Dead and Buried (US - BD)
Gabe takes another look at one of his personal favourites in high definition...
Dead and Buried is a legendary, rowdy weekend rental from high school, and it’s pedigree was based purely on its iconic box art—dead, blue face cracking through flat, blue ground, endowed with the phrase ‘The Writers of Alien Bring a New Terror to Earth’. What could this mysterious motion picture possibly be about? Alien zombies? Coming from under the Earth? The phrase ‘A New Dimension in Terror’ only sweetens the bewilderment. Could it be the story of an inter-dimensional vortex breaking through the planet’s crust, filled with zombies?
No, the film has nothing to do with its cover besides the fact that there are some dead people buried during the course of the narrative, though in caskets, and entirely underground. But it’s hard to be disappointed when the real movie itself is so much fun. Dead and Buried is basically a successful feature length episode of The Twilight Zone, mixed lightly with the paranoia of The Wicker Man, and the pulpy terror of the best episodes of Tales From the Crypt, and it works very well.
Most of the film’s greatest success comes from its thick and creamy atmosphere, which is pushed quite far over-the-top to almost abstract measures. Artificial fog is pumped into almost every shot, interior or exterior, realistic or not. The mood is augmented by minimal lighting schemes, and hard pressed suspense. The film’s cast is above average, including a genuinely affecting James Farentino as the protagonist, a loopy Jack Albertson at his most eccentric, and a pre-Freddy Kruger Robert Englund. The story was crafted by several hands, but the screenplay was doctored by genre fav Dan O’Bannon, who doesn’t skimp on the likeable characters, or the dry-witted dialogue.
The film’s banned status in the UK during the Video Nasty era implies a much more violent feature then what’s delivered, but the horror crowd shouldn’t be disappointed by the level of malicious shock, and the lo-fi but effective gore effects (some courtesy of a young Stan Winston). Suspense is more important to the filmmakers, but thanks to the gruesome images, Dead and Buried manages to infiltrate the audience’s psychological calm a little more, and will likely stick with most folks several days after viewing.
On his commentary track cinematographer Steve Poster almost immediately starts talking about the purposefully hazy, grainy, and diffused look of Dead and Buried. Poster’s words taken into account, this still is not a Blu-ray for the demo pile. The print is very dark, not very detailed, and not particularly colourful. The dim, moody, and often entirely source based lighting is diffused to a point of major blooming and softness. Every set is filled with Ridley Scott-like smoke to create the illusion of coastal fog, creating a genuinely eerie atmosphere, but also adds heavy influence to the already heavy film grain. Hi-Def fanatics are likely going to find themselves disappointed with the film, but we must keep in mind that this was exactly how the film was intended to look. My only unfortunate note as a fan is that the disc is so affected by this look that the Blu-ray really doesn’t look any better than the DVD release, save a little compression.
As they did before, Blue Underground supplies several choices for its Blu-ray fans, but in the end it’s pretty much impossible to tell the difference between the DTS-HD and Dolby TrueHD tracks. Like the video, the audio is quite close to the DVD release. Both tracks are quite modest, and the 7.1 channels seem more than a little excessive. Basically this is a mono track, with a few very minor stereo effects (mostly vehicles moving in from off screen), and even fewer surround effects (mostly wind). The LFE channel and the overall effect of the surround channels are pretty much the sole property of Joe Renzetti’s Herrmann-esque score. The scare stabs are almost defining if you don’t watch your volume levels.
Extra-wise, this Blu-ray, like every other Blue Underground Blu-ray release, is a direct port of the studio’s initial DVD release. Things begin with no less that three audio commentaries. Most major studios probably would’ve edited these tracks into one mega track, which would’ve been easier for me as a reviewer, but not in-keeping with the studio’s ‘filmmakers first’ byline. The first track features director Gary A. Sherman, the second features co-writer/co-producer Ronald Shusett, and actress Linda Turley, and the last features cinematographer Steve Poser. David Gregory acts as moderator/interviewer for all three tracks.
The director’s track is the best, and most informative, including several interesting facts concerning the even dreamier nature of Sherman’s first cut, the addition of graphic gore, the genesis of the script, and the reasoning for the deliberate look. Shusett and Turley don’t have much to add post-Sherman, and despite Gregory’s best efforts, the most silent space. Poser’s track is quite valuable when reviewing the disc’s less than pristine video presentation, and actually covers quite a bit beyond cinematography, and the facts already covered by Sherman.
The extras continue with a series of interviews. ‘Stan Winston’s Dead and Buried EFX’ is an eighteen-minute chat with the maestro of monster effects, which takes on a hint of additional meaning now that the poor guy’s dead. Winston takes a fan’s look at the horror genre, puts himself into the mix, talks about the importance of special effects in horror movies, and his contributions to Dead and Buried. ‘Robert Englund: An early work of Horror’ is a twelve-minute interview with the Freddy Kruger player, who prattles about his pre- Nightmare on Elm Street career, and his work on the film. Englund’s remembering most of his cast mates personally is pretty endearing and impressive. Finally, ‘Dan O’Bannon: Crafting Fear’ is a fourteen-minute conversation with the often grumpy genre screenwriter. O’Bannon starts right off complaining about lazy horror movies that depend too much on violence. Actually, he doesn’t even like to use the title horror (he calls them ‘Weird Tales’). O’Bannon continues by turning things around a bit to praise George Romero, parts of Sherman’s previous film Raw Meat, and claims he had very little to do with Dead and Buried.
The extras are completed with a series of trailers.
Some of you may remember I included Dead and Buried in my first DVDActive Lost and Found article. I stole the idea from Rue Morgue magazine, who also thought it was a good enough film to include in their ‘100 Alternative Horror Films’ list. I’d go as far as to call it one of the best horror films of the 1980s, right up there with Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, Cronenberg’s The Fly, and Carpenter’s The Thing. The A/V quality of this Blu-ray release may rub some folks the wrong way, but we can assure you that this is the way the film was meant to look, if not necessarily sound (I’d like a mono option myself). Stay tuned for more Blue Underground Blu-ray releases—next up Argento’s Bird with the Crystal Plumage at the end of February, and Argento and Romero’s Two Evil Eyes at the end of March. I can’t wait.
*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 27th January 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master 7.1 English, Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 EX English
Subtitles: English SDH, French, and Spanish
Extras: Director Commentary, Writer/Producer/Actor Commentary, Cinematographer Comentary, Stan Winston's Dead & Buried EFX, Robert Englund: An Early Work of Horror, Dan O'Bannon: Crafting Fear, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Gary A. Sherman
Cast: James Farentino, Melody Anderson, Jack Albertson, Lisa Blount, Robert Englund
Length: 94 minutes
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