The year’s most deliriously heavy title comes attached to a cheeky Victorian-era horror-comedy about grave-robbing—and it’s not just human corpses being raided here.
I Sell the Dead is a throwback to long-dormant strands of Gothic thriller-making: Britain’s tall-hatted Hammer flicks of the 1950s and ’60s and Roger Corman’s cheapie Poe adaptations, schlockfests filled with fake fog and faker cockney accents. (Not so surprisingly, this production was lensed largely on Staten Island.) Irish-born writer-director Glenn McQuaid presents his severed limbs with a chortle, not with Saw’s lip-smacking stare. The results are endearing, if a touch tame.
After killing off one of its main protagonists by guillotine, I Sell the Dead settles into a flashback structure, as condemned prisoner Arthur (Monaghan) relates his ghoulish apprenticeship under the tutelage of the late Willie Grimes (Fessenden) to a whiskey-generous father-confessor (Perlman, clearly enjoying himself). There’s an evil medical experimenter who employs the duo to provide him with fresh supplies, but after one dead body pulls off some Raimi-style hysterics, the tone shifts strongly into the supernatural. Elsewhere, I Sell the Dead flirts uncertainly with cartoonish Creepshow-like panels, and the acting is just polite enough to leave the movie tonally stranded. More hammy nourishment—perhaps some mysteriously meaty shepherd’s pies—is required.—Joshua Rothkopf
I Sell the Dead