Small Town, Big Secrets (Dead & Buried, 1981)

Originally written back in 2011 on an old blog, now reposted since the film was featured on The Last Drive In.

1981 really was a banner year for horror movies, primarily when it came to werewolves: An American Werewolf in London, Wolfen, and The Howling. From the writers of Alien, Dan O’ Bannon and Ronald Shusett, and the director of Raw Meat, Gary Sherman, came a lesser known and somewhat underrated flick called Dead & Buried. Just like Raw Meat and Strange Behavior, this film was quite different from much of the horror fare that was more commonly found in the genre at the time.

In fact, much of this movie has the feel of a lost 80s Twilight Zone episode, or a short story from some famous horror novelist. The small town of Potters Bluff, nestled in New England has some rather dark secrets. Primarily the fact that the residents kill off anyone who has the misfortune to stop by in the town, or just be passing through. Unlike some other films, this movie gets right to the point with that fact: the opening scene quickly descends into a crowd of locals burning a hapless victim alive.

Despite some clearly obvious cliches, Sherman and O’ Bannon/Shusett aim for a distinctive atmosphere that actually works. The characters themselves aren’t too well drawn out, but the local town corner and the in over his head sheriff are rather interesting people, and they help drive the film’s plot. Most of the kills are rather shocking due to the rather simple fact that ordinary people ganging up on you and murdering you with a smile and not even thinking twice is something straight out of many nightmares.

Naturally a film like this has to have some rather stark twists, and this one does not disappoint. Even though Dead & Buried has a couple of rather large plot holes, and the movie at times is sketchy, the twists and the movie being overall solid is enough to overcome those. And all things considered, this was really just a dry run for O’ Bannon’s 1985 cult classic Return of the Living Dead.

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