I Sell The Dead

I Sell The Dead (2008)
IFC Films
Cast: Dominic Monaghan, Larry Fessenden, Ron Perlman, Angus Scrimm
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurettes

Completely out of the left field, unexpected and never-heard-of, the film "I Sell The Dead" arrived on my desk the other day. I m not sure, what ultimately attracted me to the film, the fact that Dominoc Monaghan and Angus Scrimm were in it, or that it appeared to be a truly gothic horror experience. As many of you may know, I am a huge fan of the genre and am even writing my own gothic horror series called "Jason Dark: Ghost Hunter." Whatever the attraction was, ultimately, I decided to check out this film, and I am so glad I did, because "I Sell The Dead" turned out to be a true gem.

After having been caught for body snatching, Willie Grimes (Larry Fessenden) and Arthur Blake (Dominic Monaghan) are facing the guillotine in this 19th century story. While Willie takes the walk first and loses his head, Father Duffy (Ron Perlman) has the chance to interview the condemned Blake during the last minutes of his life. What he hears is the life story of one of the most prolific grave robbers and traders in human corpses of his time who also didn't mind to sell the not-so-dead, as well as the undead.

Just to be clear about it, "I Sell The Dead" is a horror comedy. Extremely clever in its plotting and wonderfully charming, however, this is not your Zucker-style silly spoof, but instead a film that meticulously understands the genre and makes fun of it on a much deeper level. The result are laughs that are never cheap, and more sincere throughout. If the vampire staking scene early in the movie doesn't kill you, nothing will.

But at the same time, the film can be very creepy. Said vampire scene is the perfect example, how the filmmakers cleverly counterpoint real horror with funny moments resulting from it. The vampire itself is creepy beyond anything that has flashed over the screen in many years, putting the viewer fully on edge, only to relieve the horror moments later with some funny observational comedy.

This style threads itself through the entire film, touching upon many of the genre's stereotypes and monsters. When the story reaches the gothic zombie segment, the film is running like a freight train, thundering through horror and comedy territory at such breakneck speed that viewers will be left completely in awe. I know, I was. Getting increasingly gory and violent, the film just keeps adding the laughs on top of it with its great characters and absolutely amazing cast.

The DVD version offers great-looking widescreen transfer of the film, enhanced for 16×9 viewing. I was pleasantly surprised at the overall quality of the transfer as I found that it didn't look like an independent production at all. A clean image, free of grain or other shortcomings, the film is dripping atmosphere from every fog-shrouded frame. The print is pristine, without blemishes or mars and offers a rich, vibrant color palette throughout. Deep blacks give the image incredibly visual depth and also make sure there is plenty of detail and definition to be found.

The audio on the release is presented as a 5.1 Dolby Digital track, which is always balanced and offers clearly understandable dialogues. Afforded with a very cool soundtrack that truly enhances the gothic atmosphere of the film, this release shines in all departments.

As extras you will find a commentary track with Dominic Monaghan and Larry Fessenden on the disc that is filled with little nuggets and exciting tidbits. Both of them are entertaining and funny, just as you'd expect after watching them together on the screen.

Also included is a behind-the-scenes featurette, which I found, very entertaining as well. It is not your standard EPK but instead video footage taken by crew members during the production, showing the work that went into the film, but also giving us a peek at a much more candid peek at cast and crew members. It still features official interviews, but they are clearly on the lighter side, with director Glenn McQuaid talking to the camera with a bottle of beer in his hand, for example, or Ron Perlman having his dog bounce around his lap. Altogether, it gives the featurette a much more intimate feel.

Also included is a featurette offering a glimpse at the make-up and special effects in the film, ranging from the monsters all the way to the computer generated matte-paintings and atmospheric effects.

I was very pleasantly surprised by "I Sell The Dead." I didn't expect a whole lot and walked away with a big smile on my face. This is a truly inspired horror comedy that knows its metier and limits, knowing when to hold back and when to go for the jugular. Very cool and highly recommended!