By Nikki Busalacchi
It was 1:30am when I selected the 2008 horror/comedy I Sell the Dead from the Hulu “horror and suspense” category. Admittedly, I had glossed over the fact that it was a humorous film before pressing play, but in hindsight it probably saved me from some paranormal-themed nightmares.
While the opening scene of this dark Irish comedy features 18th century grave robber Willie Grimes (played by Larry Fessenden) being beheaded via guillotine, much of the movie is told in the flashbacks of his partner, Arthur Blake (Dominic Magnahan), as he details his life of crime to Father Duffy (Ron Perlman) before he faces the same blade. The Grimes-Blake partnership begins under the blackmail-fueled employment of the corpse-obsessed Doctor Quint (Angus Scrimm) many years prior, but their luck turns around when they unearth a vampire during their search for a fresh body and seek revenge. As word quickly spreads of their innate ability to find and unearth the undead, their fame and wealth steadily increase. Competition against the House of Murphy – a psychopathic burn victim, a monstrous oaf, and their vicious leader – makes the paranormal business a little more dangerous, however, and the ending plot twist leaves you with one piece of wise advice: never trust a corpse.
Director Glenn McQuaid, also known for his short film Tuesday the 17th in the horror anthology V/H/S, did well with his budget of $450 thousand. While lighting and costume special effects – especially that of the “undead” – were subpar at times, McQuaid’s choice of setting, dialogue, and actors led this film to success. During some scene progressions, live action is transitioned to comic book still, which is not only out of place in a Victorian era movie, but a quick Google search reveals that the comic book by the same title was first published a year after the movie was released. However, the dark humor aids in the smooth plot advancement and the likability of the characters. Character development within Arthur’s flashbacks is realistic and leaves the audience both enthralled in the action-packed story and rooting for the antagonists. Aside from the supernatural encounters and the occasional gory death, the movie’s overtones lean toward humorous more than frightening, and the ending plot twist proves to be both surprising and entertaining, and neatly wraps up a clever and witty movie – though the final clip leaves us wondering if a sequel is somewhere on the horizon.
Available on Hulu.