John Bruni reviews I Sell The Dead

I Sell The Dead 85 min., 2008
Written by Glenn McQuaid
Directed by Glenn McQuaid
Language: English
My rating: ★★★★

Just like Ma used to make!

* * *

Quick! What is the first thing you notice about a movie? Answer: the title. I Sell the Dead jumps off the shelf at you, and to be fair, it’s an excellent marketing scheme. Who wouldn’t buy a movie with this title? Sure, it’s no I Spit on Your Grave or I Eat Your Flesh, but still.

Is this a gimmick? Sure, but not a worthless one. You see, gimmicks are used to enhance a movie that just doesn’t have IT. This one, however, has style and content worthy of your attention. Have you ever found yourself wondering why they don’t make horror comedies like they used to? Like, for example, COMEDY OF TERRORS? Prepare yourself for a nearly impeccable homage.

Right away, as the credits roll, you know you’re in for something special. The music could have been written in the hey-day of American International Pictures. The sound effects and even the voices are so spot-on that all you have to do is close your eyes. Go ahead. Close your eyes, and listen. It sounds EXACTLY like a movie from back in the day. The tone and atmosphere are perfect imitations, except with less matte work and cardboard graves. In key moments, the colors take over so intensely that they would have made Roger Corman happy. The dialogue may not be of its time, but it’s fun and more importantly, witty. In fact, you can imagine the old school actors playing these roles easily. Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee can easily fill Ron Perlman’s shoes, and Boris Karloff perfected the kind of role played by Angus Scrimm. Don’t you think Peter Lorre would be perfect in Larry Fessenden’s part? Dick Miller could easily play Cornelius Murphy. We only lack a character for Vincent Price.

And what is the focus of such an august undertaking? Body snatching, of course. Dominic Monaghan plays Arthur Blake, a resurrection man sentenced to beheading when we first meet him. He has learned the ropes from Willy Grimes, who is expertly played by Fessenden. Together, they rob graves (and, in one notable case, a wake). The style, almost reminiscent of Chuck Palahniuk’s cleaning tips in SURVIVOR, makes the movie crackle and pop. Body snatching has never looked so sexy!

This is not to say there aren’t flaws. First and foremost: the cartoon-y crap. Too many movies fade from real images to drawings of the likes you would find in a comic book. It doesn’t work, it’s not funny, and movies should stop doing it. This style fails even in movies based on comic books, which might be the only permissible use for this gimmick.

There is also an absurd moment when the erstwhile grave robbers snatch an alien’s body from the ground. It was so out of place it’s unbelievable. Granted, this is a movie that has vampires and zombies in it, but still: a good horror story makes the most outrageous events seem believable. When they introduced the gray alien, they failed.

Lastly, the final scene in the movie is wholly unnecessary. Why do horror movies made in the previous 30 years feel like they must throw a last-minute shock at you? There is no need for this, and if a sequel is made, said sequel should be avoided. This is a one-shot story and should remain so.

That said, there is a great throat-slitting effect that should go down in the history of the genre as one of the best. And the writer/director, Glenn McQuaid, isn’t afraid of killing off characters. Hell, one of them is killed off in the first five minutes. No one is safe here, which makes the knowledge of the twist in the end all the more significant. (Don’t worry, you’ll figure out the twist before it happens; your premonitory senses will only enhance
your enjoyment.)

A good final touch: just before the credits roll, a very familiar phrase to old school horror fans is displayed: “A good cast is worth repeating!”

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About John Bruni

John Bruni is the author of DONG OF FRANKENSTEIN (New Kink), POOR BASTARDS AND RICH FUCKS and TALES OF QUESTIONABLE TASTE (StrangeHouse) and STRIP (Riot Forge). His short work has appeared in anthologies like A HACKED-UP HOLIDAY MASSACRE (Pill Hill), ZOMBIE! ZOMBIE! BRAIN BANG! (StrangeHouse) and the critically acclaimed VILE THINGS (Comet). He edited STRANGE SEX 3 for StrangeHouse, and he was the editor and publisher of TABARD INN: TALES OF QUESTIONABLE TASTE. Find out more at www.talesofquestionabletaste.com and www.talesofunspeakabletaste.blogspot.com.
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2 Responses to John Bruni reviews I Sell The Dead

  1. Jon says:

    I agree I figured “I Sell the Dead” would be a garbage movie I would turn off after 10 minutes, but it turned out to be a very enjoyable little film.

  2. Lackey says:

    Haven’t seen this yet; it’s jumped up in priority based on this review. I’d love to see this particular subgenre of horror-comedy make a resurgence.

    What is the first thing you notice about a movie? Answer: the title.

    Best horror film title of all time: Strip Nude for Your Killer.

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