I Sell the Dead is a 2008 Horror/Comedy written and directed by Glenn McQuaid, who for those that remember wrote one of my favorite segments from V/H/S “Tuesday the 17th”. This film also boasts a number of actors who I consider myself a fan of, such as Angus Scrimm, Ron Perlman and Larry Fessenden. Dominic Monaghan is the lead and while I respect his impressive body of work he’s not my cup of tea so to speak.
The story opens with the execution by beheading via guillotine of Willie Grimes (Larry Fessenden) and switches to his partner in crime, quite literally Arthur Blake (Dominic Mornaghan) as he awaits his own execution. Arthur gets a short stay of his execution due the intervention of Father Duffy (Ron Perlman). Father Duffy, who wants to take Arthur’s story so may later be used to keep others from following the same path. Over the course of evening Arthur tells the story of how he got involved in the business of robbing graves and selling the bodies. Apprenticed under Willie, the two become partners and close friends over time as they work under the thumb of Doctor Quint (Angus Scrimm), who used blackmail over payment to obtain their services. But after stumbling upon the still staked corpse of a vampire the two turn the tables on Quint and free of his blackmail enter the profitable world that the supernatural side of grave robbing offers. The pair aren’t alone and come across the House of Murphy, a family of cut throats and ghouls who take affront at Grimes and Blake’s casual treatment of their profession. As the night continues Arthur tells his tale that grows increasingly strange all the way to the moment that landed him with is ghastly fate.
As I said it was the supporting cast that initially peaked my interest and got me to look past the film’s strange premise. I’ve been a big fan of Ron Perlman since I was a child and saw him in Beauty and the Beast. A strange show for a four-year old to watch, but my mother was a fan of the show and never missed an episode so neither did I. It wasn’t until years later when I saw The City of Lost Children did declare myself an avid fan of his. Scrimm, I only really know from his work as the Tall Man in Phantasm, but if you’re going to be known for one thing might as well be for an iconic role. Leaving only Larry Fessenden, who I’ve only become aware of since I’ve started this blog. He’s been in a couple of films I’ve talked about such as Jug Face and The Battery. Both films he’s played minor roles so I was excited to see him in a larger role. Sadly only Fessenden has any real amount of screen time as Scrimm’s character is offed early and Perlman is only in small parts. But within the scope of their roles both actors do a great job, Fessenden on the other hand does a fantastic job. Being easily my favorite character in the film. Monaghan does a great job as well, but Fessenden’s work is what really kept me invested.
The setting for the film is great, giving the film a creepy Gothic backdrop amped up the atmosphere. The humor plays as black comedy over things such as sight gags. That admittedly do exist in this film, but due to it’s somewhat aloof nature the film is able to pull it off. My main criticism is that the humor is often played up too much and in doing so diminishes the film’s more scary moments.
Final thoughts, meh? While it does have solid acting, with a host of well-known actors the film has more than a few flat moments. The constant breaks back and forth that are inherent in the films structure of Arthur telling his story of Father Duffy. It gets a bit tedious even if these are the only times we see Perlman. It’s the incredibly entertaining pairing of Fessenden and Monaghan that save this film from being another poor movie trying to get by on star power alone. The film while well written, the story does feel shallow and bit shaky in places. So I Sell the Dead an amusing watch that I would recommend if you don’t know what to watch on Netflix, I wouldn’t recommend to any hardcore horror fans 5/10.