Buried Alive

Buried Alive Information

Buried Alive is a horror thriller television film directed by Frank Darabont. It stars Tim Matheson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, William Atherton and Hoyt Axton. The film first aired on May 9, 1990 on the USA Network.


The film 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.

Since the film's release, the film remained only available on out-of-print VHS in America. It was released on DVD in the UK in October 2011, where the sequel Buried Alive II was also released on DVD after being on out-of-print VHS. Other previous DVD releases included a Dutch import and the Australian double feature DVD which included the 2001 film They Crawl.

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

The film's two taglines 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."

According to John Carpenter on the audio commentary for Vampires that 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 about to or is killing someone or he's in bed with a beautiful woman.

A sequel followed in 1997, titled Buried Alive II, which starred Ally Sheedy and Stephen Caffrey, whilst being directed and co-starring Matheson. The film followed a similar plot to Buried Alive, switching the genders of the leading characters.


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

Unknown to Clint, Joanna has been having an affair with the local doctor Cortland van Owen. The lovers plot to kill Clint and sell his company and his house, then move to Beverly Hills to buy a clinic. Cortland gives poison to Joanna, which is taken from a rare poisonous tropical fish. She is hesitant at first to go along with the idea but changes her mind; when they are having dinner she spikes Clint's wine with the poison. Clint has a heart attack and dies. When the coroner asks if an autopsy should be done, Cort refuses. While Clint is at the morgue he shows signs of life and just before he is to be embalmed, Joanna gives him a quick and cheap funeral instead, skipping the embalming process. Clint is put in a cheap water-damaged coffin, varnished to look like new. After his funeral, Joanna and Cortland celebrate.

During a stormy night, Clint, who has surprisingly survived the dosage, wakes up buried alive, and succeeds in escaping his grave. He goes to his house and finds the truth about his wife and the doctor. He hides himself downstairs in the basement to recuperate. The next morning, Joanna meets with a lawyer to discuss about selling his business for $1,500,000. Clint wakes up and plans to kill Joanna but when Cortland comes by to pay a visit he overhears that Joanna was pregnant and Cortland had conducted an abortion of his child behind his back, Clint changes his mind about shooting Joanna, believing it to be too easy, and after he cleans himself up and tends to his wounds, he plots a dark revenge against Joanna and Cortland.

The next morning, after Joanna has sold Clint's business and collected the money, Sam discovers that Clint's grave is exhumed. After further examining the coffin he believes that Clint could still be alive. Joanna goes into her bathroom and finds it covered with mud. She suspects that someone has been in her house. She frantically calls Cortland and is startled by their dog, Duke, whom she chased away earlier. Just as she's about to shoot the dog, Clint, disguised in a welding helmet and armor appears out of nowhere and she falls in the basement, knocking herself unconscious whilst Clint locks her inside and boards up the windows.

Meanwhile at his apartment, Cortland is gathering some fish poison, putting it in a syringe and leaves. He arrives to see and secretly inject Joanna, where finds the money lying on the bed. Cortland enters the basement, which is now open, as he searches for Joanna, who has now regained consciousness. Believing he might be the masked figure, she hits him in the head, causing him to drop his 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, where he argues about wanting to burn the money to prove he truly loves her. As they both try to find a way to escape, Clint has replaced all the shotgun bullets with blanks and Duke is guarding the basement windows, making it impossible for them to leave the basement. In the meantime, Clint is knocking out some walls and moving furniture.

As time passes, Cortland suspects that Sam may be behind everything, whilst he is waiting for the figure to release them. Joanna finds the syringe filled with the fish poison and figures out that he was going to kill her and take clinic for himself. Cortland reveals that there never was a clinic and that he was going to take the money and move to the tropics so he can live the good life. As a result, they fight and just as Cortland is about to use the syringe, the door opens, where the pair find out that most of the house is now boarded up. While trying to find a way out, they are led through a maze of corridors and are split up; Cortland sees the figure (still thinking it's Sam) and tries to bribe him, secretly planning to syringe him with the poison. Clint appears, saying "keep it." A stunned Cortland tries to get away but trips and accidentally sticks himself with the poison, killing himself in the process. Soon after, Joanna is caught between Clint, who is now wearing the mask, and a small hatch. As her only option, she crawls through the hatchway where it dead-ends, allowing Clint to shut her inside. Clint reveals himself to her and speaks of their child, asking if it was a boy or a girl. He then puts the now dead Cortland and the money inside with her to what is now a wooden coffin, where he then nails it shut tight and sets the house on fire, leaving with his dog.

