Tuesday, October 5, 2010

DVD Review: I Sell the Dead (2008)


“Never Trust a Corpse”
IFC Films

DIRECTOR: Glenn McQuaid
CAST: Dominic Monaghan (Arthur Blake), Ron Perlman (Father Duffy), Larry Fessenden (Willie Grimes), Angus Scrimm (Dr. Vernon Quint), John Speredakos (Cornelius Murphy), Eileen Colgan (Maisey O’Connell)

SUMMARY: A 19th century grave robber confesses his exploits to a peculiar priest shortly before he is to lose his head to the guillotine. He recounts how he came to the trade, the supernatural encounters, and thrilling adventures which have led him to this fate.

FILM: The film begins as Father Duffy (Perlman, HELLBOY, CRONOS) is taking confession from the 19th century Irish corpse snatcher Arthur Blake (Monaghan, LOST, LORD OF THE RINGS). His mentor Willie Grimes (Fessenden, SESSION 9) has been executed for the crime of murder and Blake’s head is next to roll. He recants his macabre misadventures to the priest through a series a comedic vignettes detailing his drunken exploits as Grime’s grave robbing apprentice. A dark and macabre comedy unfolds as the two prowl the foggy cemeteries of the Irish countryside for fresh corpses and encounter vampires, zombies, aliens, rival grave robbers and their dealings with the demented Dr. Vernon Quint played by none other than Angus Scrimm of the PHANTASM series.

Monaghan and Fessenden as the grave robbing duo of Grimes & Blake are brilliant; you immediately buy into their oftentimes adversarial relationship as truth. The dialogue is clever and witty but never groan inducing. The film truly feels of the 19th century, dark, damp and eerie, filled with the threat of the blood-thirst supernatural. The outdoor scenes are swamped in layers of Hammer-esque mist that creates a sense of chilling dread that combined with the grainy, earth tone color palette of the film captures the look and feel of the period and offsets the skewed comedic aspects of the characters.

The illustrated opening title sequence of I Sell the Dead strongly recalls Stuart Gordon's film RE-ANIMATOR as does the fine film score from Jeff Grace who alse scored the superb HOUSE OF THE DEVIL. The way the scenes transition by freeze framing and fading to an illustrated panel ala CREEPSHOW is also effective and suits the comic styling of the film. Director Glenn McQuaid displays a thoughtful sense of humorous storytelling and visual creativity that is truly delightful. Micro-budget horror-comedies are a dime a dozen, but rarely as enjoyable as this, and Monaghan and Fessenden are an inspired pairing.

DVD: A well stocked DVD from IFC Films that includes a commentary with actors Monaghan and Fessenden plus a second commentary with director McQuaid. Other supplemental materials include The Making of I Sell the Dead and The Visual Effects of I Sell the Dead plus a trailer. The film is presented in its original widescreen anamorphic aspects ratio with a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround audio track that’s not overly bombastic but is adequately immersive. The picture quality is great, black are deep and the images are crisp and clear.

VERDICT: I Sell the Dead is a quirky light-hearted homage to the Hammer and Amicus films of years past that delights in ghoulish gallows humor and supernatural hijinx. I highly recommend that any fan of horror-comedies or Hammer and Amicus Films  give this one a chance this Halloween season, I can't imagine you'll regret your decision.
***1/2 (3.5 out of 5 stars)