If, like me, you are a child of the eighties, or if you have ever pointed your greedy eyes at a television late on a Christmas Eve’ning, you will most likely have seen the following movies: the Chevy Chase laugh-o-rama that is ‘Fletch’; 80’s pet-fest, ‘Gremlins’; and the unparalleled masterpiece, ‘Die Hard’. These films are ace, and that is a little piece of Science-Fact for you right there.
Buried Alive doesn’t quite reach these dizzying heights, but is it all Frank Darabont’s fault? By this point in his career he had already written some passably entertaining poop, such as a Nightmare on Elm Street 3, The Fly 2, and the Blob (1), none of which set the world on fire, but showed a decent sense of genre, and some sense of humour. So maybe it’s a shame he didn’t get to pen this one himself?
Then again, Buried Alive was scripted by the beautiful genius who wrote Pumpkinhead, which as we all know was the best film I never saw. Plus, this was Darabont’s first experience of directing a feature film, albeit one made for TV, so we should be lenient, right? And anyway, it isn’t all that bad.
There is, at least, some genius in the casting. First and foremost, the calibre of dog acting is without peer – no joke, that pooch is superb. Other than that, ‘Fletch’ bad guy Tim Matheson stars as Clint, the unlucky fellow who gets buried alive, semi-accidentally, by his cheating wife, played by plucky firebrand Jennifer Jason Leigh. I say semi-accidentally because the fish-ovary poison supplied by her lover, the shitty reporter guy from ‘Die Hard’, was supposed to kill Clint, not just make him really mega-sleepy. These nefarious goings on are investigated with bluesy diligence by the ever huggable Hoyt Axton, AKA the inventive Pa Peltzer in ‘Gremlins’, though of course he only figures it all out after the action is over. What action you ask? Well…
Once the overly lengthy set-up of the TV movie has been overcome, the bulk of the film follows Clint as he exacts revenge on his murderous wife and her villaneous new beau. He also finds the time for some very snazzy woodwork, building a nifty maze of death while the others are locked in the basement. Tool Time!
To give an idea of what this movie’s really like, I’d say it’s aiming to blend elements of noir, zombie horrors, and the revenge thriller, which it does fine, to a degree. The only downside of all this is that it ends up feeling like a bit from Tales From the Crypt, (something Darabont went on to work on a couple of times) which then leaves you wondering why the whole thing isn’t just a romping 25 minutes long.
All in all this is a weird one. As a TV movie from 1990, it’s a real winner. As a DVD, it’s great if you love Tales From the Crypt and Creepshow as much as I do, but it is heavy on the ham. I’m pleased to have watched it, but I’m pleased I didn’t have to pay for it.
Oh, and yes, I did say fish-ovary poison. Wowzers!