I SELL THE DEAD fills the Hammer horror void for Capone!!!
Published at: Aug. 13, 2009, 7:14 a.m. CST by Capone
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
When I was contacted recently by IFC Films about a film they had coming out in limited release last weekend and on IFC On Demand today, I was skeptical. My brain still functions in a way that tells me that anything that doesn't make it to theaters or something that premieres On Demand or straight to DVD usually isn't worth checking out. But my theory has been proven wrong enough times in the past few years to know that's simply not the case. There are just too many movies being made in the world for theaters to keep up, and many excellent movies that may only get a few screenings on the festival circuit are now getting a real chance at being seen thanks to a distribution model like the one IFC has been offering for years. So instead of assuming that a screener of a film like I SELL THE DEAD is going to be third-rate junk, I find myself more often than not pleasantly surprised by the quality of these smaller works and the caliber of acting talent that lands up in many of these films.
I SELL THE DEAD is a devious piece of icky fun from former visual effects supervisor Glenn McQuaid, making his debut here as writer-director. It's the first film in recent memory at least that has taken a really detailed look at the practice of Victorian-age grave robbing. The film opens with the decapitation (always a good sign) of one such robber, Willie Grimes (played by HABIT and WENDIGO star Larry Fessenden), who is being executed for supposedly murdering someone during the commission of a robbery. Grimes' young partner, Arthur Blake (LORD OF THE RINGS and "Lost’s" Dominic Monaghan), is still in jail, soon to be visited by a man of the cloth, Father Duffy (Ron Perlman, you know, HELLBOY). After a few swigs of whisky, Arthur begins to tell his tale of being a young lad being taught the grave-robbing ropes by Grimes, including their discovery that occasionally they'd dig up members of the undead, namely zombie and vampires, corpses of which were actually worth more to certain doctor conducting unseemly medical experiments, especially one Dr. Vernon Quint (PHANTASM's Angus Scrimm, and yes, it is very interesting that the nastiest character in the film has both Vern and Quint in his name).
I SELL THE DEAD relishes in its squishy, vile details of corpse robbing. Young Arthur is forced to shovel recently dug graves, break open the cheap wooden caskets, and reach into the coffins to tie a rope around the corpse so it can be yanked out of its earthly home. Grimes and his apprentice get involved in a bit of a turf war with other robbers, they are threatened in various ways by Dr. Quint who needs more corpses at an alarming rate, and eventually events turn to the point where it pits robber against undead against rival in a bizarre showdown on a small, freaky island. You can't watch this movie and not be transported back to the pure joy of watching the Gothic Hammer Films horror movies for the first time. There's a cheeseball element to the whole production, from the forced accents to the low-budget look of the whole production, but director McQuaid doesn't call attention to the film's financial shortcomings by shining the irony spotlight on his low-budge accomplishment or by allowing his actors to ham it up to the point of parody; he's genuinely making the best movie he knows how to make.
There's a level of fun, spirit, and energy to the entire work that is infectious, and I got so caught up in wondering where the hell this insane movie was going that I didn't care about the sub-par effects or the schlocky nature of the whole production. The film is meant to be a "throw-caution-to-the-wind" romp. My only complaint is that I wish it had gone more gory and ridiculous at times. Still, I SELL THE DEAD makes for a pleasantly unexpected way for any self-respecting horror fan to spend an evening. Consider me curious to see what McQuaid comes up with next. As I mentioned, the film premieres on IFC On Demand beginning today, and I think it's well worth checking out.
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