Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Dead & Buried (1981)
Dan O'Bannon is together with Larry Cohen my favourite screenwriter. If there's someone I always feels inspired by it's O'Bannon, and it hurts a lot that I never got a chance to meet and talk with him. What he did, just like Cohen, is proving you can write about the most absurd subjects and concepts and still make a good movie from it. An original movie, or just extremely interesting. I mean, Alien isn't that original - it's a combination of earlier, older movies, but set in the gritty seventies - but still in the future, and as a haunted house movie instead. See, it's still original. What O'Bannon did with frequent co-writer Ronald Shusett was to take b-movies seriously, and that often made them better than typical mainstream flicks. Dead & Buried was one of the first movies in the sub-genre "Small Town With a Dark Secret" I saw and it still is one of my favourites.
James Farentino is sheriff Dan Gillis who lives in the small town of
. One day they find a badly
burned man in car wreckage, he's still alive, but so hurt that it's impossible
to communicate with him. Soon an identical man starts working at the gas
station and the original victim gets brutally murdered. More people die and the
good sheriff starts to think it's something very fishy in his little town. Is
there black magic involved? Is it eve impossible for people to die in Potters
Bluff? Potters Bluff
Dead & Buried is filled with mysteries and oddities and a great gallery of original characters, just the work to expect from Dan O'Bannon and Roland Shusett. It's hard to deny the Lovecraft-feeling over the story, but maybe it's the small town in Lovecraft's The Shadow Over Innsmouth that's the inspiration, just like in Carpenter's The Fog, Amando De Ossorio's Night of the Seagulls and official film adaptation like Stuart Gordon's Dagon or Dan Gildark & Grant Cogswell's Cthulhu? Dead & Buried certainly belongs in the same category - the dangerous conspiracy of a small coastal town.
I think the intimate atmosphere in small towns scares us all. I'm from a small town, and lived in even smaller places, but I had to get away from there because of the mental inbreeding. The sense that everyone knows who you are and what you're doing. That's not style. That's the finest with this horror movie concept and it still comes back from time to time. The countryside IS dangerous. Maybe not in physical way, but like Cthulhu up here shows, it's a breeding ground for racism, homophobia and just egoism - in a way that never happens in a big town. I have nothing against small towns, but I prefer staying there at the most two-three days.
Anyway, this is one of many things that Dead & Buried deals with. But it's foremost a horror movie, dealing with strange powers - or is it a new science? The atmosphere is stunning, foggy and filled with an interesting feeling of dread - right under the charming American gothic. Everything feels dirty, dishonest, and still so cute and cuddly. It's hard to explain, but I see it like someone who smiles without smiling. Just muscles moving, no meaning behind it. That's what director Gary Sherman and the screenwriters created.
Most of the grisly effects is done by Stan Winston, except one scene - and it's very visible that it's not Winston who's done the effects. It's a cool scene, but has none of the realism that you can see earlier or later in the movie. Overall is a more grisly and nasty film than I remember it to be, which is good. I see horror movies because I want to see horror, not family movies.
Dead & Buried as a genuinely good twist, gore and blood and a great cast (watch out for Robert Englund in a smaller part, and Lisa Blount - from Ruggero Deodato's Cut and Run!). It's a very good and original movie and a perfect midnight matinee, maybe a double bill together with Messiah of Evil...