Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Film Review: DEAD & BURIED (1981, Gary Sherman)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 94 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Dan O'Bannon, Robert Englund.
Tag-line: "The writers of ALIEN bring a new terror to Earth." and "It will take your breath away... ALL OF IT."
Best one-liner(s): "You can try to kill me, Dan. But you can't. You can only make me dead."

DEAD AND BURIED is one of those rare 80's horror films that manages to match, in chills and mystery, its creepily imaginative poster. Despite being directed by Gary Sherman (who wanted a black comedy), authorship to DEAD AND BURIED definitely belongs to writer Dan O'Bannon. All of his hallmarks are on display here: interest in mortuary employees, the moody blend of EC Comics and H.P. Lovecraft, mist-enshrouded mise-en-scene, and a thoroughly depressing and existential ending (a characteristic he shares with his first collaborator, John Carpenter). O'Bannon's endings are frequently John Huston meets Jean-Paul Sartre by way of Tales from the Crypt: from DARK STAR's oxygen-lacking astronaut to RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD's explosive finale. And, as such, thinking about DEAD AND BURIED, I must consider it moreso a bleak drama than a horror film. Sure, it has gore (courtesy of Stan Winston), imaginative kill scenes, a smidgen of T&A, and Robert "Freddy Krueger" Englund, but it also has O. Henry-esque plot twists and James Farentino moaning in the acting style of Harvey Keitel. While DEAD AND BURIED never reaches the heights of O'Bannon's RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, it earns very high marks- if we are to continue the Carpenter comparison, maybe ALIEN is O'Bannon's THE THING, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD is his HALLOWEEN, and this is perhaps his THE FOG. (Also of note is a scene involving a nefarious syringe-wielding nurse who was the obvious inspiration of similar scenes in both KILL BILL VOL. 1 and PLANET TERROR.)

-Sean Gill

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