I Sell The Dead
Dir. Glenn McQauid (2008 85 min, 2.35:1)
Dominic Monaghan, Ron Perlman, Larry Fessenden
19th century justice has finally caught up to grave robbers Arthur Blake and Willie Grimes. With the specter of the guillotine looming over him, young Blake confides in visiting clergyman Father Duffy, recounting fifteen years of adventure in the resurrection trade. His tale leads from humble beginnings as a young boy stealing trinkets from corpses, to a partnership with seasoned ghoul Willie Grimes as they hunt creatures unwilling to accept their place in the ground. The colorful and peculiar history of Grimes and Blake is one filled with adventure, horror, and vicious rivalries that threaten to put all involved in the very graves they’re trying to pilfer. Never Trust A Corpse.
Droll perfs, diverting f/x and handsome B-pic atmospherics ensure a good time
for horror fans with a memory past last weekend’s slasher remake.
I can say with complete conviction that “I Sell the Dead”
is the best body-snatcher film of the year.
Glenn McQuaid shows he clearly knows his way around the camera
and has a massive love for gothic horror. He’s also one hell of a comedic writer…
Zombies aren’t the oddest thing revealed in the body snatchers’ search – one finding is something that only the Python team or Alex Cox would try to pull off. And even those hooligans would do it slightly.
I Sell the Dead’s approach is so infectious that you can’t help
but relish every last, silly, episodic minute of it.
smart, gruesome and inventive enough to more than please niche genre fans
who are likely to spread the word to fellow admirers of gallows humor.
so damned good-natured and with just enough inventive black humour
and batty gags to earn it a warm place in the heart of any true horror devotee
The year’s most deliriously heavy title comes attached to a cheeky Victorian-era
horror-comedy about grave-robbing—and it’s not just human corpses being raided here.
An ever-escalating series of mishaps involving dead bodies … and just a few not-so-dead bodies as well.
Glenn McQuaid’s deft dialogue, strong characters and clever plotting attracted some impressive acting talent.
I Sell the Dead is an amusing horror/comedy with a few worthwhile twists and turns,
as well as few head-scratching, genre-bending moments.
Chris Barsanti July 28, 2009
Bottom Line: Glenn McQuaid’s microbudgeted debut is a jauntily gothic period spook story.
One would think that being a grave robber was a hard enough career. But in writer-director Glenn McQuaid’s bumptious horror comedy, “I Sell the Dead,” it’s a one-way ticket to indentured servitude and terrifying encounters with the undead.
Set in a particularly fog-shrouded corner of 19th century Ireland, the film is a buddy story about a pair of no-luck grave robbers, crusty old drunk Willie Grimes (Larry Fessenden in fully whiskered, slovenly oaf mode) and impish joker Arthur Blake (a particularly puckish Dominic Monaghan), who discover that successfully stealing corpses is the least of their concerns.
The result is smart, gruesome and inventive enough to more than please niche genre fans who are likely to spread the word to fellow admirers of gallows humor.
The story is told mostly in flashback, starting with Grimes getting guillotined and Blake — in his cell awaiting similar treatment — being interrogated by Father Duffy (Ron Perlman). The priest shows up late at night with a bottle of hooch, a notebook and a great interest in the occult. Grimes and Blake had been stealing corpses by any means necessary, going so far as to purloin fresh ones right out of a wake, to sate the ghoulish greed of Dr. Vernon Quint (Angus Scrimm, of “Phantasm” infamy), who blackmails them into doing their work for free.
After one particularly chilling late-night encounter with a pseudo-corpse (it was wearing a necklace of garlic for a reason), Grimes and Blake discover there’s better money to be made in trafficking the not-quite dead. Fortunately for these two, their part of Ireland is positively lousy with such creatures. But as their fortunes improve, Grimes and Blake run afoul of a rival grave-robbing gang, the House of Murphy, who takes the business much more seriously than the whiskey-sodden, happy-go-lucky protagonists.
As the stakes ramp up in the increasingly surreal story he’s telling, so does the mood in Grimes’ candlelit cell darken. But though the tone occasionally inches toward the serious, McQuaid never lets go of the deadpan Gaelic wit that makes the film so effortlessly enjoyable.
Produced under Fessenden’s indie horror flick imprint Scareflix, “I Sell the Dead” makes the most of its microsized budget, with various New York area settings filling in for Eire nicely enough. The film’s lack of money becomes more apparent in the sometimes chintzy monster makeup, but the filmmakers turn that to their advantage by playing up the comedic aspect of these shambolic creatures of the night.
Jeff Grace, a former assistant to composer Howard Shore, provides the circus-styled music, which adds an extra layer of good-natured bounce to the already goofy proceedings..
