I Sell The Dead Review

The Film

I dream of a cinema where accents of the past are little different from the ones you hear in the present. In that place, no one has a "faaahrm een Ahhfreekah" and Mary Poppins hears the word "God" when people thank her. In my fictional place, just getting the continent right in an actor's vocal performance is thought of less highly than acting your part as best as you can. In this fictional place Keanu is forever Ted, and no one will ever ask him to impersonate an English gent.
Very rarely this fictional place and the cinema in our world intersect. On our silver and plasma screens we can witness subtle acting, and observe casts getting caught in a competition of abused vowels. Yet, it is safe to say that I Sell The Dead does not belong in this intersect. No one actually says "me old mammy" or "apples and pairs" during this movie but they might as well for all the oldie worldie cockernee oirish performing.

Can this be excused as comic intent? Does the novelty of a grave-robbing romp with two rapscallions caught amongst zombies, vampires and aliens mean that crimes against pronuniciation can be ignored? Well, yes and no. I am instinctively reluctant to forgive comedy horror films given my recent experience of Dead Snow as the comic is often used to cover up deficiencies in the terror department. Directors often opt for the route of parody to hide the fact that they can't do tension or suspense. This directorial road, I have christened it the Landis highway, boasts a comic hit ratio of about one in 10 and this is usually chosen because the same director's horror success rate is even lower.
Glenn McQuaid wrote and directed his feature debut with an eye on the legacy of Amicus and Hammer films that managed a bit of laughter with a lot of creepiness. Thankfully he chose an episodic approach to the narrative, a shortish uptempo running time, and a soundtrack that underlines the good-natured nonsense on show. Visually his film is exceptionally dark and minimal in order to manage the problems of using modern locations for a period piece, and in order to keep the audience concentrated on his fairly impressive cast.

And he relies a lot on this cast to make the whole project work. This is a cast with accents that do not belong to the fictional world I mentioned who ignore subtlety and replace it with broad comic effect. McQuaid indulges their individual performances, and as a result the ensemble acting is competitive rather than complementary. A lot of McQuaid's dialogue is played rather than said and chemistry often fails to be created in the tumult of events.
Still this is fun. It isn't brilliantly executed, it is limited by resources and schedules, derivative rather than wholly novel, but it is fun. Where Dead Snow kinda ate itself, I Sell the Dead at least entertains and has enough of its own persona to allow you to forgive its own shortcomings. Given how a lot more money is available to fund horror reboots, McQuaid has achieved a lot with his limited resources and it would have been interesting to see how this project would have turned out with better investment.

For the time being though this is funny and awfully entertaining, to be shurr

Technical Specs

The transfer is encoded with the AVC/MPEG 4 codec and presented at 2.35:1. There is a light dusting of film grain, contrast is excellent, and detail in and out of shadow is very good where the film-maker intends to show it. The autumnal palate of the movie is reproduced well, edges are natural and this is a lovely presentation of such a modest production.
Two HD lossless options are offered up for your delectation. The master audio track does offer more in the way of atmosphere and the graveyard sequences complete with the likes of snapped twigs and rustling low frequencies benefits greatly from being mixed around the listener. There is excellent clarity to both options with the score sounding rather fine. There are no subtitles.

Special Features

The film is accompanied by two commentaries. McQuaid's commentary is rather dry and straightforward and much more informative than his two star's double act. Larry Fessenden and Dominic Monaghan are talking on the day of the Los Angeles premiere with Fessenden's role as producer giving plenty of background to casting and shooting. Fessenden explains that his earlier film with McQuaid is included in truncated form within the film and that McQuaid is none too happy with it. The director explains scheduling issues, reshoots and his direction to keep it "broad" and "comedic", and he is unstinting in his praise of Fessenden for mucking in with the production.

The making of documentary follows the filming with intercut interviews from cast and crew, and is presented in HD. A very tired Ron Perlman talks about his joy at working on independent films and the camaraderie on set, Monaghan celebrates the script and McQuaid explains how he got it all done and kept to budget. The documentary meanders a bit but it is edited well and ends with the film being wrapped.

Producer Peter Phok explains that the director's background in visual effects was key to getting the film made in the FX documentary. The use of 3-D computer software to storyboard the film is illustrated, and McQuaid explains how the agency Spontaneous were approached to extra digital effects and how he created a graphic novel to accompany the screenplay.

Summary

An entertaining and ambitious low budget flick gets a nice blu-ray release. Recommended for fans of old British horror movies or anyone who likes a wacky idea well delivered.

Film
7 out of 10
Video
7 out of 10
Audio
7 out of 10
Extras
7 out of 10
Overall

7

out of 10

Last updated: 18/04/2018 18:38:47

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