It was also right under my nose on my Netflix queue, and though it was slowly working its way up to the top, I did some rearranging and here we are.
Directed by Gary Sherman and based on a short story written by Alex Stern and Jeff Millar, Dead and Buried was adapted for the big screen by Ronald Shusett and the late, great Dan O'Bannon (Alien, The Return of the Living Dead, etc.) and tells the story of local sheriff Dan Gillis (James Farentino) and the residents of a small coastal town called Potter's Bluff.
Did I ever mention how much I love horror movies based near the ocean? Well, my love of Jaws should prove that on merit alone, but I am a big fan of seashore terror.
When a visiting photographer is seduced by a local woman, it turns out she wasn't trying to have sex with him after all: she was luring him to his death so a mob of villagers could beat him senseless, tie him to a post, and set him on fire. What is terribly unnerving about this though, is that the townsfolk all whip out their cameras and start taking pictures as the screaming man burns to death. ("Say Gasoline!!") They plant his body in his van and make it seem like an accident - kind of like a criminal would do on an old episode of Charlies Angels or Kojak.
While Sheriff Gillis discusses the case with coroner/mortician Dobbs (Jack Albertson in a role far from his jovial, Fizzy-Lifting drinking Uncle Joe in Willy Wonka), the gravely wounded photographer is offed in a most unpleasant manner while at the hospital under the care of a nurse who happens to be the very woman responsible for the earlier seduction and the victim's ultimate demise.
Something is not quite right in Potter's Bluff.
The sheriff begins to notice that visitors to Potter's Bluff are ending up dead, and how. Anyone that stops over, gets lost, breaks down, needs directions, or even comes there on purpose is pretty much doomed. As Gillis attempts to figure out what is going on, we as the audience are given a good, hard, jolting dose of reality when the photographer shows up very much alive and working in the town as a gas station attendant. (What?!)
No burning car or untimely death is going to keep Freddie down! (Speaking of Freddys: Robert Englund himself has a role here as one of the townsfolk!)
When Gillis takes it up with Dobbs, he gets a rambling speech about how much skill it takes to get a body ready for burial and how much of a talent he is to the business. It is an awkward moment and we are meant to be aware that something is off with the undertaker.When is that not true? Those creepy undertakers anyway... (sorry, Shawn!)
After the good sheriff runs someone over with his car in a moment of unbridled stupidity, he is aghast when the man he hits retrieves his severed arm from the grill of the police cruiser and runs off. This furthers his speculation that there is something very wrong in his little town. A pathologist in town (because all small towns have their own pathologist!) runs some labs on a piece of remaining flesh from the car bumper and informs the sheriff that the person he hit has been dead 4 or 5 months, that there is no way that tissue from that arm is alive.
When he tries to get some comfort from his wife, she brushes him off and acts too busy to discuss it. When she leaves, Gillis finds a book on witchcraft, among other things, in her dresser drawer. We are then witness to her teaching a classroom of kids about zombies. Yeah, that's where your tax dollars are going, people!