On the surface, “I Sell the Dead” seems like a can’t miss vehicle. It’s about two grave robbers, Arthur Blake (Dominic Monaghan) and Willie Grimes (Larry Fessenden). The two have been “framed” for murder, and after Willie’s execution, Arthur is stuck in his cell with Father Francis Duffy (Ron Perlman), spilling his guts about his wacky grave-robbing high jinks. Apparently, in Ireland in the mid-1800s, stealing some dead bodies could lead to some loot.
While stealing, and selling, dead bodies, the boys are also occasionally called upon by Dr. Vernon Quint (Angus Scrimm) who, as my understanding goes, blackmails the fellas in to giving him bodies for free lest he go to the local constable and rat them out. My first problem with the film lies here. Why would anybody ever pay for a dead body if you could just say, “Uh, no, you can give it to me for free, or else I will alert the police.”
Maybe I missed some detailed minutiae explaining that one away. It’s hard to say since I was in a state of tedium-induced coma throughout most of the film.
Eventually Arthur and Willie dig up a corpse with a stake sticking out of it. They pull the stake out, only to discover the corpse to be undead, as it limps up and stretches out. In which case I’m not sure it should be referred to as a corpse. But you probably get the point.
The duo soon find there is even more money to be made selling the UNdead. And so it is they fall in to their new line of work as zombie sellers. Where the term zombie is used loosely to incorporate all undead beings.
This movie has a lot going for it. A great cast, including Monaghan, horror cult icon Scrimm and even Ron Perlman! It has a great concept and is currently sitting at 75% on rottentomatoes.com.
The problem with this movie is that it sucks in almost every way conceivable. When I think of “horror-comedy” I automatically think of “Evil Dead 2” and “Shaun of the Dead,” two of my favorite films. And they are damn near gut-busters, with a little fright and terror thrown in, and a healthy dose of directorial ingenuity to boot.
Most of “I Sell the Dead” is dialogue leading up to a scene. Arthur will tell Father Francis in painful detail everything they did leading up to stealing a dead body, which mostly included sitting at the pub and talking about stealing bodies. Then they go to steal bodies. Then they steal them. Nothing funny ever happens, nothing scary ever happens, it really feels as if nothing ever happens.
Take the scene where they find the first undead woman. They pull at the stake, they get scared and run around a bit, they put the stake back in her and she dies again. And scene.
It feels like there is a great idea here, they just didn’t know what to do with it. Most of the scenes really just involve mind-numblingly dull patter between Arthur and Willie. I guess it’s supposed to be funny, but I don’t know who would find it as such. It’s simply dialogue. Mostly talking about drinking or stealing bodies….you know, every day talk between companions.
There’s really nothing here to recommend. There’s no so-excessive-it’s-silly-gore, there’s no scares, there’s no jokes, there’s very little humor, visual or otherwise. If you’re looking for a new horror-comedy to see this Halloween, you’d probably be better off watching some unintentionally funny SyFy original. Like “Hammerhead Shark Frenzy” or “Pterodactyl.”
Written by Ryan Venson