NEW YORK TIMES
Fright Night, With Thrills From Six Feet Under
A pastiche of old-fashioned horror flicks and an homage to the same, “I Sell the Dead” recalls the kind of frightful diversions that were a staple on the television show “Chiller Theater.” That program, broadcast in New York on Channel 11 once upon a time, showcased disreputable pleasures and classics, including those produced by Hammer, the British studio that, with Christopher Lee brandishing a cape and fangs, transformed Dracula into one hot corpse. In the 1970s the show opened with the image of a six-fingered hand emerging through soil, the knobby digits twisting, as if beckoning us in unsettling welcome.
The writer and director of “I Sell the Dead,” Glenn McQuaid, hails from Dublin, so he probably has at least a passing acquaintance with Hammer. His producer, Larry Fessenden, who has directed tight, smart, micro-budgeted horror flicks like “The Last Winter,” grew up in New York, where, he has said, he made a habit of tuning in to “Chiller Theater” and the similar “Creature Feature.” All this probably helps explain why everyone in “I Sell the Dead,” a horror cheapie set in the early 1800s about two grave robbers, speaks with British (or close enough) accents, often while pawing through thick fog. Never mind that the entire movie was shot in New York, including in someone’s apartment and an East Village bar.
The loosely strung-together story turns on the ghoulish adventures of Arthur Blake (Dominic Monaghan from “Lost”), trained at the crooked knee of Willie Grimes (Mr. Fessenden). Having been sentenced to death for murder, Arthur confesses his sins to a priest (Ron Perlman) in piecemeal flashback. Arthur’s troubles began, he explains, when he and Willie started disinterring troublesome corpses, like the one with the stake in her heart. Deciding she would fetch a better price if she didn’t look like an appetizer, Willie tugs out the stake. She attacks. He thrusts it back in. She quiets down. He pulls it out, and so it goes, as the Hammeresque shivers give way to Abbott and Costello-style slapstick.
A fine pair of grave robbers, Mr. McQuaid and Mr. Fessenden plunder freely from the movie crypt, unearthing other chomping, glowing mysteries and monstrosities. Taking cues from B to Z masters of yore, they crank up the fog machine (or bring out the dry ice), dribble the blood (or the red syrup) and flash the trick knives and other sleights of cinematic hand. The serviceable, joking performances do the job just fine, with Mr. Fessenden, wearing his familiar snarl of hair and gap-toothed smile, clearly having a jolly old time. The jokes do wear thin, and the setup does too, but it’s nonetheless worth noting what a couple of crafty thieves can do with elbow grease, some spare change and the kind of deep movie love that never dies.
Dennis Harvey JUNE 19, 2009
Antic horror comedy “I Sell the Dead” nods to the ’60s Hammer heyday of fog-swirling Victorian chillers, as well as that period’s penchant for teaming genre favorites (Boris Karloff, Basil Rathbone, Peter Lorre, etc.) in genial sendups. Fondly crafted, amusing if slight item has toured fests since last fall, selling rights in several territories. IFC will give the pic simultaneous U.S. theatrical and on-demand rollouts starting Aug. 7 in New York and Aug. 14 in L.A. (VOD release is Aug. 12), with partner Blockbuster handling rental/download distribution.
In addition to producing, contemporary horror helmer Larry Fessenden (“The Last Winter”) steps before the camera here as rascally Willy Grimes, who apprentices Arthur (Dominic Monaghan) in the fine art of grave-robbing, their primary client being sinister Dr. Quint (Angus Scrimm, “Phantasm”). As if this illegal trade weren’t trouble enough, the duo’s exhumed corpses have an exasperating habit of coming back to hostile life. Stringing together several macabre episodes, framed by Arthur’s pre-guillotine confession to blase Father Duffy (“Hellboy’s” Ron Perlman), Glenn McQuaid’s feature writing-directing debut doesn’t build much narrative steam. Still, droll perfs, diverting f/x and handsome B-pic atmospherics ensure a good time for horror fans with a memory past last weekend’s slasher remake.
AINT IT COOL NEWS
When I was contacted recently by IFC Films about a film they had coming out in limited release last weekend and on IFC On Demand today, I was skeptical. My brain still functions in a way that tells me that anything that doesn’t make it to theaters or something that premieres On Demand or straight to DVD usually isn’t worth checking out. But my theory has been proven wrong enough times in the past few years to know that’s simply not the case. There are just too many movies being made in the world for theaters to keep up, and many excellent movies that may only get a few screenings on the festival circuit are now getting a real chance at being seen thanks to a distribution model like the one IFC has been offering for years. So instead of assuming that a screener of a film like I SELL THE DEAD is going to be third-rate junk, I find myself more often than not pleasantly surprised by the quality of these smaller works and the caliber of acting talent that lands up in many of these films.
