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November 2009 SITE MAP   SEARCH

I Sell The Dead
cast: Dominic Monaghan, Larry Fessenden, Ron Perlman, Angus Scrimm, and Brenda Cooney

writer and director: Glenn McQuaid

82 minutes (15) 2008
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Anchor Bay DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Jim Steel
Sometimes a film just manages to sneak up on you all unannounced and manages to works its magic without any preconceptions whatsoever. This little gem, despite being filmed near New York, instantly evokes the feel of a creaky old Hammer movie with industrial quantities of dry ice and lashings of faux (and a few genuine) old-country accents. There are a few wobbles along the way, but not enough to derail the enjoyment.

The narrative frame for all of this is the pre-execution confession of Arthur Blake (Dominic Monaghan), grave robber. We have just seen his unrepentant partner, Willie Grimes (delightfully overplayed by Larry Fessenden - Jack Nicolson was obviously unavailable at the time) beheaded at the - er - head of the film, and the only reason that Blake has not immediately followed him is that Father Duffy has bribed the guards in order to be able to write up Blake's story. Father Duffy, collector of macabre tales, is played by Ron Perlman who, curiously, seems to get more ordinary looking the older he gets. When he dressed up in a cassock for The Name Of The Rose a quarter of a century ago he was one of the weirder sights on the screen but now he just looks craggy. Still, his character has his own agenda, and he pushes Blake through his life story to reach it. Yes, the ending is telegraphed to us in advance; but by the time we work it out we are having so much fun that we don't care too much.

A young Blake was apprenticed to Grimes to steal freshly buried corpses for anatomist Dr Quint (Angus Scrimm). Grimes intended to do Blake in and sell his body as well but, after getting Blake to dig up the corpse, he found that he hadn't the heart. Instead they soon turn into partners, slaving away for the blackmailing Quint. This job, as they remark, would be okay if it wasn't for Quint. On one occasion they find themselves out on the moors digging up a corpse that is buried on unconsecrated ground, and they reason that she must have been a suicide. The viewer, of course, is way ahead of them as they puzzle over the meaning behind the garlic around her neck and the stake through her chest. And, naturally enough, they remove the stake and return to their wagon. Hilarious mayhem ensues, but they eventually secure their body and then realise that this offers them an escape from the clutches of Dr Quint.

Soon they are in business for themselves, and they decide to concentrate on the bodies of the uncanny as this offers them the greatest profit margins, what with all of the medical people searching for a cure for mortality. There is a deliberate (and very funny) anachronism inserted when the pair goes to dig up the corpse of a circus freak only to find that the ground is frozen solid. The resulting find (which I won't ruin for you) is hilarious, although they haven't a clue what it really is. This event, however, brings them into conflict with the evil Murphy clan, a highly eccentric gang who also specialise in stealing the corpses of the uncanny. The Murphys are baroque beyond belief: their henchman (Alisdair Stewart), for example, has had his own teeth replaced with those of a dog, and he is far from being the weirdest of them. Common sense would dictate that Blake and Grimes heed their suggestion and cease from competition with them. That, however, wouldn't make for much of a film, would it?

There are brilliant zombies here as well, although the purist may quibble at their fear of crucifixes. Zombies are probably the horror denizens most suited to comedy (stupidity being a fine plot motivator for humour), and these ones are no exception. However, the film barely scratches the surface of the potential inherent in the supernatural and it leaves itself with plenty of scope for a sequel, and if they can keep the same team together then it could be worth watching. If your tastes extend more to Carry On Screaming than to Saw, then this could be your perfect Halloween picture (yes, I know - but it's never too late for Halloween).

The extras on the disc consist of the usual making-of and special effects documentaries.

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