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Buried Alive (1990 TV film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Buried Alive
Buried Alive 1990 TV Film Cover.jpg
American/UK VHS cover of Buried Alive
GenreThriller, horror
Written byAlfie lowery
Screenplay byMark Patrick Carducci
Story byDavid A. Davies
Directed byFrank Darabont
StarringTim Matheson
Jennifer Jason Leigh
William Atherton
Hoyt Axton
Theme music composerMichel Colombier
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
ProducerNiki Marvin
Production locationsBotswana
Los Angeles
CinematographyJacques Haitkin
EditorRichard G. Haines
Running time93 minutes
Production companiesNiki Marvin Productions
Universal Television
DistributorUSA Network
Original networkUSA Network
Picture formatColor
Audio formatMono
Original releaseMay 9, 1990 (1990-05-09)
Followed byBuried Alive II (1997)

Buried Alive is a 1990 American made-for-television horror thriller film directed by Frank Darabont and starring Tim Matheson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, William Atherton and Hoyt Axton.

The film received mixed reviews from critics, and has often been overlooked in Darabont's directorial catalogue due to the success of his later films.


Clint Goodman is a successful contractor who built his comfortable house and his construction company in his hometown through hard work. He loves his wife Joanna, but she is resentful of him most of the time; the couple has been trying unsuccessfully to have a baby. Clint's best friend is Sheriff Sam Eberly. Every now and then, they spend the night fishing on the lake.

Unknown to Clint, Joanna has been having an affair with local doctor Cortland van Owen. He plans to kill Clint and have Joanna sell his company and house. With the money, they will move to Beverly Hills to buy a clinic. Cortland gives poison to Joanna, taken from a poisonous tropical fish. Though hesitant at first, Joanna goes along with the idea. While having dinner with Clint, she begins to have a change of heart and starts pouring the poison away at the kitchen sink, but stops herself. She spikes his wine with the poison, but is startled by Clint and drops the vial with a small amount of the liquid left In It. After drinking the poisoned wine, Clint has a heart attack and apparently dies. When the coroner asks if an autopsy should be done, Cortland refuses. While Clint's body is at the morgue, he shows signs of life. Just before he is to be embalmed, Joanna instructs that he be given a quick and cheap funeral instead, skipping the embalming process. Clint is placed in a cheap water-damaged casket, varnished to look like new. After his funeral, Joanna and Cortland celebrate.

During a stormy night, Clint, who has survived the lower dosage, wakes up, finding himself buried alive. After breaking through the coffin lid and escaping his grave, he returns to his house and learns the truth about his wife and the doctor. He hides in the basement to recuperate. The next morning, Joanna meets with a lawyer to discuss selling Clint's business for $1,500,000. Clint plans to kill Joanna, but when Cortland comes by to visit her, Clint overhears that Joanna was pregnant and that she and Cortland had had his child aborted behind his back. Convinced that merely shooting her would be too easy, Clint plots a dark revenge against Joanna and Cortland. That night, while Joanna is passed out from sleeping pills, Clint cleans himself up in their bedroom bathroom and tends to his injuries.

The next morning, after Joanna has sold Clint's business and collected the money, Sam discovers that Clint's grave has been disturbed and the body is missing. Examining the coffin, he realizes that the hole in the coffin lid was made from the inside, and so believes that Clint could still be alive. Joanna goes into the bathroom and finds the floor and tub covered with mud. Suspecting that someone has been in her house, she frantically calls Cortland (only getting his answering machine) and is startled by Clint's dog, Duke, whom she chased away earlier. Just as she's about to shoot the dog, Clint, disguised in a welding mask and body armor, appears from behind the open basement door. Surprised, she falls in the basement, knocking herself unconscious, while Clint locks her inside and boards up the basement windows.

Meanwhile, at his apartment, Cortland loads a syringe with more fish poison and leaves after listening to a recorded message from his landlord demanding payment of unpaid rent - but just before Joanna's message is played. Arriving at Clint's house, he is unable to find Joanna, but finds the money in a suitcase on the bed, which he takes. Searching for Joanna, Cortland enters the basement, the door of which is now open. Believing Cortland to be the masked figure, she knocks him unconscious with a blow to the head, causing him to drop the syringe which rolls out of view. She then takes the money and tries to escape, but Clint locks them both inside. As Cortland regains consciousness, Joanna realizes her mistake, at which he argues about burning the money to prove his love. Cortland tries to open the door by shooting the lock with the shotgun, only to discover that Clint has replaced all the shells with blanks, In the meantime, back in the house, Clint knocks out some walls and moves furniture, with Duke guarding the basement windows and preventing the pair from escaping.

