One of the subgenres of horror films I always loved that has virtually disappeared was the classic small town that held the most terrible of secrets. A good example is Children of the Corn a bad example (but still a fun movie) is The Stepford Wives. Twin Peaks fits this genre also with a classic small town setting but totally bizarre townspeople.
The creators of the original Alien, minus Ridley Scott, decided to do a film in this vein for their follow up. The film is called Dead and Buried. I don’t remember this film from its original release in 1981 but the good folks at Blue Underground have seen fit to bring the movie back to the masses in a Special Edition 2 Disc set and now on a special edition blu-ray version.
The cozy town of Potters Bluff, Rhode Island appears to be the perfect little town to visit for a bit of rest and relaxation. It’s a fishing town with docks and boats scattered all along its beach. A photographer snapping pictures on the beach meets a beautiful young woman. Soon he begins taking pictures of her. Suddenly, he is dead.
Other transients and travelers are warmly welcomed to the small town only to be brutally murdered and then reappear working around town. The Sheriff’s wife seems to be having an affair, and has become interested in voodoo and the occult. During his investigation the Sheriff discovers that the town mortician is dedicated to an extreme degree to making the dead bodies look as good as they looked when they were alive. As the Sheriff digs deeper he finds answers that will change his life forever.
“Dead and Buried” is a creepy little tale full of great atmosphere and strange characters. The film moves along at a very slow pace that just serves to enhance the creepiness of the town and the characters. The acting, cinematography, and special effects are all top notch for the time. Look for Robert Englund (Nightmare on Elm Street) to play a small but effective role in this film.
Dead and Buried features a ground breaking special effects sequence by Stan Winston where he breaks down the skull of a corpse and rebuilds it, make up and all, in one continuous shot. The scene is filmed from the perspective of the mortician so all you see of him are his hands as he works on the head. So, Winston put on rubber gloves and did the work himself while the cameras rolled. The simple but classy way the cinematographer moves up from Stan’s hands to reveal the mortician (Jack Albertson in his final role) in one continuous shot is a must see for anyone interested in the art of filmmaking.
Dead and Buried isn’t for the short attention span gore freak. It sneaks up on you. They don’t make movies like this anymore. Although a bit dated Dead and Buried is still one of the best combinations of creepy atmosphere and gory shocks available today.
The 1,78:1 VC-1 presentation makes this film look as good as it’s ever going to look. The film’s original cinematographer was brought in to supervise the transfer in order to maintain the style of the film during the HD transfer process. The final product still features a good bit of film grain but it comes off dark, as it was meant to be, and still featuring some solid detail considering the age of the film. Darker scenes don’t disappear into a pool of murkiness which could easily happen with a film of this quality and age. The print appears to have very few blemishes too. Dead and Buried looks its age with this presentation but it also looks substantially better than it has ever looked on home video before.
Blue Underground always takes the audio option as far as they possibly can with their special edition releases and this Blu-Ray is no exception. The primary audio option is DTS-HD Master Audio track. There’s also Dolby TrueHD option. Both tracks are lossless 7.1 audio mixes and they are hard to differentiate between. Probably the main reason there’s not much difference between these two mixes is the source material. This film was originally presented in mono so Blue Underground had just the basics to work with when building these mixes. The biggest issues with the audio are that the presentations are overall just a bit flat with no real dynamic range and the audio is mixed a little low. The minimal use of the surround speakers is relegated to just ambient sounds and just a little directional use in some bits of dialogue. Overall the audio is good considering the age of the film but it doesn’t sound as good as the audio feature list would lead you to believe.
The Bonus Features
All studios should look to Blue Underground to learn how to do extras for cult movies. Do they just drop the movie into stores in a cardboard box? No. This blu-ray edition features three commentaries! The commentaries feature insight from Director Gary A. Sherman, Co-Writer/Co-Producer Ronald Shusett and Actress Linda Turley, and Cinematographer Steve Poster. The Poster commentary also covers the transfer to home video as well as the original production of the film.
There are several featurettes on the disc too carried over from the original two disc DVD release. An interview with Stan Winston covering his special effects work in the film is the best of the bunch. It’s great to see him take pride in his work on this film considering all the work he has done since. There’s also an interview with Robert Englund in which he discusses everything from getting the part to his attraction to another cast member. Finally there is an extensive interview with Dan O’Bannon in which he discusses his true involvement with “Dead and Buried” as well as his opinions on crafting fear. The set also includes trailers. Some still galleries were left off this release that were originally on the two disc DVD edition.
Blue Underground really did a great job with this Special Edition. The packaging is quite attractive, the film itself is a cult classic, and the extras are some of the best available on any DVD Special Edition.
The Movie 8/10
The Video 8/10
The Audio 7/10
The Bonus Features 9/10