Dead & Buried

Dead & Buried (1981)
Blue Underground
Cast: James Farentino, Robert Englund, Lisa Blount, Jack Albertson, Nancy Locke
Extras: Commentary Tracks, Featurettes, Trailer

To many, Gary Sherman's "Dead & Buried" is one of the horror highlights of the early 80s, and everyone who's seen the picture will immediately agree that it is an extremely effective and atmospheric horror film that perfectly blends 80s splatter sensitivities with classic, gothic horror elements and a cool thriller-like suspense story. After a successful DVD release a few years back, Blue Underground has now tackled the film once again and is presenting it here in high definition on a brand new Blu-Ray release.

Potters Bluff is a small fishing village somewhere on the West Coast. It appears quite normal, quiet and serene and even attracts the occasional tourist. However, these tourists will soon learn that something is horribly wrong with the place, as the people of Potters Bluff brutally murder their visitors in the dead of night.

Sheriff Dan Gillis (James Farentino) is desperate in finding the psychopath seemingly roaming the streets of his town as the bodies continue to pile up. Mutilated, incinerated, eviscerated, it is hard to believe that someone capable of such atrocities should walk among his friends and neighbors. He tries to get to the bottom of this case but by doing so his whole world seems to collapse around him.

As I said in the opening, the film is extremely effective and you will be sitting tight in your chair watching the horror unfold. With extremely suspenseful plotting, and very deliberate camera work, "Dead & Buried" is truly a small gem that is overlooked all too often. We also get quality acting which further helps to bring the story to life and to create the chills necessary to make this movie effective. The recipe is topped off with some gorgeous cinematography and direction that conjures up images of classic 30s horror movies in their brooding style. Combined with special effects guru Stan Winston's gory set pieces, the film is just leaps and bounds above the average 80s horror fare. The only shortcoming the film really has is that some of the victims show signs of the how-could-you-not-know-that-you-should-not-do-this syndrome that is so typical of genre films.

Releasing "Dead & Buried" in high definition is a two-sided sword and I do have to applaud Blue Underground for jumping into the challenge with both feet. Shot on a budget, "Dead & Buried" has by nature some severe technical limitations which, as I expected, become blatantly evident in high definition. In particular, the grain that is evident in countless shots of the movie is quite substantial and is a limitation of the film stock used to produce the film. It is noticeable in particular during night time scenes where light conditions are less than perfect. The film is also very soft throughout and you will look for sharply defined edges in vain as many of the scenes appear to be shot through a milky filter, enhancing the nightmarish quality of the movie.
Once again, I think it is important to stress that this are limitations of the original film and what you see on this Blu-Ray version is an exact replication of this, the film's look. While I have no doubt that many viewers will consider this an inferior release as a result of it, as they expect Pixar-like super-definition transfers, not knowing and understanding that the problems are inherent in the source. At the same time I am impressed with Blue Underground to take that risk and offer up a film such as this in high definition regardlessly. It allows them to wet their feet a little, as the problem will become more prevalent with many other films in Blue Undergrounds, particularly when the studio will begin mining those European horror films, such as the Fulci and De Ossorio classics that were shot in 2-perf mode, reducing the image resolution even further.

The color reproduction of the film on this release is very good, with saturated colors and faithful skin tones. While the palette is somewhat muted at times, once again, it is by design, and it is probably the only thing that truly dates the movie. Black levels are surprisingly good and strong, creating wonderful and deep shadows that are much better than on the previous DVD version.

The studio has also sponsored new audio tracks for this release once again, offering up the presentation in DTS 7.1 HD as well as Dolby Digital 7.1 TrueHD. The audio has been remastered and remixed to create a wide sound stage with good surround usage. Not overly aggressive, of course, but subtle and effective, the track also has an expanded frequency response with deeper basses and clean high ends. Dialogues are well integrated and always understandable, never sounding too harsh either. Unlike the DVD version, on this release you will also find subtitles in English, French and Spanish

No less than three commentary tracks can be found on this Blu-Ray version, culled from the DVD. The first one features director Gary Sherman as he reminisces about the production, moderated by Blue Underground's David Gregory. It is a very informative track that doesn't shy away from getting technical at times and thus relays a lot of valuable insight.
The second track is with co-writer/co-producer Ronald Shusett and actress Linda Turley – now Mrs. Shusett. The track is also moderated by David Gregory who does a good job in keeping the conversation going throughout the film, though there are a few gaps where the participants rather let the movie speak for itself.
The third track is featuring cinematographer Steve Poster and David Gregory as they discuss the film from an almost purely technical standpoint. You don't get to hear many of these tracks any more as bonus materials become increasingly watered down and as such this one is more than welcome. Very detailed and insightful, to me this is almost the best commentary on the disc.

Also included is the movie's theatrical trailer as well as some additional gems in the form of the featurettes that were also part of the DVD release. The first one covers Stan Winston's work on the movie. Running for almost 20 minutes, it starts out with an overlook over Winston's career and his background, as told by himself, and then covers "Dead & Buried" in more detail.

Robert Englund is the center of the second featurette. Englund, of course, plays a supporting part in the film and he seems more than happy to talk about the experience of making this film. Talking about how he got involved, how the production came along and his fellow cast members, this featurette more than any other underscores and captures the enthusiasm that must have gone into this low budget movie with everyone trying to give 110% to make this a memorable film.

Dan O'Bannon, one of the writers of the film, is the focus of the third featurette. O'Bannon, who is probably best known for his work on "Alien" and the horror comedy "Return of the Living Dead," gives us a good glimpse into the origins of the film, the ideas and the influences, as well as the hurdles to get it made.

All of the bonus features are presented in standard definition.

"Dead & Buried" is a fascinating movie that belies its low-budget status on so many occasions and Blue Underground's presentation here puts the film back on the big genre map where it rightfully belongs. The studio went to great lengths to make sure this is a top notch presentation without blemishes, featuring the entire, uncut and uncensored version of the movie. While this may not be a showcase Blu-Ray Disc, the image improvement is noticeable and would warrant an upgrade.

Stylish, imaginative, gruesome, atmospheric, chilling and terrifying are the words that come to mind when thinking about the film, and if these words start to get your imagination going, there is no question that you have to go and get this disc.