Spoilers as usual.
Set in the best named town ever – Potters Bluff, this movie starts with a rather cringeworthy scene on a beach where a photographer is lured by an attractive young woman (who he decides to call Lisa, excellent choice! She decides to call him Freddie) to take photos of her. The mood of the scene quickly changes as he is set upon by a group, beaten, tied to a pole and burnt (we think to death). He is put in a car which is set alight, perhaps to hide the murder?
We now meet our main star Sheriff Dan Gillis , who has returned to his hometown for a job. He is investigating the crime in this small sleepy town, where nothing ever happens. We also meet the creepy Mortician Mr Dodds and discover the poor photographer in the burning car is in fact not dead.
Mr Dodds has more than a healthy interest in his work of restoring corpses to their former glory, siting a closed casket as obscene. To quote him he ‘replaces missing eyeballs with sawdust’ and ‘uses the back part of a scalp where there was no front part’ he ‘folds one hand over waded up newspaper where there was no other hand’. He see’s himself as an artist and plays the perfect creepy character.
Next off we spot a poor inebriated guy being set upon and badly sliced and stabbed (rather gruesome scene although not gory at all). The same people are responsible and seem to be normal townspeople. Wierdly they photograph the entire act. Sheriff Gillis is more than a little perturbed by this sudden action in his hometown and starts to investigate.
A lot of familiar faces show up in this movie. You just don’t know where you’ve seen them. I even thought I saw Robert Englund in one scene in the café and later towing a car out of the sea but I can’t be sure (and don’t have net connection to check as I write this… must remember to tomorrow).
Back to the story. The Sheriff heads to the hospital to question the unfortunate photographer, sadly our femme fatale ‘Lisa’ posing as a nurse sneaks into his room and as his heart monitor gets faster and faster, she stabs him in the eye with a very long syringe. Nasty idea but a bit of a crap special effect really.
We also get led to believe not all is as it seems with the sheriffs wife Janet, as stories she tells him don’t check out. We’re left wondering why she’s lying to him and even moreso why he doesn’t confront her about it and instead blames the murders for his sombre mood. Unaware of his suspicion, she gives him a roll of film to drop off with a friend, saying it is something her students shot… we bet its not though.
We next move on to a young couple who get lost in Potters Bluff and drop into our café full of questionable sods to ask for directions and fuel. The ever helpful waitress asks a fellow patron, Freddie, to help them out with fuel as he works in a station just up the road. Wierd thing is, Freddie, is the same Freddie who died by way of needle through the eye and was burnt beyond all recognition. We’re wondering by this stage ‘are we in some kind of limbo where everyone is dead, even the people who don’t know they are?’. Anyways, they crash their car trying to avoid something on the road and stop at a house for help. The house seems to be empty and no lights are working, so you do what you would do in someone elses house in the dark… go into their basement to check their fuses! Cue nasty towns people again and their ever nosey cameras. They manage to escape the house and are trying to start the car (you know the scene where the car keeps turning over and wont start?) and there is a rather creepy scene of the residents of Potters Bluff walking very slowly towards them in the background surrounded by mist.
In the midst (no pun intended) of all this, we cut back to Sheriff Gillis who is out in his car when he hits a pedestrian. They lose their arm which ends up attached to the bumper of his car. The arm however seems to be alive and makes a grab at him when he goes to check to see if his victim is alright. The unfortunate man gets up, grabs his arm and runs off?? The mind boggles. Unable to catch him, the sheriff goes back home and while looking for some bullets, he comes across Janets book of witchcraft, which she claims to be using for teaching her class to keep their interest. This woman is up to summat!!! The sheriff later asks for a local doctor to runs tests on the skin on his bumper telling him it was from a hit and run he is investigating.
Another piece of the jigsaw starts to fall into place when the owner of a B&B ‘Freddie’ had been staying at, appears in quite a state to speak to the sheriff. He claims to have seen Freddie (who he knows to be dead) pumping gas at the station. Sooo we know this to be true, so it seems not everyone in the village is in on whatever weirdness is going on.