I SELL THE DEAD is a devious piece of icky fun from former visual effects supervisor Glenn McQuaid, making his debut here as writer-director. It’s the first film in recent memory at least that has taken a really detailed look at the practice of Victorian-age grave robbing. The film opens with the decapitation (always a good sign) of one such robber, Willie Grimes (played by HABIT and WENDIGO star Larry Fessenden), who is being executed for supposedly murdering someone during the commission of a robbery. Grimes’ young partner, Arthur Blake (LORD OF THE RINGS and “Lost’s” Dominic Monaghan), is still in jail, soon to be visited by a man of the cloth, Father Duffy (Ron Perlman, you know, HELLBOY). After a few swigs of whisky, Arthur begins to tell his tale of being a young lad being taught the grave-robbing ropes by Grimes, including their discovery that occasionally they’d dig up members of the undead, namely zombie and vampires, corpses of which were actually worth more to certain doctor conducting unseemly medical experiments, especially one Dr. Vernon Quint (PHANTASM’s Angus Scrimm, and yes, it is very interesting that the nastiest character in the film has both Vern and Quint in his name).
I SELL THE DEAD relishes in its squishy, vile details of corpse robbing. Young Arthur is forced to shovel recently dug graves, break open the cheap wooden caskets, and reach into the coffins to tie a rope around the corpse so it can be yanked out of its earthly home. Grimes and his apprentice get involved in a bit of a turf war with other robbers, they are threatened in various ways by Dr. Quint who needs more corpses at an alarming rate, and eventually events turn to the point where it pits robber against undead against rival in a bizarre showdown on a small, freaky island. You can’t watch this movie and not be transported back to the pure joy of watching the Gothic Hammer Films horror movies for the first time. There’s a cheeseball element to the whole production, from the forced accents to the low-budget look of the whole production, but director McQuaid doesn’t call attention to the film’s financial shortcomings by shining the irony spotlight on his low-budge accomplishment or by allowing his actors to ham it up to the point of parody; he’s genuinely making the best movie he knows how to make.
There’s a level of fun, spirit, and energy to the entire work that is infectious, and I got so caught up in wondering where the hell this insane movie was going that I didn’t care about the sub-par effects or the schlocky nature of the whole production. The film is meant to be a “throw-caution-to-the-wind” romp. My only complaint is that I wish it had gone more gory and ridiculous at times. Still, I SELL THE DEAD makes for a pleasantly unexpected way for any self-respecting horror fan to spend an evening. Consider me curious to see what McQuaid comes up with next. As I mentioned, the film premieres on IFC On Demand beginning today, and I think it’s well worth checking out.
Though the marquee has now gone dim on the third annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival, the eight-day cult cinema celebration managed to close out its run with one final slice of silly, gory, low-budget, high-concept gold. Though not the fest’s best offering—that honor goes to Tomas Alfredson’s brilliant LET THE RIGHT ONE IN—Irish-American writer/director Glenn McQuaid’s joyously ghoulish I SELL THE DEAD (which had its North American premiere there) was perhaps the fan favorite—a deliberately wonky throwback to AIP’s modestly produced yet opulent Roger Corman/Edgar Allen Poe pictures of the 1960s, with more than a dash of broad, Monty Python-esque absurdity.
Expanded from THE RESURRECTION APPRENTICE, a classy—and considerably more somber—Hammeresque short McQuaid made in 2005 (and which I enjoyed very much), I SELL THE DEAD adopts a flashback framework, beginning at the end with notorious Victorian-era graverobber Willie Grimes (played by producer Larry Fessenden) getting his noggin removed by the guillotine for his crimes. His longtime accomplice Arthur Blake (LORD OF THE RINGS’ Dominic Monaghan) is in his cell awaiting a similar fate when he’s visited by a jittery monk (the great Ron Perlman), who pulls out a bottle of whiskey and pleads with Blake to relate his troubled tale. As he does, that’s when I SELL THE DEAD’s twisted fun really begins.
Seems Blake began his grave-digging days in desperation as a youth, apprenticing with the older, meaner Grimes (this first flashback consists of portions of THE RESURRECTION APPRENTICE with new music and a few edits), stealing the dead from their deeply planted crates and selling them to a creepy, violin-playing doctor (PHANTASM’s Angus Scrimm, who’s fantastic). Their dubious association is a happy one for many years, until one night, they come across a freshly interred corpse with a garlic clove necklace and a stake protruding from her chest. In the hilarious ensuing sequence, the turn-of-the-century tomb raiders foolishly remove the wooden spike and the toothy stiff screams to life, clawing at their throats and trying to literally tear the duo apart before they put her back to bed for keeps. They soon discover that this incident was not an isolated one, and before you can say Burke and Hare, an entire market of macabre moneymaking opens up to them: revealing and stealing from the undead—an enterprise that will unfortunately prove to be their eventual undoing.
I can’t properly articulate how wonderful it is to see an ultra-low-budget modern horror film that aspires to be a richly detailed, Gothic period piece. I SELL THE DEAD belies its limited scratch by emphasizing atmosphere (shockingly, the film was lensed in New York…could have fooled me), costumes and quality performances (Fessenden is wonderful, physically channeling Jack Nicholson from THE SHINING while acting like Ron Moody from OLIVER!) over cheap, overzealous torture, nickel-and-dime sex and warmed-over TEXAS CHAINSAW plot contrivances. There’s a real wit, ingenuity and energy on display in I SELL THE DEAD, a love of the medium and a deep respect for the subgenre of British grave-thieving movies it so aptly spoofs; think THE DOCTOR AND THE DEVILS or THE FLESH AND THE FIENDS by way of the CARRY ON films.
