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Sunday, October 18, 2009

I Sell The Dead

Film review by Dan Collacott

2008 was the year of the Vampire with True Blood, Let The Right One In and Twighlight ruling the bat cave, and while the fanged craze has overlapped into 2009 I'd still say that this year belongs to the good old humble Zombie.

I Sell The Dead isn't really a traditional Zombie film, in fact only in the second half of this low budget period horror comedy does it wave a big spade at that genre.

The film centres on the slap stick-esque grave robbing antics of Arthur Blake (Dominic Monaghan) and Willie Grimes (Larry Fessenden). The story is told through a series of death row conversations between Blake and Father Duffy (Ron Perlman).

The first half anecdotes/flashbacks concentrate on how a young Blake and Grimes first became a notorious grave robbing partnership. The second half shifts to their more profitable and specialist acquisition of the undead, and not to mention their less fortunate encounters with a deranged rival gang.

The setting of a fog soaked period England creates a perfectly macabre and bleak atmosphere throughout the film, yet somehow the morally obscure duo's humorous exchanges keeps the mood light. The film isn't really laugh out loud funny but certainly has its fair share of very comic moments, it also refreshingly avoids too many cliché buddy/bromance set pieces, or boy meets woman yawns. In fact aside from the main partnership there is little other character depth there and nor is it needed!

Monaghan and Fessenden's on screen chemistry is both well pitched and believable, as is the world they inhabit and the protagonists they tackle. Perlman (Hellyboy) puts in a neat turn as the priest and Irish director Glenn McQuaid's direction is tight and effective throughout.

Although I Sell The Dead breathes knew life into a tiring genre, it feels more like a TV film or an introduction to a series than a feature film. Now I don't mean it is in anyway bad, in fact it is very watchable but it just feels like there is a lot more mileage in each individual story told and in the characters themselves. I would watch a HBO series based on the film in a heartbeat, as for me 90mins wasn't enough.

The twist is evident early on (and doesn't really pretend to be that complex) and the actual main plot strand feels like an after thought. But the fact I wanted to see more really shows that the film both frustrated and delighted me in equal measures.

Of this years horror films - Zombieland though stylistically superb and at times beautifully comic, bored me senseless with a slow barely evident plot. Drag Me To Hell was awesome, Dead Snow and Pontypool were entertaining. I Sell The Dead however gets major kudos for originality, I've not read the Graphic Novel the film is based on but I will be ordering very soon!

Raiting: 7/10


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