Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dead and Buried

Welcome to Potter’s Bluff, a small coastal town where things aren’t always as they appear. The film gets twisted fast, as we follow Officer Dan Gillis and his investigation of a sudden surge of violent murders against a few unlucky outsiders. Chock-full of all the necessary elements to create a truly bizarre viewing experience, including half-cooked heads, an obsessive mortician, missing corpses, and a run in with the black arts, Gary Sherman’s Dead and Buried is a refreshing take on the zombie mythos.

Keith’s Take:
Judging by Dan O’Bannon’s track record (Return of the Living Dead, Total Recall, Alien), he must certainly be responsible for much of the twisted vision that is Dead and Buried. That is not to say that Dead and Buried is the most disturbing film I have ever seen, in fact, far from it. However, the merciless nature of the film’s murders creates an air of injustice and helplessness present throughout the film.

These bizarre and ruthless murders, committed and photographically documented by throngs of townsfolk, quickly spiral into a full-blown Invasion-of-the-Bodysnatchers-type conspiracy that naturally rope you into the investigation led by Officer Dan Gillis. Generally, or perhaps traditionally, zombie films are not centered on exploring the zombie’s origin, and this facet leaves Dead and Buried at a unique advantage in terms of the film’s originality. Yet to say that this film is strictly concerned with exploring the diegetic origin of the undead’s insurgence would be misleading, since it is not altogether clear whether or not there actually is an insurgence to speak of. Nor is the film’s interpretation of a zombie completely transparent. A schoolteacher even suspiciously claims that “although they are conventionally dead, they are capable of very closely imitating the living.”

Beyond the masterful design of Dan O’Bannon and company there are certainly other superb qualities of this film that deserve mention. Namely the well-balanced composure of many of the film’s shots, including some artistically handled panning that actually manages to contribute to the scene’s narrative (see the second murder sequence), great acting, believable script, some genuinely disturbing visuals, and a moodiness borrowed from the isolated setting of Messiah of Evil.

Lauren's Take:
Though the title suggests the contrary, the characters in this film are pretty concerned with keeping things alive and reviving the forgotten, in their own twisted way. The dead are preserved via post-mortem beautification by a mortician obsessed with making the dead look better than they did when alive. Missing face tissue and eyes are re-constructed with non-human materials and give the illusion of living beauty. He regrets having to seal up and bury his work where no one will see it. This mortician also blares songs of yesteryear in an attempt to preserve these forgotten tunes. Possibly the strangest part of this film is the murderers' tendency to photograph every murder as it goes down. It seems counter intuitive to take a lot of photos of a person being killed, and things just get stranger as the number of these voyeuristic photographers grows with each murder. They want to keep the moment of death alive by preserving it on film. Or maybe they just need proof that the person really did die a traumatic violent death? This film is complex and twisted, and so are the motives behind the murders. Still not sure if I understand how all the pieces fit together. Dead and Buried is a pretty fun zombie mystery that keeps you second guessing every character up until the very end.

Rating: 10/10


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