If there are a few flaws here and there (Jeff Grace’s handsome score is perhaps a bit too busy, there are some spotty Irish and British accents amidst the American cast and an odd comic-book-panel visual device is seemingly forgotten halfway through), they’re more than forgivable and never derail any of the ghoulish good will. That said, the print screened at Toronto After Dark wasn’t the final cut and a few FX hadn’t yet been polished, so perfection might still be forthcoming.
If you pine for that delectable golden era of melodramatic, ghoulish, bodice-ripping big-screen terror, and wonder what it would be like if you crossed that unique Hammer aesthetic with the supernatural splatter-toon outrageousness of THE EVIL DEAD, then Sir/Madame, look no further. I SELL THE DEAD is the fright flick for you.
NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO
Jeannette Catsoulis August 06, 2009
Indie-movie hyphenate Larry Fessenden specializes in low-budget eeriness and bargain-basement gore, and whether he’s directing his own projects (The Last Winter) or helping to realize the disturbed visions of others (Trigger Man, The Roost), the prolific Fessenden leaves identifiable fingerprints. Every penny of his (often micro-) budgets is visible on screen, his trademark energy and economy never manifesting as slapdash visuals or awkwardly cut corners. He would rather give us one perfect zombie than a horde of half-baked ghouls.
In Glenn McQuaid’s irreverent horror-comedy debut, I Sell the Dead, Fessenden works both behind the scenes (he’s a producer) and in front of the cameras: Playing Willie Grimes, a journeyman grave robber in 19th-century Ireland, he channels the Shining-era Jack Nicholson in more than just looks.
As the movie opens, Willie is having an unfortunate encounter with a guillotine while his apprentice turned partner, Arthur Blake (Dominic Monaghan), is preparing for a similar fate. Sharing Arthur’s prison vigil, meanwhile, is chunky Father Duffy (Hellboy‘s Ron Perlman), a creepy cleric armed with whiskey and the promise of absolution — but only if Arthur confesses his sins.
Unfolding from there in increasingly bizarre flashbacks, I Sell the Dead is an obstreperous jaunt through Arthur and Willie’s bungled career. For them, the once-noble (and lucrative) profession of bodysnatching has become an unrewarding chore. Blackmailed by squinting Dr. Quint (Phantasm legend Angus Scrimm), a greedy anatomist who likes to play the fiddle before dicing the dead, our heroes fill his cadaver orders for little more than the price of a pint. Until one night, when they excavate a grave situated at a crossroads (Clue No. 1) and uncover a female corpse sporting a garlic necklace (Clue No. 2). Thank goodness for those shovels.
Smart and swift (it’s a lean 85 minutes), McQuaid’s script is essentially a series of distinct vignettes, most with a single location: a cemetery, a pub, a mysterious island.
But it’s not unimaginative: As Arthur and Willie learn that there’s more money to be made from the chronically undead than from the certifiably deceased, the treats in the coffins become ever more outlandish and exponentially more dangerous. The duo’s success also attracts the attention of the House of Murphy, a rival crew of body thieves more scary than any stiff and more territorial than any unneutered tomcat.
Filled with grisly sound effects and Gaelic wit, I Sell the Dead may be more slapstick than horror, but McQuaid leaves the film’s genuinely chilling moments — like a shrouded corpse slowly unfurling behind Willie’s back — room to breathe.
The director grew up in Ireland, watching Hammer horror movies and idolizing Peter Cushing, and Dead‘s fondness for dry ice and spooky graveyards smoothly evokes an earlier, more innocent era of gruesome entertainments.
Its wit and style, however, are thoroughly modern, as is a hilarious ending that leaves the sequel door wide open. And why not? Whether downing pints or unearthing aliens, Arthur and Willie are a buddy act we could stand to see again.
From its widescreen atmospherics and “Hammer Horror”-meets-“The X-Files” milieu to its Kurt Weill-like score, “I Sell the Dead” is the “Inglourious Basterds” of grave-robber movies.
Written and directed by Dublin-born Glenn McQuaid, an extension of his 2005 short “The Resurrection Apprentice,” the film begins with a James Whale-inspired creditsequence and regurgitates and transplants the tale of the Edinburgh-based body snatchers Burke and Hare and updates it with such delectable touches as zombies, aliens and ultra-widescreen visuals.
Holy “Bride of Frankenstein,” I think I’m going to like this, says your average die-hard horror film buff.Dominic Monaghan, Merry hobbit himself, is Arthur Blake, apprentice “Resurrection Man” to veteran Willie Grimes (actor-director Larry Fessenden). The plot unfolds in lush sepia tones with acomical beheading and revolves around a lengthy confession Arthur gives to a giant Jesuit priest inquisitor.
