I SELL THE DEAD (2008) – The Dungeon Review!

In keeping with The Body Snatchers grave robbing theme I decided it was about time I rented I Sell The Dead. It had been on my list to see for ages! In fact, I posted it as a “must see” in my now defunct horror happenings feature for November 2009! There wasn’t anything specific preventing me from picking this one up, other than I have a crapload of films on my list. Every film that gets scratched off, five more replace it. Frankly, a genre film with Ron Perlman, Angus Scrimm and Larry Fessenden is a no brainer in my book! Is there anything more rewarding than anticipating a flick that delivers everything you hoped it would? I’m happy to report that I Sell The Dead definitely delivered and it is every bit as entertaining as I expected it to be!

I Sell The Dead opens with the execution of Willie Grimes. We then meet Grimes partner in crime Arthur Blake as he regales a priest with their misadventures. I Sell The Dead is a series of flashbacks in the careers of gravediggers Grimes and Blake beginning with Blake as Grimes’ child apprentice to his current position as an adult, just hours away from execution by beheading. The recollections incorporate several sub-genres and are delivered with the perfect mix of atmosphere and humour. The duo stumble upon all manner of strange occurrences in their pursuit of unearthing corpses. Along the way they are employed by a sinister doctor, encounter the supernatural, and are confronted by an infamously psychotic gang of competing grave robbers known as the House of Murphy. The film is full of great characters and snappy dialog that kept a smile on my face from beginning to end.

The limited budget is used to great effect and I Sell The Dead actually looks and feels like old Ireland even though it was filmed in New York. The film’s sets perfectly capture the nostalgic vibe with its desolation, bawdy bars and decaying old cemeteries. The effects and makeup are excellent, but because of the surprise element brought by the supernatural themes in the film I won’t get into details on that. There is a wee bit of gore, but it is not really graphic and there is a body count. Director Glenn McQuaid also adds some comic-book style visuals that worked beautifully. The film looks perfect but the writing and the performances in I Sell The Dead are its best asset. The film is well paced and each flashback scenes works as its own unique little story. The bits with the supernatural storylines are energetic and fun but I think my favourite side story involves the murderous Murphy clan. The dastardly ghoulish group of competing grave robbers have a history that precedes them. In a flashback within a flashback we see Blake explaining to their new apprentice Fanny why they don’t mess with The House Of Murphy. Blake recalls a grimly funny story he once heard about Cornelius Murphy’s childhood that goes a long way to explaining his badass origins. It’s one of the films funniest moments! A great deal of care is paid to character development from the films two leads to the outstanding support.

The interaction between the two leads, Larry Fessenden and Dominic Monaghan was fluid and natural and they delivered the well-written dialog with perfection. Fessenden embraces the character completely and gives a scene stealing performance as the grungy, grumpy Willie Grimes. Mohaghan definitely holds his own as the immensely likeable Arthur Blake. The supporting cast also do a stellar job. John Speredakos is wickedly fun as dastardly bastard Cornelius Murphy and Brenda Cooney is immensely entertaining as the naughty Fanny Bryers. As an added bonus you get great turns from Ron Perlman as prickly Father Duffy and Angus Scrimm as the sinister Dr. Vernon Quint. But great performances come easier when you have good material to work with.

It is pretty tame as far as horror films go and lacks the gory site-gags of other more over the top horror-comedies but the film has an undeniable nostalgic charm that is very appealing. I Sell The Dead is well written, looks great and has an outstanding cast that make the most of the material. It is clever, amusing and entertaining from start to finish. Highly recommended!

Dungeon Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Glenn McQuaid

Starring: Dominic Monaghan, Ron Perlman, Larry Fessenden, Angus Scrimm, John Speredakos, Eileen Colgan, Brenda Cooney, Daniel Manche, Joel Garland

6 Responses to “I SELL THE DEAD (2008) – The Dungeon Review!”

  1. I think you’ll like this one Kate. It has a wee bit of a Hammer feel to it.

  2. 366weirdmovies Says:

    I like this film too. It’s part of producer Larry Fessenden’s “ScareFlix” series, which is a really cool project to make low-budget horror films that are NOT formula retreads. It’s a great idea; even though a few of the films end up failures, it’s nice to see filmmakers taking chances on doing something new. I CAN SEE YOU was my favorite of the ScareFlix, but it has divided audiences because it starts slow and ends really weird.

    • Thanks for tipping me off about Scareflix. I checked out the site last night. Strange The Roost was in the mix, I just posted a review for the film this week! It wasn’t a bad film, but I wasn’t terribly impressed with it either. I guess I’m one for one so far, but there were a few on the site that caught my eye that I will most definitely be checking out!

  3. I could be wrong, but I took this as a spoof of Hammer Horrors (a reverential spoof of sorts). Specifically, it seemed to poke a lot of fun at “Flesh and the Fiends”. The Burke and Hare mythos is pure gold. I’m dying to see the new Burke and Hare movie starring Simon Pegg.

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