While they wait for the figure to hopefully release them, Cortland suspects that Sam may be behind everything and that he wants the money. Joanna then finds the fish poison syringe and realizes that Cortland was going to kill her. Cortland shows his true colors, revealing that there never was a clinic; his real intention was to take the money for himself so that he can move to the tropics and live an easy life. They fight, and just as Cortland is about to use the syringe on Joanna, the door opens. Exiting the basement, the pair finds out that most of the house is now blocked off by wooden panels. While trying to find a way out, they are led through a maze and separated by sliding panels. At the end of a passage leading to an unblocked window, Cortland sees a shadowy figure and, still thinking it's Sam, tries to bribe him, secretly planning to inject him with the poison. Clint reveals himself, saying "Keep it"; a stunned Cortland tries to flee, but trips on the briefcase of money and falls, accidentally injecting himself with the poison and killing himself. Shortly afterwards, Joanna is trapped between Clint and a small hatch. As her only option, she crawls through the hatchway along a low passage to where it suddenly dead-ends, allowing Clint to shut her inside. Clint reveals himself to her and mentions their aborted child, asking if it was a boy or a girl. He dumps the dead Cortland and the money inside with her in what is now a large wooden coffin. and nails it shut. He then loads it onto his truck and sets fire to the house before leaving with Duke.

Sam, who now believes that Joanna and Cortland either murdered or tried to murder Clint, rushes to the house to find it ablaze. After the fire is extinguished, no bodies are found inside the house. Returning to the cemetery, Sam sees a man standing at Clint's re-filled-in grave, with his back to Sam. Realizing it is Clint and presumably realizing his revenge scheme as well, Sam tells him to never come back, obliquely promising to keep his secret. Clint and Duke drive away, and the final shot reveals that the still-alive Joanna, the dead Cortland, and the money all now occupy Clint's grave, with Joanna hopelessly screaming for help.


  • Tim Matheson as Clint Goodman
  • Jennifer Jason Leigh as Joanna Goodman
  • William Atherton as Dr. Cortland 'Cort' van Owen
  • Hoyt Axton as Sheriff Sam Eberly
  • Jay Gerber as Quintan
  • Wayne Grace as Bill Scorby
  • Donald Hotton as Reynolds
  • Brian Libby as Earl, the embalmer
  • Peg Shirley as Helen Eberley
  • David Youse as Billy
  • Milt Hamerman as The Coroner


Buried Alive stars Tim Matheson as Clint Goodman, Jennifer Jason Leigh as Joanna Goodman, William Atherton as Dr. Cortland 'Cort' van Owen and Hoyt Axton as Sheriff Sam Eberly. Others in the film include Jay Gerber as Quintan and Wayne Grace as Bill Scorby.[1]

The film's budget was $2,000,000,[2] whilst the film had the working title Till Death Do Us Part.[3]

According to John Carpenter on the audio commentary for Vampires, director Darabont (who are very close friends and Frank had a cameo in that film) asked Carpenter to play as a truck driver. Carpenter turned the offer down because he stated that he would only play a character that is killing someone or about to or if he's in bed with a beautiful woman.[4]


The film first premiered on May 9, 1990 on the USA Network. The film was released under two taglines which read "She planned on her husband's death. But not on his coming back for revenge." and "One of them put an end to the marriage, until the other came back for revenge."[5]

Following the film's release, it remained only available on out-of-print VHS in America on March 21, 1991.[6] It was released on DVD in the UK in October 2011,[7] where the sequel Buried Alive II was also released on DVD after being on out-of-print VHS.[8] Other previous DVD releases included a Dutch import[9] and the Australian double feature DVD which included the 2001 film They Crawl.[10] Kino Lorber released the film on Blu-ray and DVD in America on January 12, 2021 in a new 2k master featuring an audio commentary by author and journalist Bryan Reeseman and an interview with William Atherton.