The priest is Father Francis Duffy (“Hellboy” himself Ron Perlman sporting an Irish accent). The villains of the piece are the Murphy clan, whose leader Cornelius (John Speredakos) is a very unpleasant fellow. Among the other characters are Fanny Bryers (Brenda Cooney), a “wrecker” (i.e., one who lures ships to the rocks in a storm to pillage the broken remains) who aspires to be a “snatcher.” A sequence depicting Cornelius’ appalling Gothic childhood makes Tim Burton’s recent work pale.
From its tasty collections of false skies to its “classic age of horror” collection of cemetery backdrops and extras, “I Sell the Dead” is a lushly detailed throwback as well as a zombie-tongue-in-cheek tribute to horror films past.
Yes, that is Angus Scrimm as the Ernest Thesiger-like vivisectionist Dr. Vernon Quint. Dr. Quint offers Arthur and Willie 10 times the usual amount for “unusual corpses.”
Before you know it, a small island has become inhabited, if that is the word, with zombies that were packed in boxes aboard a sunken freighter. Now, there’s an “unusual corpse”-seeking body snatcher’s dream come true.
I can say with complete conviction that “I Sell the Dead” is the best body-snatcher film of the year..
In this age of Xerox filmmaking, it’s a bit of a miracle to see a film like I Sell The Dead – a refreshingly original slice of indie quirk that manages to pull off the kitchen sink approach on a very meager budget. Sure, we’ve seen other indie filmmakers try their hand at “on-a-dime” period films, but this is the first time where the end result feels genuinely authentic thanks to a superb cast, stylish direction, and some amazing production design.
Dominic Monaghan and Larry Fessenden play professional grave-robbing team Arthur & Willie, who make their living stealing corpses in 18th Century Ireland. The duo start off working for peanuts under a nefarious doctor (played by Angus Scrimm in all his scowling glory) but soon catch on to the huge money-making opportunities behind corpse snatching. Arthur recounts these events from a prison cell to a priest (a very offbeat Ron Perlman) on the eve of his beheading, so the story largely unfolds through a series of flashback vignettes as he and Willie run afoul of rival grave-robbers, vampires, zombies, and several other oddities that would be criminal to spoil.
Debut writer/director Glenn McQuaid clearly loves old Hammer films and EC Comics, and he fills his cinematic canvas with plenty of foggy moonlight and Creepshow-esque comic book transitions. Even more amazing is how this New York-lensed production effortlessly looks and feels like it was shot on the set of an old Jean Rollins movie. Terrific costumes, set dressing, make-up FX, music, and cinematography create what feels like a multi-million dollar international picture.
McQuaid’s script is incredibly witty and played for laughs, and while there are a few moments where the comedy overreaches, the ensemble cast consistently knock it out of the park. All that said, it’s the chemistry between Monaghan and Fessenden that is the heart of this film. They’re not only hysterical to watch, they successfully echo some of the all-time great comedy teams.
While I Sell The Dead is a literal gallows comedy, the tone is surprisingly lighthearted and broad (many at the screening described it as “cute”), but that doesn’t detract from the enjoyment. Like Shaun of the Dead and Trick ‘r Treat, this is a film made by horror fans for horror fans with enough fun to please almost any crowd. With any luck, we’ll get to see further adventures from Arthur and Willy.
4 out of 5
SHOCK TILL YOU DROP
The Toronto After Dark Film festival did right by closing its fantastic unparalleled festival with a treat for its fans – Glenn McQuaid’s I Sell The Dead, in its second North American screening.
19th century England harbors two infamous grave robbers, Willie Grimes (Larry Fessenden) and Arthur Blake (Dominic Monaghan) and both had turned their last shovel of dirt. Awaiting the gallows and following his partner’s fate, Arthur narrates his tale of corpse snatching to Father Duffy (Ron Perlman) there to administer his last rites. Taken under Grimes’ wing, Blake learns the tricks of the trade, inventive ways to steal a body and who you should and shouldn’t work for. A hard and unrewarding line of work made harder when they both discover that not all corpses are of the dead variety.
Through Arthur’s story we learn that they worked for the industrious Dr. Vernon Quint (Angus Scrimm) and though they are repeatedly cheated by Quint, they are left with no choice but to work for him, at least for now. As the tales go continue to be told (and get more bizarre), Blake and Grimes get nearer to their final corpse and are introduced to Cornelius Murphy and his gang of grave robbers. Posing an obvious threat and obstacle to their lucrative business Grimes warns Blake to stay away but as the apprentice tries to surpass the teacher things get out of hand pretty fast.
One thing you will notice is that I Sell The Dead boasts fantastic set design. Filmed entirely in New York you would never guess that this film was anything but filmed in 19th century England. An enormous feat in itself for a film certainly didn’t have the budget of a Hollywood blockbuster.
