I SELL THE DEAD
Dominic Monaghan, Ron Perlman, Larry Fessenden, Angus Scrimm, John Speredakos, Eileen Colgan, Brenda Cooney, Daniel Manche
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With a title like I Sell the Dead, you expect a zombie film or a farcical comedy. Yet, the film is barely funny and only partially about zombies.
Arthur Blake (Dominic Monaghan) and Willie Grimes (Larry Fessenden) are grave robbers. They aren’t traditional thieves as their main goal isn’t the riches to be found within buried coffins. It is the body’s they want. Dr. Vernon Quint (Angus Scrimm) has hired these two to help him steal bodies, preferably young and recently deceased.
The film begins with Arthur in prison awaiting his execution. A concerned priest, Father Duffy (Ron Perlman), has come to listen to his story and perhaps earn him clemency for his crimes. Thus the story unfolds as Arthur takes us back to the beginning and explains their encounters with a few supernatural haunts and a rival tomb robber.
There is little question that this film is designed to be a type of comic book story. Using hand-drawn animated sequences and playing out almost episodically, I Sell the Dead doesn’t have the literary source to back up its pedigree and it shows. Conceptually, the story is interesting, but the executed result is often muddled and rambles for an unnecessary portion of the film’s length…and that’s at less than an hour-and-a-half.
Writer and director Glenn McQuaid has obviously been influenced by the comic books of his youth and the 1982 film-to-comic anthology Creepshow. The difference here is that the George Romero cult classic was based on several short stories by horror master Steven King. There is no such source material for I Sell the Dead. Instead, we are left with thin character development and poorly plotted scenes that don’t fit together well.
Monaghan and Fessenden do what they can with their characters, giving their grave robbers small bits of depth and personality, but ultimately failing to fully realize their potential. Perlman has no story arc and is mostly just an interactive character propelling the story forward, but when his background is finally revealed, the foreshadowing has been minimally applied but the result is somewhat expected. The closing scene, however, is imaginative and for more interesting than what has come before it.
The writing has to be the worst element of the film as even the production values, despite being crafted on a miniscule budget, are far superior to the screenplay. And even if Perlman isn’t all that great, he’s better than the material he’s been given.
You might wonder why then my rating is two stars and not lower. Well, What can I say? The messy writing is limited in scope, but there’s an entertainment value to the film in its originality that makes it more amusing than I’ve so far given it credit. There are individual scenes that work well, such as the one where a young boy laments the passing of his mother only to trick the mortuary owner into leaving him alone with body before mercilessly shoving it out the window to his waiting accomplice.
Had the script gone through a more serious re-write, it might have been a much better film, so I give I Sell the Dead a middling score for its effort and for making me smile a few times.
April 29, 2010
I Sell the Dead