I Sell the Dead (UK - BD RB)
Whatever they're selling, I ain't buying says Marcus as he runs the other way
After the execution of friend and work colleague Willie Grimes (Larry Fessenden), Arthur Blake (Dominic Monaghan), also waiting for his own execution, is visited by Father Francis Duffy (Ron Perlman). Arthur is asked to recount the story of what led him to his execution and how he got tangled up with the Murphy gang.
Arthur tells his tale of how what started with simple dead body snatching to earn a living and ended up unearthing the un-dead (as well as other more bizarre creatures).
What a bizarre little flick I Sell the Dead is. Set in a period setting with a micro budget, the comparison that slipped into my mind was the old Comic Strip Presents... from the eighties. The modern storytelling techniques mixed with period clichés all within an almost comic book feel to its style. An interesting approach and one that I always enjoyed with the likes of Comic Strip Presents..., however that is where the comparisons end.
Sadly, despite its toe dipping into many a different genre, I Sell The Dead isn’t really much of anything. It’s neither funny enough to be considered a comedy, dramatic enough to be considered a drama, scary enough to be considered a horror, kooky enough to sit well with the cult crowd, or tight enough to feel like anything more than a movie you’ll soon forget about.
With its many weird and wonderful attempts at an Irish accent from most of the cast (the worst being the kid playing young Arthur—who has an Australian/English/Irish/American without sounding much like any of them accent) and hiding its limitations in the darkened backgrounds, this movie never really seems to grasps the possibilities it’s playing with.
Potentially this could have ended up one crazy-ass ride through the world of grave robbing with a twist. The monsters they unearth really could have played a wilder part in all this and made for a better movie. In fact what we do see of the monsters is quite a good in a buffy-esq sort of way and Glenn McQuaid’s direction when the grave digging duo come across a vampire girl shows that he’s more than capable of delivering fun, kinetic scares and laughs with what he had. Instead he seems more inclined to focus on the Murphy Gang (probably the least enjoyable aspect of the whole movie) and the ultimate twist in the tale—which in all honesty wasn't really that much of a curve ball.
At first I was quite surprised by the quality of the picture for I Sell the Dead. After the initial brightly lit—though quite blandly coloured—opening beheading, we enter Arthur’s cell and it’s a well presented dark set, with black levels deep and convincing, the characters lit only by candle light look fantastic (even if the good lighting covers up for the slight softness to the details).
Stepping into our flashbacks, everything changes. This is in part due to the fact that the scene is actually the short film that inspired the feature length outing, filmed some two years earlier, but even so the presence of grain floating in the fog really overwhelms and when young Arthur climbs down into the open grave it just looks awful, with slight colour bleeding.
Jumping back into the newly filmed scenes everything climbs back to looking great again and much of the movie hides its low budget limitations within its dark styling and well placed lighting. Because of this, skin tones look pretty natural and detail looks nice and sharp. Also despite the odd moments of low budget tell tale signs, [/i]I Sell the Dead[/i] actually manages to deliver some very effective looking special effects, in both practical and computer generated incarnations.
For the most part nothing really stands out here. The dialogue sits nicely in the front speakers and while clear it’s never that strong (beyond Perlman’s gravelly voice) there are a few atmospherics that are placed well in the surrounds, with a standout moment being the vampire sweeping around the moors in an American Werewolf in London type affair.
Another bit of standout audio was the splish-splashing of the water around the characters as they head to the island (what is it with Dominic Monaghan and Islands?) in their row boat. Unfortunately the illusion is shattered with the visuals as the boat doesn’t look like it’s moving an inch.
Straight into the two commentaries, the Monaghan and Fessenden track is the most fun with the two bouncing off of each other well and hyping up the small project throughout. The director’s commentary is quite typical of a first timer with McQuaid giving us plenty of insight into the project and lots and lots of talk of the films and books that have influenced him. He also gives lots of detail about how scenes changed and came together and how outside influences formed changes (like Perlman being nabbed early for Hellboy 2).
The making of (01:04:00 HD) is a long one and not always that enjoyable a watch. Seeing how this small film was made starts off as interesting but I soon found myself yearning for another interview with a cast member as opposed to more long shots of watching the set up of a scene.
‘I Sell the Dead: The Visual Effects’ (13:05 HD) highlights the small but very effective effects and while not all of them worked for me in the movie, when they did they were very impressive, especially considering how small a project this was.
I Sell the Dead is a movie that has a lot of promising elements without really delivering on any of them. Its limited budget and charm run out when you realise that this one really isn’t going anywhere too exciting and despite having a pretty kooky ending it all comes off as a pilot episode to a TV show I probably wouldn’t watch.
As for the disc, there are plenty of features and generally some nice A/V on offer, however even with all this, I'm not sure this one is destined to find its audience.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 19th October 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Ebglish, Stero 2.0 English
Extras: Audio Commentary by Director Glenn McQuaid, Audio Commentary by Stars Dominic Monaghan and Lerry Fessenden, The Making of I Sell the Dead Featurette, I Sell the Dead visual Effects
Easter Egg: No
Director: Glenn McQuaid
Cast: Dominic Monaghan, Ron Perlman, Larry Fessenden
Genre: Comedy, Drama and Horror
Length: 84 minutes
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