AllMovie gave the film two and a half stars out of five, and wrote "Produced for cable TV, this pedestrian thriller purports to be a riff on Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Premature Burial' but actually bears more of a resemblance to Diabolique."[11] Tom Leins for Devon & Cornwall Film wrote a favorable review, stating "Buried Alive is a quirky little curio elevated above TV-movie nonsense by committed performances from the three charismatic leads. The horror genre has loomed large in Darabont's work since he scripted A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors back in 1987, and although his work in the horror sphere arguably reached its peak with zombie series The Walking Dead – prior to his untimely sacking – Buried Alive represents an appealing footnote in an often-inspired career."[2] Flickering Myth gave a favorable review and wrote "Although the plot of Buried Alive is fairly predictable, the film benefits immensely from some inventive direction from Darabont, while a capable cast of familiar faces including Matheson, Leigh, Atherton and country singer Hoyt Axton also helps to elevate it above your typical TV movie standards."[12]

In the book Time Capsule: Reviews of Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy Films and TV Shows from 1987-1991 by J. P. Harris, a mixed review of the film wrote "Buried Alive is more of a murder story than a horror movie. Whilst the plot actually makes sense and is professionally presented with a nicely ironic ending, there is little suspense and the whole thing is somewhat of a disappointment, given Frank Darabont's previous excellent genre record."[13]

The book DVD & Video Guide 2005 (Ballantine Books) gave the film four out of five stars,[14] whilst TV Guide (Triangle Publications) gave two stars out of five.[15]


A sequel followed in 1997, titled Buried Alive II, which starred Ally Sheedy and Stephen Caffrey. The film also was directed by and co-starred Tim Matheson, who along with Brian Libby were the only cast members from the original to return.[16] The film followed a similar plot to Buried Alive, switching the genders of the leading characters.


  1. ^ Buried Alive (TV Movie 1990) - Full Cast & Crew - IMDb
  2. ^ a b "Sex, Leins & Videotape #102. « D&CFilm". 2011-11-09. Retrieved 2012-06-04.
  3. ^ Buried Alive (TV Movie 1990) - Release Info - IMDb
  4. ^ Buried Alive (TV Movie 1990) - Trivia - IMDb
  5. ^ Buried Alive (TV Movie 1990) - Taglines - IMDb
  6. ^ Buried Alive [VHS]: Tim Matheson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, William Atherton, Hoyt Axton, Jay Gerber, Wayne Grace, Donald Hotton, Brian Libby, Peg Shirley, David Youse, Milt Hamerman, Michael Keep, Jan Merlin, James Scally, Dale Swann, John R. Woodward, Dale Morris, Frank Darabont: Movies & TV. Archived from the original on December 20, 2013.
  7. ^ "Buried Alive [DVD]: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Matheson, Frank Darabont: Film & TV". Retrieved 2012-06-04.
  8. ^ "Buried Alive 2 [DVD]: Ally Sheedy, Tim Matheson: Film & TV". Retrieved 2012-06-04.
  9. ^ "Frank Darabonts Buried Alive 1990 Region 2 Import: Tim Matheson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, William Atherton, Hoyt Axton, Jay Gerber, Frank Darabont: Film & TV". Retrieved 2012-06-04.
  10. ^ "Payless Entertainment Pty Ltd - They Crawl / Buried Alive". Archived from the original on March 25, 2012. Retrieved 2012-06-04.
  11. ^ "Buried Alive - Cast, Reviews, Summary, and Awards". AllMovie. Retrieved 2012-06-04.
  12. ^ "DVD Review - Buried Alive (1990)". Flickering Myth. 2011-10-13. Retrieved 2012-06-04.
  13. ^ Harris, J.P. (2001). Time Capsule Reviews of Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy Films and TV Shows from 1987-1991. iUniverse. ISBN 978-1-4697-9711-3. Retrieved 2012-06-04.
  14. ^ Martin, Mick; Porter, Marsha (2004). DVD & video guide 2005. Ballantine Books. ISBN 978-0-345-44995-5. Retrieved 2012-06-04.
  15. ^ TV Guide. Triangle Publications. 2005. Retrieved 2012-06-04.
  16. ^ Buried Alive II (TV Movie 1997) - IMDb

External links

This page was last edited on 16 January 2021, at 07:20
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