Fantasia 2009: ‘I Sell The Dead ‘

i sell the dead reviewI Sell The Dead
Directed by Glenn McQuaid

When January rolled around, I was all ready to throw in the towel and declare 2009 a wash for movies in general. I’ll tell you what, though. I continue to be surprised by some of this year’s offerings and some of last year’s that are finally making their way to me through the festivals. Though I haven’t kept a best of the year list in several years because of how much of a pain in the ass those lists tend to be when there’s nothing much worth talking about, I have been keeping one this year that began with Drag Me To Hell. I am now adding I Sell The Dead to that list, a flick I’d heard about but knew very little of.

Glass Eye Pix has been hanging around for a while with a bunch of pictures in development for what seems like forever and now it would seem that many of these movies are finally coming to the fore all at once. House Of The Devil is now making festival rounds, Satan Hates You is just on the horizon and I Can See You is coming to DVD, shortly. Their production ethic is something that all independent producers should aspire to and because of said ethic, they’re on their way to becoming the model of the contemporary independent production house with some of the most original movies I’ve ever seen.

From a young age, Arthur Blake was robbing graves with his partner, Willie Grimes and they garnered quite the reputation around town. The problem is that as the movie begins, they’re answering for their crimes. Among them, an erronious accusation of murder that lands Willie in the guillotine, shortly thereafter sans head. Arthur is up next, but he is first being visited by a priest who will document his last confession. His confession includes details of his grave robbing exploits that begjn with simple bodysnatching but somehow leads to a world of vampires, zombies and aliens and a rivalry with a group of super criminals called The House Of Murphy.

I Sell The Dead just can’t go wrong. It’s a solid black comedy with what is one of the best scripts of the year interpreted by an inspired cast that includes Glass Eye captain, Larry Fessenden as Willie Grimes, Dominic Monaghan of Lord of the Rings and LOST, horror legend, Angus Scrimm of the Phantasm series and Ron “Hellboy” Perlman. Operating on the budget of your average low-budget picture, I Sell The Dead wears what little resources it has with style. Pulling off a proper period picture, particularly on this scale, is often hard to do with little money and where it substitutes actual sets for Victorian looking CGI, it does well. At times, it deliberately looks like it may have been torn from a comic where at others, it looks as though Hammer Films has had it’s hands all over it. Though changing up wildly in theme from scene, I Sell The Dead maintains a consistent Gothic Victorian tone.

It’s funny, too.

Don’t be fooled. Comedy is hard and the people who are good at it are being paid handsomely to make you laugh at unfunny people. It’s the rarest treat when a good laugh comes out of the low budget scene as low budgets often mean pandering to the lowest common denominator and the people producing them often feel that there is no higher art than a good fart joke but I Sell The Dead’s already tight script is packed with good laughs delivered by a cast that you may not expect practiced comic timing from. They’re not selling you Evil Dead 2 here, but when it’s funny, it’s funny and that’s harder to do than you might think, particularly when the writer/director is best known for visual effects and has only written one other script. Director Glenn McQuaid’s future is bright and Glass Eye Pix is better off for having him on the roster.

Often I like to balance my raves with a little criticism when it comes to these reviews, but I’m at a loss with I Sell The Dead. I suppose some of the CGI effects at times look like CGI but even the adequately budgeted trash out of Hollywood is struggling to give their computer generated effects the authenticity of practicals. The occasional knife to the head contained here sticks out like a sore thumb, but that’s really where the criticism ends. I Sell The Dead was an extremely pleasant surprise, for my money and further evidence that the best in genre films isn’t due to come out of a major Hollywood studio any time soon. It’s also proof that the horror genre isn’t dead or dying. It’s quite alive and the real creativity is in the hands of forward thinking writers and directors who are making movies with whatever they happen to have in their wallets at the time. I Sell The Dead, of course, isn’t that low budget, but it shows how far you make your money go on a good, original idea and a tight script.

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