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Sunday, September 20, 2009

I Sell the Dead: Fiendish, Funny, Fantastic

If you happen to have a theater near you that's hip enough to be showing the indie horror comedy I Sell the Dead, go and see it right away. It's already been out in limited release for over a month, so you might have to wait for DVD. In any event, this is a film that seems to have slipped under the radar somewhat, and that's unfortunate, because it's a real hoot.

Dominic Monaghan of Lord of the Rings and Lost fame stars as Arthur Blake, a young graverobber in 18th century Europe who's been apprehended and faces beheading. On the eve of his execution, he tells the whole sordid tale of his illegal exploits to Father Duffy, played by genre stalwart Ron Perlman, who gives the best performance in the picture.

Turns out that during their graverobbing tenure, Arthur and his ghoulish mentor Willie Grimes (played by Larry Fessenden, who incidentally, will be helming the upcoming American remake of The Orphanage) stumbled upon a whole underground trade in the undead. Seeing as how this is far more profitable than the plain old selling of exhumed bodies to shady doctors, the boys delve into a macabre world of zombie-hunting, finding along the way that the competition is even more dangerous than the revenants they're digging up.

Angus Scrimm, a.k.a. Phantasm's Tall Man (how old is this guy??) turns up in a small but memorable role as Dr. Vernon Quint, the robbers' original, overbearing employer, who meets a grisly end when his disgruntled lackies send the unwitting doctor a staked vampire as a specimen. Doc removes the stake and... well, you can figure out the rest.

The film is creatively shot by one Richard Lopez, with an almost Evil Dead 2 feel to the proceedings at times. Basically, it's a lot of fun to watch, with tons of inventive composites and compositions to be found. Sam Raimi would certainly be proud. Add an absolutely delightful score by Jeff Grace, who learned his craft assisting Howard Shore on the LOTR films, and you have some damn fine entertainment.

You've basically got it all here. There's genuine scares and genuine laughs. The makeup work on the monsters is quite impressive and frightening, and there's even some bits of zombie gore to enjoy. The script is smart and clever, and filled with intentional anachronisms that only serve to make the film more unique than it already is.

IFC picked up the American distribution on this baby, a production of Glass Eye Pix, a minor horror house probably best known for 2001's lackluster Wendigo. That aside, they've struck gold with this one, and it's a pity it hasn't gotten a wider distribution. It is a rather quirky film that's not likely to appeal to the more casual horror movie viewing audience, I suppose. But worth a look for those seeking out unusual, clever horror that breaks away from the boring status quo.

3 comments:

allthingshorror said...

Great review. I really loved this movie as well. The chemistry between Fessenden and Moneghan was outstanding-little moments like Moneghan giving his friend a pat on the shoulder when walking behind him-the sandwich sharing scene-and that really made the movie. This might be the first ever buddy/zombie movie.
-mike

Mr. Fiendish said...

I reviewed this a couple of weeks ago on my blog and I agree completely, it's a great horror/comedy and completely different from the norm. Hope to see more like this in the future

B-Sol said...

That's a great point. The chemistry between the two leads really does make the movie.

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