I Sell the Dead (2008)
Never Trust A Corpse
Comedy is something that’s made it’s way into movies all over the place. Generally speaking, I’m actually pretty okay with this, as a good joke can do wonders towards heightening entertainment value - although comedy being such a subjective thing it’s also sometimes really hard to pull off for a mass-appeal. At the same time, I hadn’t thought of until recent this recent year the implications that can come with comedy - or rather, the theoretical question of “Can there be too much comedy in a movie?” Extensively, the answer to that is yes - if you are going for a serious, heart-impacting emotional moment too much comedy surrounding it can drastically effect in a negative way said moment. Still, everyone wants to laugh, and when the movie is made to cater to comedy such as this entry, there shouldn’t be a ghost of a chance towards the comedy being a problem - only if the jokes fit my particular style. Settle in at the old pub for a pint, tonight we check out I Sell The Dead.
I sell the dead is a tale told by a grave robber about past happenings after he’s been caught by the law and imprisoned. By it’s end, it’s almost like an anthology flick, where each flashback story tells of a different happening except every story contains the same two main characters. The wrapper, which is essentially the end of the tale, facilitates these surprising stories going from how it all began straight through to events that have more bearing on the plot in general. Given the comedy element, the fact that you don’t feel the characters are in any real danger during these flashbacks is somewhat made irrelevant - it’s less about the danger and more about the situations. Heck, at first glance you might even find that it’s a weird choice to use grave robbers as the main characters, regardless of chemistry or character. I know at first I was wondering how they would provide some hook to keep you wanting to come back to it - but it doesn’t waste too much time before it sets it’s bait - the supernatural. Yes, it spins the concept of a pair of robbers trying to get by in the world with the mysterious world of ghouls and the undead, allowing for something off-base with reality while also somewhat playing out the expectations with the time setting and realm of the movie.
Of course, it being a comedy that aspect also helps play into some of the jokes. I may not have been rolling on the floor, but I sure had a laugh or two over the run time. Some things are visual gags using the camera - a shot, next shot, return shot with different result sort of thing - with other visual gags being more of a normal thought line. The first ghoul encounter exemplifies these quite well in both regards. There’s also some word play here and there, including using incorrect pronunciation towards comedic effect when it comes to saying Crucifix. As always, it’s hit or miss depending on the person, but it largely strays from the “low brow” humor found in a lot of kids flicks - namely the bathroom humor - be it for better or worse. Regardless, it’s also part horror movie, and those elements aren’t completely dismissed or mishandled either. Yes, there isn’t an intense draw towards worrying for the main characters well being, but there are still a few effective (and proper) jump scares and the looming mood caused by a few well handled “set” constructions going on. It might not make you have nightmares, but it may get you to jump once or twice regardless.
The jokes and horror can also be helped by the actors. If something scary happens but the general character on screen reaction is that of total indifference, than you may be less likely to get spooked. If a funny line is mentioned and everyone takes a moment to fuss about it and laugh to almost draw attention to the fact that they want you to be laughing about it, it might loose some of the appeal. Here, the actors do a great job being as deadpan or eccentric as they need be. The accents are a nice touch, giving it a more lived in feel, and the lingo helps to sidestep it feeling as though it’s breaking reality. Yeah, there’s some cursing in here, but it’s not to the extent nor is there the use of words that are so recent that it pulls you out of it. The play between the two main characters (the one of which goes through a couple of different ages) is well handled as well, and there feels to be a good chemistry between them. You feel they are friends, as intended, and the acting only generally feels bad when it’s either acceptable or feels intentionally hammy. The supporting cast does a good job as well, coming off as evil and dangerous, lively and drunk, or otherwise character as one could want. It’s a nice enough job that you find your stay enjoyable, even if what you are watching might be backstory segments.
Effects here are somewhat of a mixed bag. I wouldn’t call them specifically bad, although at times they are incredibly noticeable and in turn would probably be called bad by many. Plenty of scenes come off feeling straight green-screened, and when the backgrounds are a bit more animated looking than the actors it’s pretty easy to guess that there might have been some green effects work happening. The sets that do get used are good however, hitting the feel and character that you would expect for what they are aiming to achieve. Some nice use of things like fog and lighting get thrown around as well during the more spooky scenes, and the costumes look rather fitting of the period it’s trying to place itself in as well. When things finally hit the supernatural, effects get to do a bit more with makeup and prosthetics - some of which are better than others. Most the ghouls look good or at the very least fine, even if at moments they might have a part that looks a bit off. It’s plenty capable enough of being enjoyable even if they don’t feel super high-budget, and I’d say they still mostly all fair better than a lot of the SyFy original movies I’ve watched over the years.
Now, the movie also tries to throw some twists at you here and there, but only one of them isn’t really foreshadowed. The problem with that one is that, having watched a lot of movies, I was able to call it as soon as the potential for it reared it’s head. I don’t necessarily feel it’s a terrible thing here - the movie doesn’t exactly set itself up to be some kind of mystery or psychological movie wherein twists are important nor mind blowing. The supernatural element could be a bit of a twist, and surely I’ve already spoiled that part quite a few times (sorry), but it’s a much enjoyed one since it gives the plot more to play with. The plot otherwise really just feels a bit predictable throughout - and largely when a situation presents itself, you can call how it’s going to play out in the scenes following while paying attention to the movie as a whole. It in a way ends up being a little simplistic like that, although I’d say that isn’t a terrible thing to be for a movie that’s anything combined with comedy.
The audio department is there. Sometimes the effects can sound a bit cheesy - like the monster growl heard while crossing the water. Actors largely come across easily heard and understood - probably a good thing for many of the comedy elements. I do admit I may have missed a line from a side character or two that wasn’t any way important to the plot, but that may have served as some sort of joke that I could have missed out on because of it. None of the background music really sticks in my head - one of those movies where after I’m done I find myself briefly wondering if there actually was any background music, knowing there was, and just saying that it added to the scenes as intended but didn’t linger afterwards. Chalk it up to poor memory perhaps, or maybe I was just too engrossed in the interactions or scenes trying to one-up their own ridiculousness. You could also argue that the more audio-based jokes should be placed in this section, such as the incorrect pronouncing that I had mentioned earlier, but having already said that I don’t really feel that it needs much more elaboration beyond “there’s some decent jokes in here, and they aren’t all visual.”
I Sell The Dead is a fun enough romp for what it intends to be. I got some laughs out of it, as promised by the comedy genre, and surprisingly got a jump or two out of it as well - as indicated by the horror. It might not particularly excel in either regard to the extent that some other horror comedies have, but for the time it runs it’s entertaining and the actors do a good job meshing on screen. The trailer and description will really be the big sellers on if you should want to check this one out or something though, based on your own preferences. Yeah, you can probably decide already just based off of my little entry here as well, but it’s a pretty face-value sort of movie that doesn’t try to pull the rug out from under you. It’s got a few names you might recognize - including the Tall Man from Phantasm, but largely of those big names most are more like side characters than main characters, despite the level of their acting so I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that since they are in it you’d like it. That said, I do suppose that might be the case either way, the movie has enough likeability that plenty would probably have a good time with it even if they aren’t very impressed or throwing “5 out of 5 stars, best ever!” reviews at it like it’s made of gold.