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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Day 136: Dead & Buried

Dead & Buried
Well, not completely buried if we're being honest

I got stuck out in a downpour for about 5 minutes yesterday and today my throat feels like it came in contact with Kim Kardashian. I don't get sick all winter and now this. Thankfully it's just a sore throat for now. I can't even remember the last time I was sick. But what is healthy and sick? What if I've been sick this entire time and never knew it? What if being sick is really being healthy and we're all just slowly dying by drinking orange juice and getting exercise?! OK, that's a bit too much even for a horror fan, but it is a nice segue to my review of Dead & Buried.

Dead & Buried is a 1981 horror movie starring James Farentino (The Final Countdown, Dynasty) as Sheriff Dan Gillis. Dan works for the small New England town of Potter's Bluff. The film begins with a young photographer visiting the local beach and meeting a beautiful young women who seems interested in him. It's all a ploy as a mob of townspeople captures the photographer, ties him up, and sets him on fire, all in broad daylight. A serious of strange murders committed by mobs of townspeople occur throughout town and Dan, tries to get to the bottom of it. He has frequent discussions with the eccentric local mortician, William Dobbs (Jack Albertson, Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, The Poseidon Adventure). Dobbs describes what he does as art and speaks as if he is in love with his work. Dan also discovers that his wife has been studying black magic and voodoo, making him concerned for her well being and also raising the possibility that she is involved in the murders. She has also been spending time with Dobbs. The murders continue and it appears that people who have been killed are now turning up around town as very much alive. Dan's suspicion grows and he contacts the Providence, Rhode Island police department about Dobbs. It turns out Dobbs was the chief pathologist in Providence until being dismissed for conducting unauthorized autopsies and experiments on bodies from the county morgue. Has Dobbs found a way to bring back people from the dead and how will Dan stop him?

His hair was provided by a Ken doll

The story in this movie unfolds very much like an episode of the Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. You have a general idea of where things are going, but are still surprised when they actually happen. The ending in particular has a twist fit for a Rod Serling narration. While the story is interesting, entertainment is where the movie becomes hit or miss. There is some action and a bit of mystery, but the pacing is really off in some parts, leading to boredom and stagnation. I was annoyed that the movie introduced characters just to kill them. I understand that they wanted to convey the killing of outsiders, but if we know that's why the mob will do, it's not shocking or surprising.

The mob killing remind me somewhat of The Wicker Man and they have a good amount of gleeful violence not particularly common in 1981 mainstream movies. The psychological chess match between Dan and Dobbs is interesting, but you never get the sense that Dan is actually going to outwit Dobbs. It doesn't really make for a gripping story when your main character can't go toe-to-toe with the villain. The acting is pretty good throughout with James Farentino and Jack Albertson playing their parts well. There's even a young Robert Englund in the movie with a small role. This took place a few years before his iconic turn as Freddy Kruger and was a nice surprise. The creepiness of the film lies in knowing who the killers are right from the beginning and then watching Dan get closer to the answer. It's also where annoyance towards the character comes in and you just want to shout at him for being such a shitty detective. 

Hey, Netface! Why are you stuck in a net, Netface?

Dead & Buried has it's creative moments and might be better suited as a short story or a television episode. I wouldn't mind seeing it remade with some modern techniques and a slicker production, maybe for a Masters of Horror type show. The movie does have a few jolts and a general creepiness, but it's not particularly scary. The conclusion of the movie ends on a Twilight Zone-style down note, which was fun, if not a little expected. The acting is good, but the pacing is off, causing for a sluggish watch. Dead & Buried isn't a must see movie, but you don't have to avoid it either.


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