This week it's Gary Sherman's 1981 horror film Dead & Buried.
I have to admit that I cheated this week. I did not watch a VHS, but rather attended a special screening of the film at The Royal with Sherman himself in attendance. Considering I've spent almost every night this week at that theatre, there's been no time for anything else.
It had been about twenty-five years since I'd seen this movie, so it really was like watching it for the first time. And it's great. Dead & Buried is a really well put together film with good pacing and lively performances. I was a little awestruck by the large number of character actors that included the likes of James Farentino and Jack Albertson in his last onscreen role, as well as Melody Anderson (fresh off her role in Flash Gordon), Lisa Blount and Robert Englund three full years before putting on the Freddy glove.
Dead & Buried was based on a novel by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro and adapted by Dan O' Bannon & Ronald Shusett. Even though O'Bannon later disowned the film when he stated his contributions were cast aside, I can't help but see the shared sensibilities between Sherman & O'Bannon. Sherman's previous horror effort Death Line had a wonderful balance of horror and humour, as did O'Bannon's 1985 classic, Return of the Living Dead.
Sherman is a rare breed of filmmaker and part of the movement that began with George Romero in 1968 where the work can viewed on two levels. Dead & Buried was a deliberate attempt at political subtext (specifically totalitarianism), but it can also just be viewed as a straight up horror film, as well. I also really love that EC Comics style ending. It contributed to the feeling that though this movie may have been contemporary, its themes and lore were from a much older era.
Lastly, I must comment on the top notch special effects supplied by Stan Winston. Sherman has long had a love for in-camera effects – crescendoing in 1988's Poltergeist III but more on that later – and he paired up perfectly with a guru like Winston. The eyeball insertion involving Lisa Marie was so seamless, I actually had to ask Sherman himself how it was achieved. And yet despite all the effects, in a feat of clever foreshadowing, there is a deliberate lack of red throughout the film.
Dead & Buried was a solid film. It may not be as well known as some of the horror flicks from that era, but it should be. If you haven't taken the trip to Potter's Bluff, there's no time like the present. Especially when a little birdie told me there is a newly-minted 4K resto coming soon.
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