I Sell the Dead
Directed by Glenn McQuaid
I Sell the Dead, a delightfully goofy scary movie by Irish writer-director Glenn McQuaid, begins with the execution of Willie Grimes (Larry Fessenden), one half of a scrappy 19th century grave-robbing team. While awaiting the same fate in the town chokey, the other half of the duo, Arthur Blake (Dominic Monaghan), is visited by a priest (Ron Perlman) who offers to take his confession. What follows is a feature-length flashback of all the spooky, silly events that got Willie and Arthur into this mess in the first place. They were your typical 19th century grave-robbing team, scraping together a living unearthing corpses to be sold to a mad scientist and afterwards drinking away most of their earnings at the local pub. While the drinking part certainly never changed, the grave-robbing took an unnatural turn when Willie and Arthur discovered a corpse belonging to the ranks of the undead. These unique specimens turned out to be more lucrative than ordinary corpses, so the boys set out to be the go-to-guys in town for digging up zombies, vampires and all manner of unusual remains. Things take a turn for the worse when the the two set out on a particularly dangerous mission and have some unfortunate dealings with the House of Murphy, a gang of ghoulish villains after the same loot.
The film is highly stylized, but its varied aesthetic directions are sometimes difficult to synthesize. Like a haunted house on Halloween, it is heavy on atmosphere, with billowing clouds of mist from fog machines and monsters with pale skin, wild hair and deep-set, dark-rimmed eyes. Yet it also taps into the comic-book-turned-blockbuster trend, rounding out a number of flashbacks with a graphic still image, ostensibly drawn from the comic that, perhaps ironically, was first adapted from director Glenn McQuaid's original movie script. However, one combination, that of goofy comedy and scary thrills, works wonderfully. McQuaid has great timing in this regard, and even though some jokes are almost too silly (upon discovering his first vampire, Willie repeatedly awakens and kills the demon by pulling a stake from its heart and thrusting it back in), overall the effect is highly amusing. This silliness also helps to alleviate some of the ills no doubt caused by a low budget — inconsistent accents for one — and fits well with the story of regular grave-robbing Joes and their heroic foils in the Gang of Murphy. This film might have its faults, but it makes up them in laughs.
Opens August 7