Friday, November 27, 2009

'I Bury the Living' is an effective chiller

Bury the Living (1958)
Starring: Richard Boone, Theodore Bikel and Peggy Mauer
Director: Albert Band
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

When Robert Kraft (Boone) takes his turn as chairman of the town's cemetary (a duty that all of the leading citizens eventually end up with), he approaches the job in a blase fashion. What does it matter if he marks vacant (yet spoken-for) grave sites with white pins and occupied graves with black pins on the large map in the chairman's office? Well, it matters a great deal, because Kraft discovers that when he inserts a black pin in a vacant grave, its owner is soon killed so as to make the map accurate.

"I Bury the Living" is an atmospheric horror film that captures the best elements of a Hichcock film and a Rod Serling-scripted episode of "The Twilight Zone." Although the script is a bit weak at times--some characters seem to be here for no reason other than someone thought they should be, because they are traditional genre standards, such as the Love Interest and Scoop-Hungry Reporter--the way it and the director manage to evoke a growing sense of dread, and the way the twist ending is set up and implimented are expertly done. I also love the way the map of the cemetary becomes a character unto itself as the film progresses.

This is another one of those overlooked gems that's worth a look by horror fans and mordern filmmakers. Yes, it plays a lot like a "Twilight Zone" episode, but it can show all those people out there producing brainless horror movies what can be done with just one room--the best and spookiest parts of the film happens entirely in Kraft's little office on the cemetery grounds.

(Trivia: Director Albert Band was the father of Charles Band, producer/director of hundreds of movies from the late 1970s through today. You can read my reviews of films from both father and son at The Charles Band Collection.)

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