First of all, credit is due to to the website where I discovered ‘Dead & Buried‘ (1981), the Video Nasties Project, which is a blog devoted to the exploration of the 79 B-movies that were banned by the British Nanny State after the explosion of the home video market in 1979.
A list of all 79 of the ‘banned’ movies is available here, but as we all know, because something is banned it doesn’t mean that college kids and high schoolers aren’t going to figure out a way to smuggle the item home from the Continent or a summer vacation in the US.
For some reason, each of the 79 movies on the VNP list got the dander of right-wing British pols like Mary Whitehouse, a member of the British equivalent of America’s Moral Majority. Importantly, Whitehouse was interested in prohibiting all sorts of ‘morally degrading’ crap like cannibal zombie movies and ethically ambiguous junk like ‘I Spit On Your Grave‘ (1978). Well, the Video Recordings Act 1984, which was all but irrelevant by 1997 — just in time for DVDs.
‘Dead & Buried‘ a/k/a ‘Dead and Buried’ (1981) was written by Dan O’Bannon and Ron Shusett, the screenwriters better know for their 1979 hit ‘Alien‘. I should add here that Shusett and specifically O’Bannon were responsible for several other big genre his of the ;70′s, ’80′s and ’90′s, including John Carpenter’s ‘Dark Star‘ (1974), ‘Total Recall‘ (1990) and ‘Return of the Living Dead‘ (1985), so O’Bannon’s B-movie water-into-wine chops are pretty formidable, given that he was inspired by the dross of ‘Queen of Blood‘ (1962) and ‘It! The Terror from Beyond Space‘ (1958) to make ‘Alien‘ (1979). ‘Dead & Buried’ is the Shusett-O’Bannon take on the small New England town of Stephen King’s ‘The Fog’ (1980) or the seaside community of H.P. Lovecraft’s ‘Dagon‘, yet ‘Dead & Buried’ takes the high concept of the bucolic horror locale one step further.
More to the point, ‘Dead & Buried’ is a strange sort of mash-up of ‘The Stepford Wives’ and some sort of zombie movie. While that may just be a huge spoiler, the pleasure is in the execution of the thing and the pleasure of watching the whole thing play-out. The only thing that hurts Dead as a film is the 27 years of twist-ended films that have been made since 1981. As a writer myself, I can’t help but to watch Dead today and imagine the numerous ways in which the story might be updated for contemporary audiences.
Dead stars James (‘Ironside’/'Melrose Place’) Farentino as Sheriff Dan Gillis and Jack (‘Chico and the Man’) Albertson as the town Coroner-Undertaker. The typical sort of seaside horror-drama gets set up when a number of visitors to the scenic Potter’s Bluff keep turning up dead, only to have their bodies disappear from the morgue. For genre fans, the movie features early performances from both Robert Englund and Prince of Darkness‘ Lisa Blount.
It’s not quite a classic but it’s a necessary film for any self-respecting horror buff to investigate. It’s definitely a movie that warrants a second look, if not a remake.