Dead and Buried (1981)
First Released: 1981
Director: Gary Sherman
Current UK Status: Passed 18 uncut
The excellent film, Dead and Buried, had an X-rated cinema release in 1981 which was uncut. In 1983 the same uncut version was released by Thorn EMI on home video, and this was added to the Video Nasty list in November 1983. However, the film was quickly dropped from the list a little over a year later, in January 1985. The achieve an 18 certificate for The Video Collection release in 1990, the film was cut by 30 seconds, and when Polygram re-released it on video in 1999, all cuts were removed. Since then the film has been re-released by both Anchor Bay (2004) and Optimum (2007) with both versions remaining uncut.
The director of Dead and Buried has said “I love making movies. You know, I’ve kind of just wandered through my life trying to have a good time, trying to do what I felt was important, without really focusing on my career, and I’ve been very fortunate”(IMDB). Judging by his movie output (11 movies in 40 years), Sherman is a man who likes to take his time, however, thankfully most of his output has been very good indeed. He also directed a number of TV series, and has also worked as a producer and writer on many of his own films. Sherman was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1945, and after studying design and photography at Illinois Institute of Technology, he started making short movies and music clips. As a teenager he also worked as a session musician for Chess Records, where he also got the chance to be a backing vocalist doing harmonies for Eric Clapton’s hit record, The Shape of Things. In the 60’s Sherman was very active in the Civil Rights Movement, and on top of this directed a number of TV commercials before making his first proper film, a little seen documentary called ‘The Legend of Bo Diddley’ (1966). It took seven years for Sherman to direct his full length feature film debut, the gritty and very dark horror Death Line (Raw Meat)(1973). Starring Donald Pleasance, the film told the story of some rather nasty things happening on the London Underground. Again, after the success of Death Line, it would be a further eight years until the classic horror Dead & Buried was unleashed. Over the next two years Sherman directed two TV movies, Mysterious Two (1982) and The Streets (1984) as well as another feature length movie called Vice Squad (1982). The eighties were certainly a busy year for the director as in 1986 he directed the brilliant Rutger Hauer starring Wanted: Dead or Alive. After a brief TV series episode for a show called Sable, Sherman directed the horrendously bad Poltergeist 3.
During the nineties Sherman made another horror called Lisa (1990), which was followed by two TV movies, After Shock (1990) and Murderous Vision (1991), this was followed by work on TV series Missing Persons (1993-94), Poltergeist The Legacy (1997) and Wind on the Water (1998).Sherman returned to movies with the well received horror, 39: A Film by Carroll McKane (2006), and the last we have seen of him as a director was his work on TV series The First 48: Missing Persons (2011) which he also produced.
Now, with a small yet rather impressive list of films behind him it would be hard to pick a favourite, but for Me Dead and Buried is a stroke of genius. A film that cleverly turns the Zombie genre on its head, and even to this day, feels incredibly fresh and exciting. The film benefits from Sherman’s dark, moody and raw atmosphere along with his usual expert actors all delivering terrific performances. In fact, for horrors of the 80’s, it was rare to have a cast who were all excellent, and all quite believable, and watching this today, it makes me think that when this first came out it must have terrified viewers. This is raw, dark and uncompromising horror at its very best. There is no room for silliness here, there is very little comedy, and very little escape from the intense and merciless claustrophobic feel to the film. The production values here are top notch, and with a ferocious score and plenty of mist being used, the whole thing adds up to one of the most haunting and high quality horrors to have come out of the 80’s. Dead and Buried is a film that deserves your attention, and in all honesty, should never have been put on the DPP list. Granted there are a couple of very unsettling and horrific scenes here, but nothing that you wouldn’t have seen in the latest Arnie film.
The plot here is not too complicated at all, although it does have a real nasty and surprising sting in its tail. Basically, people are coming to the creepy, coastal town of Potter’s Bluff, and the locals are attacking and killing them, and then the dead people suddenly appear again, alive and well, but as a Zombie. However, these are not your usual slow moving, arms outstretched “BRAINS” screaming Zombies, these very cleverly look very human indeed. So human, it will be hard to spot them. James Farentino superbly plays the local, confused Sheriff Dan Gillis, and he is investigating the murder of a photographer. Not only that, he is also concerned that some guy he accidentally ran over left blood traces on his car, blood traces of a man who died three months ago. Sheriff Gillis wants answers, and we spend the film following him around as he searches for clues as to what the Hell is going on in his town.
