One of the best things in horror (or any genre) movie is the ability for a story to subvert all expectations and give you that sweet twist. I remember watching The Sixth Sense and when Bruce Willis finds out he’s actually a ghost. Holy shit! And what about the biggest twist in all movies when Darth Vader tells Luke Skywalker “I am your father.” What I wouldn’t give to go back in time to be in a theater and hear those reactions. How about in Psycho where Lila discovers Mrs. Bates to only realize that the lady has been dead the entire time! Then Norman comes running down the stairs dressed as his mom! He screams “learn your fucking pronouns!” and boom, the audience lost their minds.
If you really want to know where the “plot twist” went complete balls to the wall, then look no further than Rod Sterling’s The Twilight Zone. The damn gremlin on the wing of the airplane. The alien race that wants to “serve man.” The lady who has an ugly face… to then reveal that she is hot as hell and everyone else is butt ugly pig looking people! Holy humping horny grandpa that stuff is awesome.
Plot twists are a significant ingredient to a big cake. The seal to the deal that makes a movie come into place. M Night Shamalan has made his entire career on giving us twists and it seems that movies with a great plot twist always amass a great deal of attention. These are the kinds of movies where your cousin Vicky calls you and asks “so did you see this movie? Oh… my… god! You have to see it.” Now how can you argue with cousin Vicky? When you are sitting in your cubicle at work and the head of the company comes down to chat about this movie, you get all excited and accidentally say “fuck yea” in front of him. Now there goes your raise.
Twists can be the determining factor that makes a movie great and can often times make a boring or uninteresting movie seem awesome. That’s why slow burn horror films like Hereditary or Midsommar get so much talk.
I love good plot twist and one of the best movies that goes under the radar of great plot twist horror films would be none other than 1981’s Dead & Buried.
Dead & Buried is a 1981 horror film directed by Gary Sherman. The director behind other horror films like Death Line and… yuck… Poltergeist III. Well, you can’t win em’ all can you? The film stars a tremendous cast of James Farentino, Melody Anderson, Lisa Blount and the Grandpa Joe himself Jack Albertson. But this would actually be Albertsons second to last film before shockingly dying of cancer. Stan Winston did the effects on this movie. Combining Winstons effects and Albertsons brilliant performance and you have yourself an awesome movie. To this day Dead & Buried remains a cult classic of Bronze Age horror.
This movie is about a small town called Potters Bluff where people are mysteriously dying due to strange circumstances. Town sheriff Dan Gillis is on the case but must continually consult with the town mortician. As the body count increases, Sheriff Gillis is led down a rabbit hole of mystery and deceit.
What I love about Dead & Buried is it’s kind of like a zombie movie, but one that is in a disguise. Where most zombie movies of the age like Night of The Living Dead and 1979’s Zombie have mindless walking flesh eaters, Dead & Buried is a more intriguing group of murdering suspects. Right from the beginning you are given enough information in knowing that these town people kill outsiders. They absolutely decimate people and take photos of them while they’re dying. It’s odd but adds a certain spice of insanity to each slaughter.
The movie is an interesting journey and it’s on this journey of detective work that our eyes are suddenly opened just as much as our character Sheriff Gillis. The movie is a great example of “dramatic irony.” That’s when you as a viewer understand more about the situation than the main character. But what we know is just maybe one step ahead of the Sheriff. We know people are dying and the towns people are killing them. We also know that mortician Dobbs is a real peculiar dude.
While Sheriff Gillis is walking blind, we have somewhat an idea of where it is going. But some how Dead & Buried brings the viewers and the main characters knowledge all together at the right point. Along the way we get to see some sweet kill scenes brought to us by legend Stan Winston.
This has some awesome deaths and will make any Bronze Age fan happy. This is kind of interesting because we’re so accustomed to Winston and his great creature effects. But not as much his gore. Usually when I label effects artists, I always put Winston in the big prop maker or suit designer. Where Tom Savini was more of the gore king. But Winston truly kills it in this movie. Sure it may not be up there with The Thing or Aliens but this is prime gore.
One thing people will love is the acting. If this movie stands out above the entire Bronze Age catalog, it would be that it’s performances are better than most. Everyone is brilliant. James Farentino as Sheriff Gillis plays the part of the frustrated cop that has his world crashing down around him. Jack Albertson will always be known as Grandpa Joe but it’s in Dead & Buried where he truly shines. I find myself drawn to the scenes where Sheriff Gillis and Dobbs are talking to each other. The entire time, they have this strange relationship. They banter at each other for the oddest reasons. Dobbs goes into these long spells about being an artist and how he works wonders by reconstructing the dead to look good.
“Look at this, look at the work I’ve done. This is an art and I am the artist.” – Dobbs
Could you imagine having a conversation with someone like that? Gillis thinks Dobbs is a freak and Dobbs knows it. But Dobbs plays along with Gillis the entire time. This relationship adds to the climax of this movie and makes everything you’ve seen and know about Gillis and Dobbs have so much more depth. Actually, the more I watch this movie the more I see how 2010’s Shutter Island kind of ripped it off.
With the great acting of Albertson and Farentino, mixed together with a deep and rich plot full of mystery and peril. Told in a brilliant looking oceanside atmosphere, Dead & Buried should be on everyone’s watch list this horror season. The tone of the film is thick and rich, with the coastal shores and typical American small town vibes. If you’re someone that likes a good mystery or cop drama then it’s right up your alley. With the casual lounging music of the saxophone, I sometimes think of a Humphrey Bogart detective movie with that cliche voice over.
“It all started with a murder you see. A murder of a man we don’t know and I’m just a beaten down cop, trying his best to solve this murder. But all I get are arguments with the town coroner. An old guy, kind of cranky and real into himself you see. But that’s my job and you handle it one day at a time.”
Things seem pristine and orderly but to quickly shift gears into chaos and brutality. It’s a good flow from slow to fast paced energy. But it all works for a great ending and one that will remain in your horror memory bank. It offers a sweet twist to an already great story and character. I wish more people would see it and appreciate a film not normally talked about. That’s why I proudly put 1981’s Dead & Buried as my day three film for Horror Movie Marathon 2021.
Thanks For Reading!
Thanks for reading my post! Below are four more films from the past day three of my Horror Movie Marathons! Check them out!