D&B

1981’s Dead and Buried is a film with a troubled production history. A look at the credits shows how many hands were officially involved in its making. It doesn’t show how many people were unofficially involved. As director Gary Sherman has recounted in various interviews over the years, different people in charge of the film’s production wanted different things from a finished film. This resulted in changes being made that the director and the original writers not only disagreed with, but had no had in. They all hated the changes that were made, and at one point there was even a threat of legal actions against Sherman if he helped make changes that made the film closer to its original print version despite these changes being requested by the distributor who also felt the original vision was better. Dan O’Bannon has even said in interviews that he felt almost embarrassed by the final product as it no longer made sense.

Despite all of this, the film still manages to have something about it that works on many levels, and it’s become a solid cult film in the horror community.

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Dead and Buried plays out on the screen almost like an extended length episode of The Twilight Zone. Things happen and you aren’t quite sure why or how. Slowly, the things happening get stranger and darker in nature. Standing in the middle of it all trying to make sense of it is one man, Sheriff Dan Gillis, wonderfully played by James Farentino, who finds himself slowly being dragged deeper and deeper into an insane and unreal world around him until he’s finally lost in it forever. When that moment happens, the twist of the knife to Gillis the film delivers leaves the audience almost as shocked as Gillis. Then, in classic Twilight Zone style, you’re left with not a resolution in the standard way one expects, but rather an ending that leaves everyone in a terrifying new reality. 

It’s not a film that’s heavy on action or one that hits the viewer with visceral scare after visceral scare in rapid fire style. It’s a slow build, but it’s a build towards a moment of horror and revelation that makes the viewer realize how many small, odd moments in the film, some in the background and almost unnoticeable when they happen, were put in place to clue the viewer in on the fact that the entire world we’re seeing in the small town of the film’s setting is very, very wrong. It then rewards the viewer in subsequent viewings when the viewer notices all the little clues they missed before. 

So, how did Richard feel about a film such as this? How did guest Christopher Sakowski feel about the film? You can find out by listening to the show at its SoundCloud page or by listening below with the embedded player. 

DEAD AND BURIED, Lisa Blount, 1981

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