff Dan Gillis and the audience (always a few steps ahead of the law) piece together the mysteries. Once enough information is revealed, there is never much of a question as to the figurehead behind the slayings, but the mystery remains through to almost the end as to the exact reasons for it. Dead & Buried keeps things simple, which is arguably its strongest asset. The revelation is explained but not completely so; the reasons for the events of the film make sense in the context of the finale; and the film features a twist in the final shot that makes it worth watching -- again.
Another unique aspect of Dead & Buried is its progression from camp to serious terror. The first two kills depicted in the movie play as rather silly and standard, the only saving grace being the piqued curiosity as it is revealed the deaths are group efforts, deliberately planned and methodically executed. As the movie builds, it develops a pace and plot that slowly but steadily grab audience attention until, much like a frog in a slow boiling pot of water, doesn't realize what has happened until it is too late, completely sucked in and perhaps wanting to escape, but with no recourse but watch the horror develop. The film's turning point comes mid-film during a sequence featuring an out-of-town family passing through Potter's Bluff, ultimately finding themselves searching through an abandoned home. The entire sequence is what cinematic terror is all about. The film creates a wonderful atmosphere, one that is dark and foreboding as silhouettes stalk the perimeter of the house, passing by or remaining stationary in front of a window, the moonlight outlining the figures and providing the only light in the home. The sequence develops from a quiet, uneasy one to an-all out race for survival action-horror piece that maintains the scares and brings a high level of tension to the film. It's not camp horror to be sure, though the film may have begun with that feel. Dead & Buried evolves into something more, a fabulous piece of Horror movie history that understands the genre very well.
Dead & Buried Blu-ray, Video Quality
Blue Underground digs up Dead & Buried for Blu-ray release, providing viewers with a 1080p, 1.78:1-framed transfer. Noise is prevalent over the opening credits sequence, and indeed, the entire feature. The print also exhibits plenty of nicks and speckles, but never to any detriment of the enjoyment of the picture. Colors are dim and dull; the film is littered with nighttime sequences and poorly-lit interior shots, contrasting with the pure white buildings and bright sequences seen during the daylight hours. Clothing is often dark gray and black as well. Still, make no mistake, Dead & Buried looks fine on Blu-ray; it comes from a different era, with no flashy visuals, just a dark, gritty look that translates well to high definition. This release does improve upon the level of detail, texture, and depth in many shots than seen in previous releases. The many nighttime scenes rely on strong blacks, and they do not disappoint, generally. A small amount of detail may be lost in them, but considering the picture is very dark to begin with, and detail is only moderately good considering the source, the dark scenes look about as good as they may. Flesh tones hold up well, and the detail in Stan Winston's effects shots offers plenty of grisly goodness. Dead & Buried won't be remembered as a particularly great transfer, but the results here are more than satisfactory.
Dead & Buried Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Dead & Buried features two 7.1 lossless soundtracks, one each of the DTS-HD MA and the Dolby TrueHD variety. Neither track is particularly aggressive, and neither stands above the other in terms of overall quality. Music and dialogue are the primary elements of the track, both of which are presented with a quality front-channel presence, sometimes accompanied by very subtle rear-channel environmental support. Despite a mostly front-channel presence, the track never feels cramped, as it spreads it legs and roams over to the front right and left speakers with decent directional effects and music. The track offers a few hints of good, solid lows, particularly in the form of a nautical foghorn that adds a spooky, foreboding presence to the proceedings, making for the best sound effect in the film. There is really not much more to offer with this one; it's a simple, to-the-point mix that supports the film in fine fashion.
Dead & Buried Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Dead & Buried unearths a plethora of bonus features for this Blu-ray release, solidified by a total of three audio commentaries. The first track features Blue Underground's own David Gregory and director Gary A. Sherman. The track focuses both on the basics -- shooting locations, the actors, and the story -- but also features a discussion about the development of the film and the changes in both tone and production companies it underwent during its creation. Gregory poses plenty of questions to the director, and converses with him in between, and Sherman replies smartly and fully, offering fans a wide array of knowledge. Co-writer/co-producer Ron Shusett and actress Linda Turley (Ron's wife) participate in the second track, again joined by David Gregory. Like the first track, Gregory asks questions of the pair, who share their own insight into various aspects of the film. The third and final track features cinematographer Steve Poster. This is easily the most technically-involved track on this release, with Poster discussing the look of the picture, the equipment used to shoot it, his own visual style, and more. Although not for everyone, this is the best track on the disc, and pleasure to listen to, particularly for budding filmmakers.
Stan Winston's Dead & Buried EFX (480p, 17:36) is a fascinating piece where Winston discusses his love for the Horror film and offers a brief history of the genre. He moves on to describe the stylish look of Dead & Buried and his numerous effects that grace the production. Robert Englund: An Early Work of Horror (480p, 12:23) is an interview piece with the horror icon. Here, he discusses his involvement in Horror films previous and, of course, in Dead & Buried. Dan O'Bannon: Crafting Fear (480p, 14:24) features the writer discussing his ideas of what makes for effective horror. The special features come to an end with the inclusion of an international trailer (480p, 2:28), the U.S. trailer (480p, 1:52), and the film's teaser trailer (480p, 0:27).
Dead & Buried Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Dead & Buried serves as an excellent example of what makes for fine Horror filmmaking. The film is never subtle -- but it's not an over-the-top gore piece either. It places story and character first, and slowly builds a plot that is as chilling as it is unusual, and featuring a twist ending that ranks among the best in cinema. Dead & Buried enjoys a cult following, and deservedly so. Hopefully, this fine Blu-ray release from fan favorite studio Blue Underground will increase awareness and acceptance of this fine piece of Horror movie history. The film looks fine for what it is -- Dead & Buried will never look like the glossy and glamorous new release Blu-ray discs, but this transfer is a looker in its own regard, and certainly a step-up from the studio's previous DVD release. The same may be said of the soundtrack. Despite two 7.1 offerings, the mix is largely limited to the front channels, though there is a subtle -- and welcome -- slight rear-channel and LFE presence. Where the disc truly shines is in the special features department, offering fans a wide array of commentary tracks and bonus features sure to satisfy. Dead & Buried receives an enthusiastic recommendation to Horror aficionados.
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