The film is set up perfectly with sinister and haunting shots of the town of Potter’s Bluff, and the cold and creepy beach. With some chilling music accompanying the spooky visuals, within a minute we get the impression that this is a serious horror, and a clever one. However, we are quickly introduced to Sherman’s savage violence and incredibly well designed scares as a photographer takes photo’s of a mysterious woman he has just met on the beach. Claiming she always wanted to be a model, she removes her top and the excited photographer shoots away as if his life depended on it. He is then offered sex, and as he moves forward, out of nowhere a local appears, and all of a sudden a whole group of them turn up and beat the poor man within a inch of his life. It is shocking, violent and sets the film up well. The poor chap is burned alive, and this becomes the case the Sherriff focuses on. Within ten minutes we know exactly the type of horror we are watching, and the often slapstick tone of many of the great horrors of the 80’s is not on offer here. This is intense, scary stuff, and as you are on the edge of your seat watching the coroner peep into a rolled over car at another body, the dead person suddenly screams and your nerves will be all over the place!
The relentless pace rarely lets up, although there is room for a very small amount of light hearted entertainment. Jack Alberston excellently plays William G. Dobbs, the man who puts dead bodies back together in order to make them look good again. He is almost obsessed with his work, and provides a few whacky moments of insanity as he explains to the Sherriff exactly why he loves his job. A further funny moment comes from a drunk stumbling around a cave on the coast, mumbling away to himself in an over enthusiastic drunken way which sadly doesn’t convince, but is very funny. Sadly though, this is all the comedy your going to get, because once Dobbs has been introduced, the film never heads back to any sort of pointless comedy, now the film continues to get darker and darker and more intense. The Sheriff is baffled, many visitors to the town come and end up dead, and the Sheriff’s wife is teaching the school pupils about Zombies. This is far from a normal town, and the superb atmosphere created by director Sherman and his team help keep the whole film rather frightening.
Superb make up effects are used to create some truly revolting scenes, like one of the finest needle in the eye scenes you will ever see, another man’s face melted with acid being pumped into his nose, and another scene which almost defies belief. A woman has had her face crushed with a rock by the locals, and she turns up at Dobb’s mortuary where he rebuilds her face. In a stunning collection of shots, we see how the face is rebuilt, but it is once the face is finished that Sherman pulls off a stroke of genius. We watch as Dobbs pulls on the eyelids, and even inserts a fake eyeball to the woman’s face, and then with no cutaways, once Dobbs’ back is turned, she sits up! It is an incredible piece of camera trickery which has to be seen to be believed. With effects as good as this, and feeling of total dread lingering over the whole film, Dead and Buried is a master class in sheer terror. If you need further proof of just how frightening this film can be, watch again a scene where a family arrive, lost and head down the misty road only to be forced off the road. They head into a house with no lights on and search around for help. As the husband goes into the basement, we focus on the Mother and her young Son, and in the background you can see the shadow of one of the locals hovering. It is chilling to the extreme, and you kind of don’t want the film to take things much further. However, the film does go further as the locals smash their way in and attack the family. Sherman keeps things as believable as possible for a film like this, never wanting to go too far over the top, but using basic scares for maximum impact.
Dead and Buried is a terrific piece of suspenseful and very chilling horror. It may be violent in places, but it should never have been on the Video Nasty’s list. Scary, intense and with superb performances by all involved, Dead and Buried is one of the finest horrors the 80’s had to offer, and even now stands the test of time as one of the most important, inventive and brilliant horrors of all time. This is a film that simply has to be seen by every horror fan, for it is what is known as a classic of the genre. Pure cinema brilliance, and a rare treat.
Did Dead and Buried deserve to be on the Video Nasty list? Not a chance!