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BURIED ALIVE
DVD. Second Sight.

Buried AliveFrank Darabont’s debut feature film as a director – if you care to consider TV movies to be feature films – is a fairly satisfying, if unremarkable thriller that might not suggest that its director would go on to great things, but certainly delivers the goods if you are in a fairly undemanding mood.

Tim Matheson plays small town construction firm owner Clint Goodman, who is married to big city loving Joanna (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who is cheating on him with slimy doctor Cort Von Owen (William Atherton). Knowing tat he has just turned down an offer to sell his business for a million and a half, the couple decide to kill him using fish poison, pocket the cash and live happily ever after. But the plan goes awry when it turns out that Clint has only been in a coma, and having been buried quickly, in a cheap, water-damaged coffin, with a rain storm loosening the soil – you have to admire they way all these unlikely points are ticked off – he awakens, claws his way free and sets out to take his revenge against the couple who are, of course, both planning to do away with the other and keep all the cash for themselves.

While Darabont occasionally shows some visual flair, this is for the most part very much in the tradition of TV movies from the period (1990) – rather prosaic, straightforward and unambitious. It feels rather like an elongated story from the revived Twilight Zone or Tales from the Crypt (especially when Goodman traps the murderous couple in his house by constructing a series of maze-like tunnels), and if you can reduce your expectations accordingly, you’ll probably find a lot here to enjoy. Jennifer Jason Leigh is suitably bitchy and William Atheron so cheesy that you’ll wonder why anyone would trust him, while Hoyt Axton turns up as a sympathetic Sheriff. Matheson has the most thankless role – his Good Man is too bland to feel sympathy for, while much of his vengeance has him off-screen of hidden behind a welding mask.

Buried Alive might not be a lost classic, but on its own level, is entertaining enough, with a nicely cynical ending and solid production values all round. You could do a lot worse.

DAVID FLINT

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