We cut next to what we can guess to be a poor unfortunate hitchhiker thumbing a lift. She is picked up (and even worse gets into the van) by someone who asks her if she should really be accepting a lift from him as he could be a dirty old man??? Turns out the dirty old man is our second drunken victim and out come the camera again as we reach Potters Bluff and she is pushed into the dirt and hit over the head with a very big rock. Next up it shows what I feel to be the best and most impressive part of the movie with facial reconstruction from the skeleton outwards on this once pretty girl. Excellent special effects and I’m still trying to work out how they did the eyeball bit here. It certainly doesn’t look like a plastic model and her face doesn’t look to be built up enough for it to be done on top of her normal skin…. Good work guys!
The doctor is on the phone next with the news that the skin on the bumper of The Sheriffs car has been dead for 4 months… Hmmmm. You would think he would get the hell out there when he had the chance. Whatever is going on there is not something any amount of detective work can sort out. The doctor meets a rather grisly (but crap special effects, sorry!) end by way of acid before he can tell the sheriff something else he had discovered. We aren’t party to what he discovered sadly.
With suspicion mounting the sheriff heads to the cemetery and demands the grave digger do what he’s paid for, but this time, dig up a body rather than bury one. It the grave of our first photographer victim. When they open the coffin, there is nothing more than a heart inside wrapped in what I can only guess to be Freddies original clothes. This scene cuts straight from the graveyard to the gas station and the sheriff photographing our walking dead man. He asks his secretary to send the photo to
to ask if he is a missing person they have there. He also asks for her to do some investigation into our Mortician Mr Dodds who it seems was sacked from a pervious position and convicted of using corpses for illegal means. St Louis
More weirdness happens. He picks up a movie his wife asks him to collect (wonder whats on that one) and Ernie who serves him has cracks all over his hands (they need the services of Mr Dodds one thinks), then he runs into the doctor on the way out the door, we know him to be dead, but the sheriff has no idea and shares his suspicions with him about reanimated corpses.
I’m guessing we’re going to check that movie reel now! Yup… back to the house and the sheriff is watching the film. It shows his wife in a rather uncompromising position with some poor unfortunate. All the towns people appear with their cameras and she stabs him through the back. So seems Janet is ‘one of them’.
In the final scene Mr Dodds tells all to the sheriff. He has these people murdered so he can reanimate them. They have to be badly disfigured so he can work his magic. It seems Janet is dead as well, given to him as a gift by Dodds. His masterpiece. His excuse for all this is they never get sick and have never been healthier!!! LOL. They’re dead man!!!! Janet walks in to illustrate our point and although he shoots her numerous times (as he won’t believe she is dead), absolutely nothing happens. She begs to be buried (when did a dead person suddenly develop morality?). He finally shoots Dodds and runs off into the graveyard. Janet has ‘stolen’ a grave, by crudely scoring out the name and scrawling her own on it and climbing inside. Again she begs her husband to bury her which he duly does.
Wait!!! It seems our old man Dodds is not dead. He crawls into an upright position and stick a couple of probes into his abdomen. As this is going on, we cut to a surreal scene where Sheriff Gillis is sitting on top of his wifes grave and all the towns people come and lay flowers one at a time, offering their condolences. They are all in different stages of cracking and breaking down. Cameras come out and we think that the last living person (or the only living in the village if you will) is going to meet their maker. He runs back to the room he left our unfortunate Mr Dodds in and there he is, as fresh as a daisy!! The final twist however is shown by way of the film reel playing in the background and is that the sheriff is also dead, stabbed by his lovely wife Janet in bed! Of course on cue his hands start to break down and go all mannequin like.
So, what did I think? This was actually a really good movie. There were a few good special effects scenes but some of it was let down by the makeup. The acting was solid enough, I can’t fault the lead and it had a lovely ominous feel. I loved the story and the premis and would really like to see this one remade, but why on earth was it ever banned? I couldn’t find one scene which warranted it?
More like this please (but with more gore).