I have to admit that lately I've been plagued by feelings of jealousy because I should have been the one who turned everybody on to flix like YO, etc. I mean it's right there in my screen name fer christsake--QUEENBFLIX--HELLO!! I've spent countless hours wading through crap most people wouldn't watch without protective eye-gear in the hopes of unearthing an obscure gem, and yet others stumble over flix that by all rights should be mine--do you hear me? MINE!!! (sound of throat being cleared) Anyhow, I think I finally latched onto a flick that no one else has seen, and of course there's already a review of it. In fact I'd READ that review which is how the film came to be on my NetFlix list in the first place! What a memory. So I decided that It would be okay because not many other people have read the review, I'll just pretend it doesn't exist. Then I noticed that Trashie wrote a mini-review of it! And Cenobite put it on one of his lists. Shit. Why do I bother? Am I the last person to hear about this flick or what? On the off-hand chance that there is someone else on Lunch hasn't seen I SELL THE DEAD yet, I will proceed.
The trouble is that I don't want to ruin any of the joy of discovery for you guys like the other review did. In fact I actually scrapped 2 titles because I felt they gave away too much, so how to proceed is a bit of a problem. I SELL THE DEAD is a period piece and it begins with the execution of a man via guillotine and then whisks us off to a dank prison cell where cleric Francis Duffy (Ron Perlman with the worst Irish brogues every recorded on film) questions Arthur Blake who is to be executed himself in 5 hours. It seems Blake (Dominic Monaghan) and his partner Willie Grimes (Larry Fesseden) were grave robbers--but that's not the crime for which they are bring punished. They were convicted of murder. Blake insists that someone has framed them by leaving a very obvious trail of severed body parts leading right to their respective doorsteps, a point that became mute for Willie since he was the man executed at the film's beginning. The story unfolds in flashbacks as Blake tells Duffy how as a young boy he first became involved with Grimes and of their demanding arrangement with Dr. Quint (Angus Scrimm) who presses them for more and more corpses, pays them nothing, and threatens them with discovery if they don't comply. One night they find themselves digging up a most unusual corpse that's been buried far from town and outside the graveyard. That one corpse not only solves their problem with Dr. Quint it opens up a whole new world for them, and for the viewer. This is where things start to get wonderfully strange!
But the tales the cleric is most interested in however are those related to a rival gang of grave robbers called the House of Murphy, a ruthless bunch led by Cornelius Murphy. To illustrate how nasty Cornelius is Blake tells a story in flashback about how Cornelius's mother gave him a mechanical toy--a wind-up bird in a cage that fluttered it's wings and sang. The boy loved it and sat on the floor watching it for hours. His father stomped on it with his boot. His mother gave him a little chick which the boy loved dearly and played with on the floor and his father stomped on it with his boot. His mother gave him a white bunny-- well, let's just say that Cornelius was a couple of steps ahead of Dad on this one.
There's a lot more to the story of course, and that's the part you're going to have to see for yourselves because I'm not going to tell you. Some say that the plot was never going anywhere but I don't think that's true at all. It just went there somewhat circuitously. Audiences are lazy and are accustomed to having everything laid out for them in a nice neat pattern; beginning, middle, end. We seem to demand an obvious conflict at the beginning followed by an obvious resolution at the end. What I think writer/director Glenn McQuaid has down is given us a clever, witty, inventive story that in it's own totally impossible way is a little more like real life--it wanders around and then suddenly the protagonist finds out there's been a conflict. Surprise. (Actually we ARE tipped off about it the coming conflict in advance when Blake insists he and Grimes were framed, because they were. In other words, the film IS going somewhere it's just doing it in a rather subtle manner.) But no matter what you think of the plotline I can almost guarantee that you are going to have some fun with this film provided you enjoy the British sense of humor and don't suffer from ADD because it does have somewhat of a leisurely pace about it for the first act. The acting (aside from Perlman's accent) is excellent, with Monaghan turning in an especially good performance as Blake. The writing and direction are top notch and the cinematography won a well deserved award at SLAMDANCE. Surprisingly there's very little in the way of violence of actual bloodshed but there's a ton of entertainment value for anyone who's looking for something they haven't seen a thousand times before.
*** out of **** I didn't like "I Sell the Dead" when I first saw it. I didn't like how it felt and I didn't find it all that funny. But that was then (early 2010) and this is now (mid-2011). I've changed and become more accepting and tolerable. So I was willing to give this indie effort another chance at impressing me; now that I'm more acquainted with this genre and all. I still don't think that the film is made for everyone, but for those it is made for; it's somewhat of … more
Never trust a corpse, advises Dominic Monaghan. Words to live and die by. As Arthur Lake sits in jail, awaiting execution, he's visited by Father Duffy who asks him to recount his life as a body snatcher. Lake obliges the priest and tells the story of how, when he was just a boy, he entered into the employ of Willie Grimes who dug up corpses for Dr. Quint. Their trade brought them to all manner of unfriendly and lonely places, and one night while unearthing a body at a crossroads, … more