Written and Directed by: Glenn McQuaid
I Sell the Dead Official Site
Post Author: Chris Hallock
Unless you have a generous trust fund or a cushy exec job lined up in your daddy's company, you've probably spent too much of your waking life working a crappy job. It's nothing to be embarrassed about. Most of us have had to suck it up and perform unsavory labor to make rent. I distinctly remember a warm summer afternoon at a certain golden arched fast food joint when I had to traverse the playland slide to clean up a trail of baby shit spread throughout the structure. Hunched over in the padded tunnels armed with all-purpose cleaner, I cursed the day over tables full of shouting brats, ketchup crust, and soggy french fries.
Well, the two protagonists of I Sell the Dead are no different from you or me. They are just trying to get by in the tanked out economy of 19th century Ireland. With no fast food or big box retail to depend on, they settle on the equally soul-sucking job of graverobbing. In my opinion, it's probably one of the few things worse than cleaning up baked, greasy baby shit on a summer day. However, some people might prefer stealing corpses to mindlessly flipping burgers or scanning at a register all day. Hell, they look like they’re having a lot of fun busting up coffins and carting around stinking corpses. At least they make their own hours and can drink on the job.
Without giving away too much plot, the film's story centers on the exploits of professional graverobbers Arthur Blake and Willie Grimes. They are two down-on-their-luck scamps just trying to keep food in their bellies. They somehow earn the reputation of being among the best in the business. They make backroom bar deals while swilling gallons of ale. Along the way, they discover that not all bodies like to stay dead, and bagging the undead fetches quite a price on the open market.
Working more as dark comedy than outright horror, the film relies on strong chemistry between the characters. I found myself rooting for the despicable ruffians even when they were grifting an in-progress funeral. Not all the jokes work, but the movie is very funny and adequately creepy. Much of the film is just as likely to give you a fit of giggles as it is to chill your spine.
First time feature director Glenn McQuaid has assembled an impressive cast of easily recognized genre vets. Clearly he has chosen them based on solid talent and not merely to pepper his story with cameos (are you listening Rob Zombie?!). Dominic Monaghan (Charlie from Lost) plays Arthur Blake, a man convicted of unspeakable crimes and awaiting sentencing. He is visited in prison by Father Duffy (Ron Perlman displaying his usual larger-than-life presence) who eagerly awaits Blake’s confession with strange enthusiasm. Angus Scrimm (The Tall Man, duh) briefly appears as body buyer Dr. Vernon Quint, playing it with a gentle, understated charm that quickly turns to menace. Indie film auteur Larry Fessenden steals the show as wild- eyed grave robber Willie Grimes who has taken Arthur under his wing. Up and coming Brenda Cooney rounds out the cast with a great turn as the manipulative Fanny Bryers.
McQuaid lovingly pays tribute to the EC comics of the 40’s and 50’s. Scenes are dripping in rich atmosphere. You can practically feel the misty fog of the moors wetting your face, smell the dank earth of the fresh grave, feel the bite of a very pissed off vampire. Scenes are punctuated with a cool comic book art freeze-frame reminiscent of George Romero’s sadly overlooked Creepshow anthology. The artistic style of I Sell the Dead is reminiscent of illustrator Bernie Wrightson’s great work. McQuaid and company make the most of their meager budget with convincing art direction, locations, costumes, and authentic dialogue. Oh, did I mention that the makeup effects are great?
This is a very fun film to experience in a theater setting. The only thing someone (not me) might complain about is the pacing. Much of the film is structured around some lengthy dialogue scenes that place the characters conversing around candle lit tables for a lot of the film. No doubt this was to help stretch the budget and make effective use of the skillful actors. Thankfully, the dialogue is spirited and the actors deftly command their scenes. I only mention it at all because it may turn off less patient viewers who are used to the frantic pacing of current Hollywood garbage. But for those of you with a passion for old-time supernatural lore, you are in for more than a few surprises.
Check out I Sell the Dead during its limited theatrical run! You can also catch it on IFC Films on Demand. Make sure the check out Larry Fessenden’s other Scareflix (Glasseye Pix) releases here: http://www.scareflix.net/.
I Sell the Dead Trailer