The broken up “acts” in the film are all entertaining but what fails to deliver is a clear sense of mystery as to how our bumbling heroes will end up after each robbery. The structure of the film already tells us that Blake lives through each encounter (and Grimes) and so no real urgency or fear of them dying or getting busted exists. Although this is not a fault in execution it is a fault in the nature of these types of narratives.
The real treat in the film is the incredible on-screen compatibility between Monaghan and Fessenden. I haven’t seen this much gelling of comedic prowess and camaraderie since the original dynamic duo. McQuaid has written these characters in a way that feels very natural and despite being in a fantastical world you can really have no trouble suspending belief. Perlman is good in his role and although he plays the vessel of Blake’s story he doesn’t have much of a role in the film at all. The same can be said for Scrimm.
Although not a perfect film, there is much to love about I Sell The Dead. A great script, great acting, great set design and fantastic makeup make this a must see film.
I Sell The Dead stars Dominic Monaghan as Arthur Blake, an 18th Century British graverobber. He’s been arrested for his crimes and is now locked up in prison awaiting his judgement, but before he faces the guillotine a priest (played by Ron Perlman) comes to talk to him. In the guise of confessing his sins Arthur brings us all back to when he was taught all about his morbid vocation by his cockney mentor/partner Willie Grimes (Larry Fessenden) with whom he provided bodies for the local mad doctor, played by one Angus Scrimm.
I really don’t have to go on, do I? All the genre fans have already just run and bought tickets after reading that.
But it somehow gets better! Not only does this graverobbing duo have to deal with pissed-off relatives and competing body snatchers, they also live in a world populated by ghouls, vampires and zombies… among other things. This all makes their work a helluva lot more dangerous, but also a lot more profitable. After all, what scientist wouldn’t want to have their own Bub to perform tests on? Of course, things soon spiral out of control and our duo goes for one big job too many.
I Sell The Dead is the kind of film you go to film fests for, the kind you can brag about to your friends and anticipate seeing again with them when it’s finally released. It’s laugh-out-loud funny and quite a change-up from most humorous horror flicks nowadays. It has very much of a comic book feel at parts, which is funny because it’s being adapted into one. First time writer/director Glenn McQuaid shows he clearly knows his way around the camera and has a massive love for gothic horror. He’s also one hell of a comedic writer.
There’s really not much in the way of gore or scares here since this is played almost completely for laughs. It’s helped by a fantastic and almost whimsical soundtrack whose violins call back to scores from other classically dark-humored films, like Re-Animator. The movie also oozes atmosphere, and I mean that in the most literal sense. It’s clear that there were some Hammer fans in this crew, because there’s a whole lotta fog here that gives it a nice, moody look. Even more amazing considering this whole film was shot in friggin’ Staten Island! You would never, ever believe it… a credit to some stunning matte paintings.
But what really makes this film work is the lead duo. I’m a huge fan of Larry Fessenden (I believe his film Habit is one of the few that accurately portrays NYC nightlife) and he’s really a delight here. While he of course looks like a 18th century graverobber- just give him a top hat and dirty him up a bit, and he lets his crazy eyes and broken tooth do the rest- you can tell that he’s loving his accent and completely gets into his character. Just wait till you see when he tests out how a vampire works. He’s responsible for most of the humor in the film, although Monaghan’s straight man is no slouch in that regard as well. They work so well off each other and are completely natural as two great buddies who love and hate each other at the same time.
Angus Scrimm unfortunately doesn’t have much of a role here but every word he utters or angered glance he makes is great, as usual. Ron Perlman’s accent slips a couple of times but who cares- he’s having a lot of fun and so are you.
To be fair, the film does feel like it’s missing something. That might be because apart from the leads the other characters are hardly fleshed out- no pun intended- and the story doesn’t really feel complete. Since you’re only being told a few tales from these characters’ dozens of exploits there’s really no big finale or story arc here. But there is the feeling that there’s so much more. In fact, while trying to get back together all of these fantastic actors may prove to be impossible, I’d love to see the continuing adventures of this duo. They’re just so innately watchable together and it’d be easy to think up new supernatural problems to throw their way.
Is I Sell the Dead a cult classic in the making? Possibly. A movie you’ll have a blast with? Absolutely.
8.5 out of 10
The joy behind this film is right there in the old-time, exploitation-tinged title. The grim undertakings of the storyline – about a pair of grave robbers whose trade turns more and more curious – is undercut by a devious irreverence. Irish writer-director Glenn McQuaid is out to make a horror comedy, in which the main players soon turn into bumbling bits of irony. Yet “I Sell the Dead” sports playful genre inventiveness, in which fans can delight and even outsiders can enjoy.
McQuaid fashions a flashback narrative structure, in which Father Duffy, played by Ron Perlman – that character actor who will inhabit offbeat historical roles forever – visits an imprisoned Arthur Blake (Dominic Monaghan), who awaits the guillotine for body snatching. While this confessional approach suggests the fatalism of something like “Double Indemnity,” the tone remains slight, thanks to light performances and a kitschy soundtrack.
