Monday, January 16, 2012

#518. I Sell The Dead (2008)

Directed By: Glenn McQuaid

Starring: Dominic Monaghan, Ron Perlman, Larry Fessenden

Tag line: "Never Trust A Corpse"

Trivia:  A graphic novel of the film has been released, with Glenn McQuaid writing and illustrations by Brahm Revel

It's not a particularly good time to be a grave robber. Willy Grimes (Larry Fessenden), a man who dedicated most of his life to snatching corpses from their coffins, just had his head lopped off for his troubles, and Willy's longtime partner, Arthur Blake (Dominic Monaghan), is sitting in a jail cell, awaiting his own date with the guillotine. The night before he's to be executed, Arthur is visited by Father Duffy (Ron Perlman) who asks Arthur to recount for him his days as a grave robber. With plenty of stories to tell about his experiences with the dead, Arthur also delves into a few of his unforgettable run-ins with the not-entirely dead, which, over the years, made his job a harrowing one. If there's one thing he's learned after a lifetime of pilfering graves, he tells Father Murphy, it's this: 

Never trust a corpse. 

I Sell The Dead is a horror/comedy that succeeds on a number of levels. First off, it's a very convincing period piece, perfectly capturing the look and feel of 19th century England. The performances are also top-notch. Dominic Monaghan does a fine job as the occasionally naive Arthur, and Ron Perlman's thick Irish brogue is a definite highlight. But the film's best turn is delivered by Larry Fessenden. His Willy Grimes is an undeniable slime ball, yet a likable one, and even though you're never quite sure whether you can trust old Willy, his prowess as a thief gets he and Arthur out of more than one sticky situation. 

But its the individual scenes of Arthur and Willy doing what they do best, stealing corpses, that make I Sell The Dead so memorable. Late one night, the two are digging up a grave which, for some strange reason, is located just outside the cemetery. When the two finally pull the coffin out of the ground, they find the body of a young girl inside, who was buried with both a string of garlic around her neck and a stake through her heart. Figuring she wouldn't be worth much in that condition, they remove the garlic and the stake, and as they're preparing the cart to haul her away, she rises out of her coffin and wanders off, leading to what's easily the film's most frightening, as well as its funniest, scene. 

With vampires, zombies, and one or two surprises thrown in for good measure, I Sell The Dead is a stylish, entertaining look at a “profession” that's obviously not for the faint of heart.

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