Dead and Buried (1981)

Dead and Buried (1981)

“What the hell is going on in this town?!”

As the sheriff (James Farentino) of a small coastal town investigates a mysterious rash of violent murders perpetrated on tourists — with many of them coming back to life — he begins to wonder about the potential involvement of the local mortician (Jack Albertson) as well as his own wife (Melody Anderson).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Horror
  • Living Nightmare
  • Zombies

Co-scripted by Alien screenwriters Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, this horror-thriller is based on a provocative premise, but fails to deliver on its promise. The shockingly violent opening sequence — in which a photographer (Christopher Allport) is seduced by a beautiful woman (Lisa Blount) on the beach, then nearly burnt alive by a group of locals who photograph and film the proceedings — is truly terrifying, and becomes more so as Allport’s perpetrators suddenly show up around town in other guises. This narrative structure quickly begins to wear thin, however, as we witness one tourist (or set of tourists) after the other suffering the same fate, albeit via different sadistic methods (presumably to show off gory special effects). Clearly, this film is meant to play on the trope of small-town hospitality masking something much more sinister, but we see too much viciousness and not enough initial hospitality to engage our interests.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • An effectively unsettling opening sequence
  • Atmospheric cinematography

Must See?
No; you can skip this one unless it’s your cup of tea.


One thought on “Dead and Buried (1981)

  1. First viewing. Not must-see – although apparently it has an enthusiastic fan base as a cult item.

    It’s rather evident that – like various other sci-fi / horror artists – O’Bannon and Shusett watched all kinds of sci-fi / horror films, growing up – and as adults. Here, they sort of squished together a few of the plot elements they’d seen before, while attempting to come up with a ‘fresh angle’.

    If they’d been more clever about it, they might have pulled it off. Alas, the result here is more of a mash-up than a genuine mind-fuck… and it ultimately leads to something that is a cheat on its own terms.

    Nice touch: The name of the town ‘Potters Bluff’: here, ‘potters’ would be people who ‘pot’ or bury things; but when it’s a ‘bluff’, those things are not really buried.

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