Dead & Buried is a 1981 science fiction horror film directed by Gary Sherman, starring Melody Anderson, Jack Albertson, and James Farentino. The film focuses on a small town wherein a few tourists are murdered, but their corpses begin to reanimate. With a screenplay written by Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett, the movie was initially banned as a "video nasty" in the UK in the early 1980s, but was later acquitted of obscenity charges and removed from the Director of Public Prosecutions' list.
While the film made less money at the box office, it has received praise from critics regarding Stan Winston's special effects and Albertson's role. In addition to the film being subsequently novelized by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, the film has obtained a cult following in the years since its release.
James Farentino stars as Dan Gillis, sheriff of the small New England coastal town of Potter's Bluff. In the film's opening scene, a mob of townspeople attempt to kill a visiting photographer. He is beaten, tied to a post then set on fire. He survives and is taken to a hospital, where he is murdered just out of sight of the sheriff and the doctor.
More visitors are murdered by the townspeople. Sheriff Gillis, assisted by Dobbs, the local coroner-mortician (Jack Albertson), works hard to discover the motive for the killings. Gillis becomes increasingly disconcerted as a grisly death occurs every day. In each case, the killers photograph the victims as they are murdered.
Gillis accidentally hits someone with his squad car following an attack. On the grill of his car, Gillis finds the twitching severed arm of the accident victim, who attacks him and flees with the arm. After the attack, Gillis scrapes some flesh from the vehicle and takes it to the local doctor, who tells him that the tissue sample has been dead approximately four months. Gillis grows suspicious of Dobbs and conducts a background check. He discovers that Dobbs was formerly the chief pathologist in Providence, Rhode Island, until he was dismissed 10 years before for conducting unauthorized autopsies in the county morgue.
At the climax, it is revealed that Dobbs has developed a secret technique for reanimating the dead, and all of the townspeople are reanimated corpses under his control. Dobbs considers himself an "artist" who uses his zombies to murder the living in order to create more corpses on which to practice his reanimation technique. The Sheriff is unaware that he is also one of the living dead, having been murdered some time ago by his undead wife under Dobbs' orders. Gillis notices his hands decomposing, and Dobbs asks to examine them.James Farentino as Sheriff Dan Gillis
Melody Anderson as Janet Gillis
Jack Albertson as William G. Dobbs
Dennis Redfield as Ron
Nancy Locke as Linda
Lisa Blount as Girl on the Beach / Lisa
Robert Englund as Harry
Bill Quinn as Ernie
Michael Currie as Herman
Christopher Allport as George LeMoyne / Freddie
Joseph G. Medalis as The Doctor
Macon McCalman as Ben
Lisa Marie as The Hitchhiker
Estelle Omens as Betty
Barry Corbin as Phil
Michael Pataki as Sam
In a 1983 interview with Starburst promoting Blue Thunder, O'Bannon disowned the film, claiming that Shusett had actually written it by himself but needed O'Bannon's name on the project, promising he would implement some of O'Bannon's changes. Upon seeing the finished film, O'Bannon realised that Shusett hadn't included his material, but it was too late for him to take his name off the credits.
The opening shot depicting the central street scene in Potters Bluff was filmed along Lansing Street in Mendocino, California.
Rotten Tomatoes reports that 73% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on 11 reviews.
Zombiemania: 80 Movies to Die For author Arnold T. Blumberg wrote that Dead & Buried "is another fine homage to the EC Comics style of horror, with a story that also echoes the structure of a classic Rod Serling Twilight Zone episode," adding that the film is "a late-night treat that works best with the lights off and no foreknowledge of what's to come." AllMovie wrote, "it's easy to see why Dead and Buried never found a big audience. It is too plot-heavy for those viewers in search of a shock machine yet too visceral for the viewers who appreciate subtle horror", but complimented its "blend of creepy atmosphere and gruesome shocks." Writing in The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia, academic Peter Dendle said that the film "builds suspense effective and plays its genuine twists well, so long as you don't ask too many questions of the everyone-is-in-on-it-but-one-person plot." Glenn Kay, who wrote Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide, called it a "solidly entertaining picture" and praised the special effects work by Stan Winston.