Arthur narrates his endeavors with Willie Grimes (Larry Fessenden, also having a great time), his apprentice-turned-accomplice who has already lost his head to justice. While taking up right from the Body Snatcher tradition – launched almost solely by Robert Lewis Stevenson’s gothic short story and retold by Val Lewton with Karloff in 1945 – the film soon takes a helping of the zombie film, with a re-animated femme corpse who uncannily glides right off her tippy toes. When the snatching duo starts finding zombies, this could put a dent in their plans to sell the deceased. Yet, they seem to have stumbled across a more profitable market (never explained, yet hardly a MacGuffin worth noting in the tongue-in-cheek proceedings).
With this step, you’d think that “I Sell” has found its groove. But zombies come in all shapes, and with much personality. When one is trapped in a cage, it shows dread toward a haunting image of another kind, until the zombie breaks free to tear out its tormentor’s throat. And zombies aren’t the oddest thing revealed in the body snatchers’ search – one finding is something that only the Python team or Alex Cox would try to pull off. And even those hooligans would do it slightly.
Just when the horror film’s cabinets have been raided, it appears that “I Sell” heads to the gangster film when we meet the Murphy family, fierce competition to Arthur and Willie. Then again, this ghoulish clan, with a gnarl-toothed brother and a white-masked sister, owe more to the family Leatherface, and is about just as nice.
The production values are slim, but just right, as “I Sell” employs B-movie aesthetics in support of its genre-playfulness. Some intercut animation cards add a comic-book touch that is more juice for the storytelling emphasis of the framing tale.
As a highlight in this year’s Danger After Dark series at the Philadelphia Film Festival/Cinefest, we get a nice dose of jests among considerable darkness.
Somewhere in England in the 19th Century body snatchers Arthur Blake [Dominic Monaghan] and Willie Grimes [Larry Fessenden] have robbed their last grave. Willie has already had his date with destiny with the chopping block and with just a few hours before Arthur follows he recounts his life story to Father Duffy [Ron Pearlman]. As Arthur talks about his early upbringing, developing the skills of the trade he also accounts for some truly bizarre occurrences and we learn that not all corpses are equal. I Sell The Dead presents a unique point of view of a life of crime in 19th century England. It is not very often that you see a grave robbing film that also has zombies, aliens and vampires in it. This horror comedy from director/writer/editor Glenn McQuaid gives us just that.
Told as a series of reflective vignettes, each story getting more and more bizarre, Arthur tells Father Duffy of the events that ultimately led to their arrest. They were once grave robbers for Dr. Vernon Quint, played by horror film icon and gentleman, Angus Scrimm. Quint is not so much an important piece of the puzzle but it is damn cool to see this icon on the screen including a scene where he performs a sonata on the violin. While on the topic of icons Ron Pearlman is also relegated to supporting role in this film but he is still an enormous presence on the screen only dwarfing the seemingly impish Monaghan as they sit across from each other in the cell.
Where the real goods happen is when Monaghan and Fessenden are on screen together. They pair up very well and play off each other so well that one cannot help but imagine that with stronger material this sort of horror comedy routine could have been comparable with great duos like Abbott and Costello whose comedy monster films are the stuff of legend. And while McQuaid’s script does have its inspiring moments I found it fairly predictable, which is a shame. Crap, it was like I was prophetic and could predict which jokes and gags were coming thus quelling their comedic impact. I’m not saying McQuaid was following the rules of British comedy but there was little that I didn’t see coming. This absence of original comedy was disappointing. What could have been the reinventing of the buddy film, immersing it in the blood and shock of horror cinema, played out fairly flat a lot of the time.
As far as the horror elements of the story are concerned they are centered around some of the stronger comedic moments of the film and do provide the bigger laughs. And there were some great laugh out loud moments. When the tag line says, Never trust a corpse, McQuaid’s script does provide excellent reasons for second guessing a career in grave robbing. But I Sell The Dead is not without strong horror scenes and a good amount of blood letting. Neat. Makeup and special effects are mostly good and McQuaid does dress up a pretty set, converting New York into 19th century England complete with taverns and funeral parlors. Production and art direction are not weak points in this film, everything looks great.
Good but not great. Still, it gives hope for the future of McQuaid. He has a good little movie here. For me if fell short of awesome but there is enough interesting stuff in his film that I would gladly see what else he has coming up.
THE HUFFINGTON POST
Thank you, Glenn McQuaid, for letting us laugh at the desecration of holy ground again.
Shot on a tight budget, with New York City — mostly Staten Island — standing in for the British Isles in the nineteenth century, I Sell the Dead has pretty much nothing going for it except a neat cast, plus the visual inventiveness and sheer, audacious wit of its director, Mr. McQuaid. Fortunately, that’s more than enough.
