Potter’s Bluff is a peaceful average town where hearts are kept hidden and secrets buried, its Thornton Wilder theatrics cozen for a dark coven. The town itself is aging and decrepit, embalmed by the obsolete fumes of anachronism, its buildings bleak and crumbling while the monotonous citizens stumble about their prosaic duties. But strangers began to die violently and their grotesque corpses soon haunt this desolate community. Sheriff Gillis, a College man recently returned to his hometown, begins to investigate this vicious mystery.
Director Gary Sherman utilizes the creeping fog and shadows for nightmare effect, even washing out the daytime images of all primary colors…except the thick congealed crimson of blood. He also indulges in the horror before the gruesome murders as we walk in the victim’s place, building gripping tension towards the gory expectoration. Sherman doesn't shy away from the ghastly details: a man burning to death, a needle through the eye, or a telltale heart but his quick montage only deepens the frisson because he doesn't linger for strictly visceral effect.
Jack Albertson is wonderfully creepy as the town mortician who delights in practicing his preserving art upon the newly deceased. Though the plot is forbidding it is full of holes, its loose ends not stitched together tightly. But as a minor genre movie it has its moments of action and thrills, and the story always remains the focus rather than the next virulent extinction. Sheriff Gillis calls the mortician’s bluff and the fetid truth is revealed, his rotting fingers clenched in existential agony: he has come home. Forever.
Final Grade: (B-)