I Sell the Dead

Dir: Glenn McQuaid

Rating: 1.5/5.0

IFC Films

85 Minutes

The horror-comedy is a difficult sea to traverse. When a filmmaker deftly treads the fine line between the genres, making horrific moments laughable and adding an indelible tension to comedy, you wind up with classics like An American Werewolf in London. Sure, your friend returning as a living corpse is scary but having him re-appear in different stages of decay is comic brilliance. Unfortunately director Glenn McQuaid performs about as well as a blind kid trying to navigate a balance beam in his gothic tale I Sell the Dead, fumbling elements both horrific and comedic and finally landing in a disheveled mess by the time this tale plays out.

The film begins when grave robber Arthur (Dominic Monaghan) is visited by a priest (Ron Perlman) as he awaits an appointment with the guillotine. His partner and mentor Willie (producer Larry Fessenden) has already been decapitated and Arthur’s time in this world is short. The priest is interested in hearing Arthur’s life story, a convenient frame structure for a tale filled with bawdy wenches, thirsty vampires, mad scientists and the living dead.

McQuaid offers up a paint-by-numbers tale where any deviation (such as scenes that inexplicably convert to animation, intentionally hokey sets and the sudden incorporation of the undead and extraterrestrials) spirals this mess further out of control. However, it is obvious that McQuaid and company are playing for laughs, but the lack of any dramatic tension, likable characters combined with flat jokes, sections that should have been relegated to the deleted scenes section on a DVD or any discernible plot make the story of Arthur’s life dull and the protagonist impossible to care about. When half the film does nothing to add to overall story arc, you know you’re in trouble. There’s even a drinking contest.

As in any good horror film that’s worth its salt these days, I Sell the Dead ends with a twist, but this revelation could have served as an interesting jumping off point. McQuaid decides to use it as the resolution rather than the conflict. Bad choice. The only thing that saves this film from an even lower rating is the good-natured vein of humor that runs throughout which, on a few occasions, made me laugh. Otherwise, I Sell the Dead, arrives in theaters with less life than the stiffs and the living corpses Arthur and Willie wrangle in its mercifully brief 85 minutes.

by David Harris

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