Don’t be alarmed if the sudden appearance of this obscure gem takes you by surprise. This is a Region 0 DVD, which is being distributed by a German company called Dragon Film Entertainment. As this is a rare European disc, which is in NTSC format, it’s being sold by many import shops around the country. As ’Dead & Buried’ is currently not available in a domestic version, I thought that it would be worth checking out this disc for you. The film is presented in a non-anamorphic widescreen and is letterboxed at 1.66:1. This framing appears to be fairly accurate, although there is some warping at the edge of the screen at times. Keep in mind that this is the only way to see this film on DVD when I say that the actual picture leaves much to be desired. For one thing, the picture is very grainy. However, this isn’t your normal grain, which seems to move and have a life of its own. This grain is stagnant as if we were viewing the film through a dirty lens. The image quality is very inconsistent, and some of the scenes are very dark, while others are very bright, bordering on white-hot at times. Fortunately, there are also some scenes that are perfectly fine. The good news is that there are few obvious flaws from the source print, and that there are no problems with artifacting or compression.
The audio on the DVD is a Dolby Digital Mono track. The dialogue is clear and audible, although there are noticeable dips in volume at times, and there are audible pops from the soundtrack during the last third of the film. The DVD contains the original theatrical trailer for ’Dead & Buried,’ but sadly the image is so dark, that it’s basically unwatchable. The only other extra on the DVD are filmographies for the principal actors, the director, and the co-screenwriter.
Now, with all of that out of the way, let me talk about why this DVD even merits a review. ’Dead & Buried’ was released in 1981 and got lost amidst the ’slasher cycle’ of the period. This is a great suspense film that deserves to be re-discovered. James Farentino stars as Sheriff Dan Gillis of Potter’s Bluff, a small coastal town. While Potter’s Bluff is a nice quiet place, any stranger or newcomer to town is murdered by a mob of people who photograph and film the violent acts. While Dan is investigating these murders, he notices odd behavior from his wife Janet (Melody Anderson, Dale Arden from ’Flash Gordon’) and the town’s mortician Mr. Dobbs (Jack Albertson in his last theatrical film). To tell anymore would give away the story, but let me just say that ’Dead & Buried’ plays like a perverted take on ’The Stepford Wives’ and has one of the best shock endings this side of ’Sleepaway Camp’. Actually, with the small-town setting and the number of characters in ’Dead & Buried’, it plays a lot like a Stephen King story. Director Gary Sherman lets the film’s pace slide at times, but the intriguing and multi-layered story, from a script by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusset (who also wrote ’Alien’ together), keeps things moving. Look for some early (and laughably bad) special effects from Stan Winston and an appearance by Robert ’Freddy Krueger’ Englund. ’Dead & Buried’ is a perfect example of 80’s horror. It’s violent, fun and doesn’t pull any punches. If you didn’t see any horror movies on Halloween that spooked you, ’Dead & Buried’ is definitely worth digging up.