Edgar Allan Poe’s Buried Alive! (1990) Now on DVD
In a bizarre adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe, a beautiful, blonde, unstable teacher heads to Ravencroft Hall, a residential school for girls after attending a conference featuring a charismatic speaker (Robert Vaughn) who owns the facility. Obviously no one told Janet (Karen Witter) that only bad things happen at places named Ravencroft. Her first night there, lights flicker and creepy noises reverberate through the halls.
Ravencroft is a school for delinquent girls (i.e., scantily-clad females with cigarettes, high heels, and bad attitudes) that is so liberal it doesn’t lock down the facility at night. The result of such neglect is illustrated in the opening scene of Buried Alive! in which a student runs away only to be abducted by Ronald Reagan (or at least someone in a Ronald Reagan mask prototype), forced through the earth’s crust into a seemingly endless tunnel, and then sealed behind a brick wall. If that’s not bad enough, Ravenscroft has an ant problem, a black cat patrols the buildings and grounds, some of the walkways are alarmingly thin, and Janet is prone to hallucinations—visions?—of brick walls. And let’s not get into the horrifying big hair and Flashdance outfits all the students sport.
Any doubt that Buried Alive! is a horror film is dispelled by the presence of Donald Pleasence as the weird, hair-netted, former-loony Dr. Schaeffer (German accent included), and John Carradine as Jacob, a man who may desperately need help. Nia Long appears as “Fingers,” a beautiful but somewhat naïve “inmate,” who might be a tiny bit too curious.
One by one, the girls are disappearing, walled up in basement tombs. Although everyone thinks they are runaways, the doors to the facility remain unlocked.
Buried Alive! is another of many titles being offered in “MGM’s Limited Edition Collection.” Periodically, Twentieth Century Fox releases collections of vintage titles that utilize “manufacturing on demand,” and are offered through online retailers, anticipating that there may be an audience for movies like Buried Alive, but not counting on it.
Filled with dark corridors, PG violence (Buried Alive! is actually R-rated), hysteria, ants, and girls doing silly things (ever tried styling your hair with an electric hand mixer?), Buried Alive! serves up a deliciously evil atmosphere, with a side of smooth in Robert Vaughn’s portrayal of the manipulative, lecherous, obsessed headmaster and Donald Pleasence’s enigmatic Dr. Schaeffer. It’s a recipe for hokey fun—disturbed characters, sinister location, and a story that bears little resemblance to Poe’s “Premature Burial,” “Telltale Heart,” and “The Cask of Amontillado.”