(1981) director Gary Sherman
Somewhere in my brain, the image of the movie poster for Dead & Buried was buried but alive. It may have been those many trips to the video stores in the 1980’s. It’s a fairly striking image, standing out from its competitors for one’s more ghoulish attention simply in its eerie aesthetic, which doesn’t actually tell you much about this film.
As it touts, “the creators of Alien“, the writers of that film, worked on this screenplay. As little as the movie poster indicates the narrative, any connection with Alien is perhaps even further afield.
When I started watching the movie no bells rang in my head that I’d seen it before. The film opens with a photographer on the beach, snapping artistic pics. He’s approached by a nice, attractive young lady, who is interested in his camera. But rather than a seduction, we have an attack by a number of small towners on the unwary photographer. What gives?
Actually for quite a while, the film emanates a weird The Wicker Man (1973)-like image of a small, insular community that harbors some dark secret that most everybody is in on. And to an extent that parallel is true, but the twist is an altogether different one, well worth its own sort of Twilight Zone-ish irony. And strangely, it wasn’t until the very end, this final twist, that the film started feeling more familiar. In the end, I guess I must have seen it at sometime in my youth.
I have to go into the spoilers here so stop reading if you’re interested in the film. The twists are worth finding on your own.
But for those of you who don’t mind getting it all spelled out for you, it turns out that the town mortician has perfected his science to the point that he can preserve people perfectly, better than perfect, and his methodologies also evoke voodooism, bringing the dead back to life, a bit like robots more than zombies but definitely as dead bodies. The real kicker of the twist is that the small town sheriff who has been trying to get to the bottom of this, his wife is one of the dead. Actually, the whole town is dead. The mortician just kept needing to work so he’s killed everyone, and pretty gruesomely as well (so that he would have some challenges in his work), and of course, our sheriff himself finds out that he, too, is dead. But not buried.
Definitely more eerie and ironic than purely frightening. It does indeed evoke The Wicker Man; it might make a good double feature with that film. But it’s well worth seeing on its own.