Saturday, October 8, 2011


When I was a kid, the easiest way to get a hold of obscure bullshit movies that weren't on local video store shelves was through bootlegger catalogs. In the back of almost any horror magazine you could find ads for vendors who, for a few bucks and a self-addressed/stamped envelope, would open your mind up to some of the sleaziest and most obscure stuff imaginable. This was actually how I discovered Scorched Earth Production, who were responsible for films such as "Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend" as well as "The Hitler Tapes." While torrents have long since replaced the whole tape trading phenomenon, not even its convenience touches what you used to be able to uncover out there. If anything, torrents really don't provide a home for obscure, depraved stuff. Very rarely will you find something amazing out there. And beyond that, there's a great deal to be said for what you derive from basic human interaction. I owe a huge part of my knowledge to the pen pals and video store jerks I associated with as a teenager. There is less a sense of community now amongst people who are into cult film than there was when I was a kid. Perhaps the internet has made people less friendly because they don't necessarily have to depend on other people to learn stuff. Now, you can do it quickly and anonymously. For instance, there are hordes of dudes doing blogs on cool, obscure film. However, there's not really a network or camaraderie between any of these people. Years ago, it seemed to me like people were more eager to know they weren't alone in their weirdo interests.

The first catalog I ever got was from a guy in Chicago who mainly bootlegged stuff on VHS from laserdiscs and specialized in Hong Kong action, Hammer films, and fucked up Italian gore. I developed a friendship with the guy, and spoke with him regularly over the phone, and I got turned onto a lot of fantastic films thanks to him. I was regularly sending in my money in exchange for decent dubs, which quickly expanded my knowledge of cult and Asian film in particular. Anyway, it was through this guy that I discovered "I Bury The Living." I still have the dub this guy made me back in the early 90s, and surprisingly it's probably better looking than the official copy I have. Or maybe that's not so surprising, considering that my legit copy is from Good Times. I remember I'd seen this film mentioned in old reference books, and it was always regarded as a quaint though obscure gem with some solid performances. After I saw it, it became one of my favorite films to dub onto the tapes I was trading with friends, and the general consensus between my friends and I was that this was a fun little film that was oozing with atmosphere. Looking up movies I love before I posted them has become an unfortunate process. I'm always curious to read what people have to say, and as usual when I looked "I Bury the Living" I saw the usual absurd barrage of complaints regarding plot holes. Someone even called the film unrealistic. I think the concept of cinema as a form of escape is lost on so many people. If your goal is to actually find a movie that is true to the tone of your ordinary life, then why even bother? Why pay twenty bucks to endure something that strives to be mundane? I can go sit on my couch and talk to my roommate for free.

No, this film is not realistic, and yes it has some very obvious problems with the plot. However, for its time and budget, it manages to achieve a ridiculous amount of mood. This movie definitely haunted feel in spite of its flaws, which is something that you can't necessarily achieve even if you have a fool proof script or a larger budget. All criticisms of this charming little production must come from people without a soul, who are therefore illiterate when it comes to perceiving spirit.

The story revolves around Robert Kraft, who has been named the new director of a cemetery. The bulk of the story revolves around a detailed map of the grounds, with all of its plots. The occupied graves an crypts are marked by black pins, while the empty graves are marked with white pens. When Kraft accidentally marks a pre-bought plot with a black pen, the owners go from living to dead. But was this just a coincidence? Kraft, who is well-played by Richard Boone, is a completely fascinating character - a rational man perturbed by the scenario. Not inclined to believe in superstition, and if it isn't a coincidence, there becomes an issue of holding the power of life and death over the people who've pre-purchased their graves. There are a few twists and turns along the way, some of which don't make total sense, but the performances, the setting, and the production are all so charming that it makes these issues both minor and completely forgivable. Well worth seeking out on a dark and stormy night.

Trailer courtesy of GrindHouseFan.

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