I Bury the Living

August 16, 2016 at 2:40 am (8 Heads, I Bury the Living) (, , , )

I Bury the Living – 1958 – United States

Robert Kraft reluctantly takes a job as manager of the Immortal Hills cemetery. On his office wall is a huge map of the cemetery filled with pushpins. Plots marked with white pins have been sold but are unoccupied, while plots marked with black pins contain bodies. Examining the map, Robert accidentally replaces a white pin with a black pin. When the grave’s owner dies the next day, it seems like a fluke .When the same coincidence happens again, Robert suspects the map has supernatural powers. He tells anyone who will listen but no one believes him. Trying to prove his claims to the police, he inadvertently kills others. Wracked with guilt, he attempts to bring his victims back to life by replacing the black pins with white ones. The next morning, Robert finds that the graves of his victims have been mysteriously dug up. This is never really explained. The film’s unbelievable twist ending reveals that the cemetery’s kooky old Scottish caretaker actually murdered most of the map’s supposed victims. The police also faked some of the deaths to make Robert believe in the paranormal map. Somehow this was supposed to trick the caretaker into revealing himself as the killer. Huh?

Aside from its silly cop out ending, I Bury the Living is spooky and dramatic. The interesting characters have well-developed relationships, and Richard Boone (star of many westerns) plays the suffering protagonist well. I Bury the Living is a low key supernatural story without any monsters or ghostly phenomena, but it is still quite compelling. There are tense scenes as Robert guiltily experiments with the map against his better judgment. Expressionistic editing and special effects heighten the drama. In one instance, as he stares at the map, it glows brighter and brighter until everything is white aside from Robert’s silhouette. It is a subtle and stylish effect.

I Bury the Living has a similar premise to Death Note (2006). In both films, the protagonist gains power over life and death through a magical piece of paper. At various points, I Bury the Living suggests that the map may be completely mundane and it is the protagonist himself who possesses the supernatural power to kill. What an interesting ambiguity!

Rating: 8/10 Shrunken Heads. I Bury the Living was directed by Albert Band, who I just learned is the father of Charles Band (creator of the Puppet Master series).

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