Sam, who now believes that Joanna and Cortland murdered Clint rides out to find his house set ablaze. When the fire is extinguished, there is no trace of a body inside the house anywhere. Sam then rides off and finds a person at Clint's grave, with his back to Sam. Realizing it is Clint, Sam tells him to never to come back, and therefore promising to keep his secret. The final shot reveals that the still alive Joanna and the deceased Cortland now occupy Clint's grave, with the money.


  • 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


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. The film's one real moment of horror comes in a claustrophobic sequence where Matheson desperately claws his way out of his coffin. The story then settles into a standard revenge motif, capped with an admittedly potent payoff that, though intriguing, is probably not as shocking as the filmmakers had intended."

Tom Leins for Devon & Cornwall Film wrote a favorable review, stating "The Buried Alive conceit has been used numerous times in recent years, from Tarantino's CSI guest episode 'Grave Danger' through to last year's stomach-churning Buried, starring Ryan Reynolds, but Darabont's engaging thriller offers a refreshingly unique spin on the idea. Part-Blood Simple-esque crime caper, part-claustrophobic B-movie horror, 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."

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. Obviously it isn't a patch on Darabont's later cinematic efforts, but Buried Alive is still a solid, entertaining thriller that holds up better than expected and is certainly worth checking out, particularly for fans of its director."

Love Horror gave the film three out of five stars and wrote "All in all this is a weird one. As a TV movie from 1990, it's a real winner. As a DVD, it's great if you love Tales From the Crypt and Creepshow as much as I do, but it is heavy on the ham. I'm pleased to have watched it, but I'm pleased I didn't have to pay for it."

Flickfeast gave the film six out of ten and wrote "Frank Darabont's 1990 addition to the sub-genre is an interesting if flawed take, but it moves at a firecracker pace (likely because of its structuring around adverts; cliffhangers are required every fifteen minutes) and a trio of strong performances. Unfortunately Darabont's tale loses some of its impact having been made for television, as its tight corners and choking spaces are (oddly) weakened for their rendering on the boxed-in small screen. What the film lacks is scope, and it's interesting to look back on it after considering the director's current body of work. He's no stranger to the theme of claustrophobia. As aforementioned, what really sells the film are its performances, especially the brittle bitch Jennifer Jason Leigh creates for Joanna. She's completely believable as a wealth-obsessed leech, whose garish lipstick and bombshell blonde hair perfectly exemplify her shallowness. The actress envelopes herself in the character, who is truly detestable. It's not one of her best performances, but then her CV is packed with greatness. Matheson crafts an equally believable character, and he's so likable that I often wondered how exactly this polar opposite couple had ended up together. It's because of his nuanced everyman that I bought into the story, even when its twists and turns became a little silly. He roots the film, and we root for him. Atherton also impresses here, adding depth to the asshole persona he had perfected with Ghostbusters and Die Hard. The three actors have a great dynamic, and it's a joy to watch them together."

The Video Graveyard awarded the film three out of five stars and wrote "This cable-TV original is a demented twist on Poe's 'Premature Burial'. Highly satisfying horror/thriller is loaded with decent suspense, great humour during the "embalming" scene and has lots of pleasing "just misses" moments and plot twists. Directed with style by Frank Darabont and well-acted by all this is one great time and even Matheson's zombie-like grave emergence is way cool. This is Matheson's show and he's very convincing; he'd go on to direct the sequel."

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."

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

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "Buried_Alive_%281990_TV_film%29" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



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