Monday, September 3, 2012

Movie Review: I Sell the Dead (2008)

Though this movie has been sitting unwatched in my instant queue for so long, it often seemed to beckon to me whenever I was scrolling along, looking for something to enjoy for the evening. "Hit play, already! You know you're going to like me!", it would call to me. A comedy about the infamous 18th century grave robbers who used to steal corpses and sell them to doctors? Heck yes, I should freaking LOVE that. And you know what? I did.

With his fellow grave robber Willy Grimes having already been executed, Arthur Blake is about to meet the same fate for murder. A few hours before his own date with the guillotine, Arthur confesses to Father Duffy, telling the fantastical story of how he got into the grave robbing business - and the strange things he encountered along the way.

I Sell the Dead is at first a cheeky little black comedy about the wacky antics two funny dudes who dig up dead bodies, and I was totally cool with that and enjoying it a lot. As the story progresses though, they introduce a few different horror-related elements that could make the story go off in a totally different direction than audiences are not expecting. What are these two bumbling fortune hunters going to have to deal with next? Vampires? Aliens? Zombies? Turns out its a form of the latter, although no other information is given about them other than the fact that they are basically zombies and getting bitten will turn you into one. Not that zombie lore was really important to the story or anything. Just sayin'. This turn of events makes the movie all the more fun to watch

Dominic Monaghan is quite cute and adorable as Arthur Blake, and Ron Perlman seems to have fun with his small role as the priest, but I loved this Larry Fessenden guy as Willy Grimes. He's the perfect cheeky drunkard with unbelievable comedic timing and wonderful physical comedy. His look is great and his actions are spot on, but Fessenden is really a job to watch in the final scene of the movie, where he completely steals the show. Did I mention that Angus Scrimm is also in the flick? Yup, he totally is. A bit of a small role, like Ron Perlman's, but genre fans will get a kick out seeing him.

The style of the movie also makes it quite interesting and adds to the comedic element. There are lots of CG backgrounds under the live actors and comic book-like sketches in specific scenes, plus a few awesome transitions like push wipes (ala Star Wars) which is something that is hardly ever used. Call it cheesy or amateur, but I love these kinds of transitions, especially in comedy movies because it obviously adds to the comedy. And I gotta say that I love an Irish accent, which is just funny on its own. So I Sell the Dead definitely does a good job with the comedy part of the film - but what about the horror part?

The scenes that stand out the most for me are when Arthur is telling the story of two "very unusual" grave robbing jobs that he and Willy were involved in. In one hilariously tongue-in-cheek scene, they start digging into a grave that is frozen solid, with the coffin almost frozen too. Though they of course don't know what it is, inside the coffin is small alien. The scene seems so out of place and yet so perfectly in place at the same time. The other part I like is when the men find one of their corpses with a string of garlic around her neck and a wooden stake through her heart. I won't describe this brilliant scene in too much detail because it's best to just watch it for yourself, but I will say that it is a sort of old school vampire attack scene with a gothic feel - plus, of course, a bit of light comedy. It's great. I loved it.

I'm probably gushing over this movie a bit too much, but I Sell the Dead seemed to have the power to bring a little joy into my day with its wonderfully candid and tongue-in-cheek attitude toward a fairly gruesome and disturbing idea. The movie sometimes feels like it moves too quick, and that's more of a sad thing than a bad thing. I wanted more fun but I was really happy with what I got.


  1. it's a fun flick, I give it that. Though I was really expecting more...

  2. Haven't seen it yet, though I heard it's very similar to John Landis' fabulous "Burke & Hare" which came out the same year. I'll give it a try!