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The directorial debut of Frank Darabont, 1990's Buried Alive is a well-made thriller that was made for the USA Network. The story revolves around Clint (Tim Matheson), who has done quite well for himself over the last few years. Still, he decides to move back to the small town he grew up in, with his wife Joanna (Jennifer Jason Leigh) along for the ride. He figures he can use his money and experience to start a successful construction company all while enjoying the simple pleasures that life in a small town can offer versus life in the big city.
Soon after their arrival, Clint catches up with his old friend Sam Eberly (Hoyt Axton), the town sheriff and his regular fishing buddy, and just really enjoying his new life. Joanna, however, feels very differently and is quite vocal about how much she dislikes the changes that have occurred in their marriage. Soon enough, she's screwing around behind Clint's back with a doctor named Cortland Van Owen (William Atherton). As their relationship intensifies, they make plans to head back to the city where Cortland will setup a new practice and they'll live comfortably together.
Joanna, quite logically, figures the best course of action is for her to file for divorce. Cortland is more cunning, however. He knows that Clint's got a pretty hefty life insurance policy and he figures if they knock him off, they can cash in on that and sell the construction business he's worked so hard to get started. That'd certainly make their new life together much easier, at least in a financial sense. Cortland hooks Joanna up with some poison and soon enough, the deed is done...or so they think.
This one takes a bit of time to really find its footing but once it does, Buried Alive turns out to be a more than solid thriller, particularly when you consider it was made by a first time director (not that we should grade on a curve, mind you). Darabont takes his time, setting up the characters really well and letting us get to know each one of the principal players before setting up the murder motive and then introducing a few interesting twists, some of which you might see coming and some of which you almost certainly won't. It works well, and the last half hour proves to be very tense indeed.
Of course, it helps that Darabont is working with a good cast here. Tim Matheson is well cast as Clint, a well-meaning but slightly naïve guy who has the best of intentions but maybe doesn't pay as much attention as he should to those around him. Jennifer Jason Leigh is genuinely great as the unhappy wife, adding some welcome depth to the character and bringing some nice subtlety to her performance. Hoyt Axton is good in his supporting bit as the sheriff and William Atherton quite good, and plenty believable, as the other man in the mix.
Production values are good. The movie definitely shows its early nineties roots, it just has that feel in terms of its look and the soundtrack is definitely a product of its time, but the cinematography is strong and the picture is well edited.
Buried Alive arrives on Region A Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studios in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.33.1, which would seem to be its original aspect ratio. The movie looks quite good, it's clean and colorful and look like film throughout. There are no problems with any noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifacts and there's very little noticeable print damage here. Detail generally looks really nice, if a tad soft in a few scenes, and overall this transfers shows nice depth as well.Sound:
Audio chores are handled by a 16-bit English language DTS-HD 2.0 option with optional English Subtitles. Dialogue is always easy to understand and to follow and the audio is nicely balanced. Sound effects have some good weight behind them and there's a decent amount of depth to the score. There are no issues with any hiss or distortion to note. All in all, the audio quality on this release shapes up quite nicely.
Extras start off with a commentary by Entertainment Journalist and Author Bryan Reesman. He offers up a very well-researched track that covers Darabont's career and talks about how he wound up getting the gig directing this picture. There's loads of information about him in this talk as well as plenty of details on the casting, the release history of the film, those who helped out in front of and behind the camera, the score and lots more. He leaves no stone unturned.
The disc also contains a seven-minute interview with Interview with Actor William Atherton. Atherton speaks with quite a bit of fondness about working on the picture, painting a picture of what the 'made for cable TV' movie scene was like in the day, working with Darabont, the psychological aspects of the storyline, getting along with the different cast and crew members and more.
Trailers for a few other Kino Lorber releases are included on the disc (Impulse, Heart Of Midnight and Rush), as well as chapter selection and menus. It comes packaged with a nice slipcover.
Buried Alive takes a bit of time to get going, with the pacing in the first half quite deliberate, but stick with it as it subtly turns into a pretty gripping suspense picture with some nice twists and solid performances. Kino has done a nice job bringing this to Blu-ray with a nice presentation and a handful of decent extra features as well. Recommended!
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.