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A young woman goes to teach at the Ravenscroft Institute, a spooky old girls' school overrun by ants and staffed by various ex-mental patients. Spurred on by a series of horrific hallucinations, she begins to investigate the mysterious disappearances of several students. Written by
Ross Horsley <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The taglines that were sprawled across the colourful cover of this movie would lead you to believe that it was some sort of a bizarre zombie flick! Some secrets are best left buried. But will they stay there?' and The dead return!' make this sound as if it's yet another attempt at a DAWN OF THE DEAD rip-off! I bought it anyway, as it was one of those titles, which I had seen many times on my travels, and I often wondered what it was like. (Stalk and slash films aren't my only vice, you know!) I was pleasantly surprised to find that it's pure slasher/whodunit right down to a masked killer preying on young female students in an all girl reform school! Another point that also first attracted me was the fact that it claims to be adapted from the works of Edgar Allan Poe. By that I'm sure they must mean his short story The premature burial'. There's a TV movie with exactly the same name, that funnily enough was also released in the same year (although this was made two years earlier) that also based itself' on that novel! To be thoroughly honest, apart from the odd black cat popping up here and there, it looks as if director Gerard Kikoine who started out in the business filming porn had only added the homage to that renowned horror author as a smart publicity stunt to put bums on seats! I couldn't have seen Poe writing a script for a silly slasher, no matter how insane he was!
It opens with some gloomy shots of an eerie looking building silhouetted by the foggy night sky. The sign outside reads Ravenscroft Reform School' and Inside we see a group of teenage girls all deeply sleeping, except for one dark-haired youngster who looks as if she's packing her things to make a daring escape. She puts her rucksack on her back and heads towards the exit. Just before she leaves, her friend calls her back and gives her a leaving present - a blue switchblade and then she says her goodbyes and heads out into the misty night sky. (Cushty security for a reform school don't ya think!) She hotfoots it through the woods, until she spots a car driving along a road in the distance. She takes a break for just a second, and all of a sudden a masked assailant jumps out from within the bushes and violently knocks her on to the floor. He picks her up and drops her into a man made pothole and she falls into a corrugated steel tube that leads into a dank and spooky underground chamber. She awakes to see the grisly psycho standing menacingly above her. He injects her with a sedative, puts her in a straight jacket and then drags her by the feat to a cramped cell-like room. Once inside the assassin begins to brick and cement up the doorway, effectively leaving her Buried Alive' (Hence the title!) Next we meet a young science teacher named Janet Pendleton (Karen Witter) who has just got a job teaching at the college. We also see the head doctor Gary Julian (Robert Vaughn), his twitchy assistant Dr. Schaeffer (Donald Pleasence) and a group of bitchy female co-eds who enjoy nothing more than pulling each others hair out! (Literally!) When another girl goes missing from the campus, Janet becomes suspicious and investigates the history of Ravenscroft, only to find a sincere and shocking secret. But who is it that is violently killing the young helpless girls?
With a cast including Robert Vaughn, Donald Pleasence, John Carradine as well as porn star Ginger Allen, and plot that pits a group of saucy female co-eds against a vicious psychopath, BURIED ALIVE seemed like a dead cert for a decent splatter flick. Director Kikoine attempts to seduce you with his claim that it's adapted from the twisted mind of Edgar Allan Poe, but sadly he fails to deliver on most accounts. For a start, what the hell was wrong with Donald Pleasence here? He plays arguably the most obnoxious character ever set to the silver screen, - a million miles away from his legendary Sam Loomis - complete with phoney looking toupee and an overly dodgy German accent! The dialogue is also laughable. In one scene Miss Pendleton has another of her strange nightmares, which begin plaguing her as soon as she arrives on campus. She ends up lying on the floor, panting, sweating and chillingly screaming. Dr Julian witnesses her strange fit' and instead of rushing to her aid, calmly asks is something wrong?' I expected her to say sarcastically nah, I'm just hysterical for the fun of it' (!) but instead she quickly recovers and mutters I'm fine' Hmmm! Also at one point the doctor asks the shaky scream queen' if she'll marry him. The funny thing is, the two of them only met a couple of days earlier and haven't even shared so much as a date yet? I kept wondering if I missed something when I blinked or sipped on my warm cup of tea!
There are some creative ways to kill of the cast on offer here. These include a painful looking electrocution; a trough in the side of the head and a young girl gets buried up to her waste in wet cement! When she screams for help, she gets a mouthful of the soggy muck to shut her up! There are also those victims who get bricked up in a cold room and effectively buried alive', which are the main ingredients of the feature. The director at least shows promise with a couple of decent ideas. There are some morbid shots of each rotten corridor of the creepy chamber accompanied by victim's screams as they get dragged to their demise. Each unlucky individual spots a black cat before they are dispatched, which is clearly the only real noticeable element lifted from Poe. There's also at least one pretty gory scene to liven you up if you're nodding off. A female teen is curling her hair on a food mixer (?) when she's scared by an unseen menace (presumably the masked killer), and ends up drilling into her head and pulling her hair completely off Ouch!
This was the last film that John Carradine worked on before his unfortunate death in 1988, which sadly wasn't the greatest flick to finish off a 5-decade career in the movies with. It's not that it doesn't try; it's just that it never really manages to go anywhere. It's occasionally interesting but mostly dull and un-atmospheric. To be honest, you're better of taking a look at the other made for TV flick with the same moniker it's a much stronger effort!
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