By the mid-'70s, old horror standbys were getting a little creaky. The beloved old monsters had already been reduced to farces decades before, and Z-grade productions had been made from most of them. The horror host shows were dying out.

The end of the era had been long coming. Psycho ushered in a new kind of horror, and there were a myriad of imitators to follow it. There was Night of the Living Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Exorcist, and other grueling, visceral horror movies coming out. Real life horror dwarfed the fears the old creatures once delivered.

I still watched a horror hosted show from around 1973-1975. It was Shock Theater, with The Bowman Body. His show was closer to Hee Haw than The Addams Family or The Munsters, with cornpone humor and the requisite lame jokes. I loved it, though.

Horror was changing rapidly, and I was ready for it. I was on the cusp of my teenage years, and I was beginning to enjoy the last gasps of the great exploitation movie era of the sixties and seventies. The slasher cycle was just ahead, waiting for me. Looking back, forty-five years later, it's like I could've reached out and touched it.

I watched a lot of good and bad movies on Shock Theater. The features ranged from The Body Snatcher to The Manster, with some old Universal chestnuts strewn in here and there. One that made a big impression on me was I Bury the Living.

I remember huddling in front of the family TV set, in utter terror as I watched the plot of I Bury the Living unfold. It's a really good setup. Especially in 1958, when horror was in a lull.

I own the MGM DVD, which I watched last night on a chilly, stormy evening. The ideal setting to watch a movie like I Bury the Living.

A man gets appointed as director at a cemetery. There's a big map in his office. Either a black or white pin is pressed into each plot. Black for graveyard residents, and white for owners who are still among the living. When the man accidentally sticks a black pin where a white one should be, the plot owner dies. Thinking at first it was a fluke coincidence, he places more black pins in place of white ones. The people continue to die. Then, in an agitated state of anguish, he begins to put white pins in place of black ones.

I Bury the Living was directed by Albert Band. Band was the father of Full Moon mogul Charles Band and composer Richard Band. He does a nice job generating suspense and mounting dread. The depiction of the mental deterioration of the graveyard director, well played by Richard Boone, is the most effective aspect of the film. As he spirals into madness, Band uses some nicely done trippy camerawork and editing.

That said, I Bury the Living ends up being kind of a letdown. I won't go into too many spoiling details, but suffice to say that anyone hoping for a cool Night of the Living Dead-type payoff at the conclusion will be sorely disappointed.

I still like the movie. I feel a great deal of affection toward most genre films from the past. I Bury the Living didn't scare me at all this time. Movies rarely have that effect on me these days. I can't go back to the days before I saw Tobe Hooper, George Romero, Dario Argento, Ruggero Deodato, or Eli Roth movies. Once your innocence is gone, it's gone for good.

But I can return to the days of my misspent youth, The days when I loved nothing more than watching old black and white horror movies. I'm trying to watch more of them these days. I'm reading Monster Bash and Scary Monsters magazines.

I've had many highs and lows in the decades I've been a horror fan. I've seen the good, the bad, and the very ugly. I see nasty behavior from so many people these days. Everyone seems to be angry, frustrated, and scared. Going back to innocent movies like I Bury the Living help me remember a time when fear was fun, and there was always another new one to look forward to next week.

Written by Mark Sieber

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