Essentially a depiction of what would happen if Laurel and Hardy had to stoop to a less-savory profession to make their living, the film tells the tale of Arthur Blake (Lost’s Dominic Monaghan) and Willie Grimes (Larry Fessenden, better known as the director of such films as Wendigo), two legendary grave robbers who specialize in the acquisition and redistribution of, shall we say, product that is very dead yet also quite animated.
Yup, not satisfied merely with portraying the finer points of digging up cadavers, McQuaid rallies zombies, vampires, and a few other creatures brought in from way left field to his cause, and throws in Ron Perlman as an inquisitive priest and Angus Scrimm as, what else, a big, scary guy. Granted, there’s not much in the way of a strong, narrative through-line here — watching the film, you’ll well understand how, at one point in its voyage to the screen, the script became a comic book — but I Sell the Dead’s approach is so infectious that you can’t help but relish every last, silly, episodic minute of it..
I’ve anxiously awaited seeing I SELL THE DEAD, the latest film from Larry Fessenden’s Glass Eye Pix company, since I first saw its trailer. The film has been playing the film festival circuit all year, just completed a VOD run, and will be available on DVD soon. The initial trailer I saw reminded me of a Hammer horror, but after seeing the film, written, directed and edited by Glenn McQuaid, who has created special effects for past Glass Eye productions, I think a more accurate comparison would be Roger Corman’s more humorous period piece, THE RAVEN. Despite the prevalent comedy, the film still serves up a fair amount of chills and is a welcome treat for horror fans.
At its heart, I SELL THE DEAD is a macabre comedy. The film gets off to a good start with a clever title that reminded of me of RE-ANIMATOR, and suggested THE DOCTOR AND THE DEVILS (based, like this film, on the adventures of Burke and Hare). Next, graverobber Willie Grimes (Fessenden) loses his head to a guillotine, while partner in crime Arthur Blake (Dominic Monaghan) describes their misadventures to an inquisitive priest (Ron Perlman). The narrative is deliberately episodic as Willie and Arthur encounter one fantastic situation after another during their nightly excursions (to detail these encounters would ruin the film’s numerous surprises). Suffice it to say that Willie and Arthur live in a world where supernaural horrors exist at every turn. The film is essentially an anthology film with continuing characters, right down to the framing device and final twists. Scenes occasionally end in comic book frames, ala CREEPSHOW.
The heart of the film is the relationship between Willie and and Arthur. Fessenden has acted in numerous films, and with the exception of his breakthrough HABIT has generally been relegated to extended cameos in other director’s films. Here he has a role he can really sink his teeth into, which he does with relish. Willie is from the cutthroat, likeable rogue school, at once good natured, cowardly and able to turn on a dime. Monaghan turns in his most affectionate performance since his stay on LOST. Arthur isn’t exactly the conscience of the piece, but he is the more sympathetic of the two characters. The dynamic between these performers makes the possibility of a sequel something to look forward to.
I had my doubts about Perlman as the priest (all of the actors are required to speak with British and Irish accents), but he drops enough menacing hints throughout his scenes that the payoff for his character works nicely. Angus Scrimm, now a Glass Eye regular, is effective as the doctor who needs a constant supply of cadavers, and I liked Brenda Cooney as a woman who mixes it up with the boys. There are also several comic bookish villains, a family of rival graverobbers, that fans will enjoy.
McQuaid’s direction is assured and occasionally stylish; he is adept at both comedy and horror, with the graverobbers’ first supernatural escapade especially chilling and almost poetic. Midway through the film it occurred to me that McQuaid’s film is really about story telling – stories within stories within stories – and he uses comic book frames and split screens to good effect to achieve this. The film clocks in at a tight 85 minutes, a welcome relief in an era when ridiculously bloated productions like 2012 run nearly three hours.
While still low budget, I would hazard a guess that this is the most expensive of the horror films Fessenden has helped produce.
Special mention must be made of Beck Underwood’s art direction, Devin Febbroriello’s set direction, David Tabbert’s costumes, and Jeff Grace’s score, which combine to convincingly sell the film’s Victorian England setting. Richard Lopez’s evocative cinematography aims for a 1960s Technicolor look during many of the grave robberies, and a daytime visit to an island provides a welcome change of scenery late in the film. I can’t really describe the special make-up effects without spoiling the film, but they are very well realized.
Back in the 1960s, a small independent film production house called Hammer created a hugely popular formula—heaving bosoms, strangely familiar castles, foggy nights— that evolved into an instantly identifiable style that exerted a huge influence on the horror genre. Ever since Hammer disappeared in the 1970s, there have been throwbacks and homages to the classic Hammer style, the most well-known probably being Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow. It’s been a while since a really good Hammer homage came along, though, and Glenn McQuaid’s I Sell the Dead is a refreshing hit of Hammer in the modern landscape of horror.
Dominic Monaghan plays Arthur Blake, waiting for his turn at the guillotine following the beheading of his partner Willie Grimes (Larry Fessenden). While he waits out his last few hours, he is visited by Father Blake (Ron Perlman), a kindly priest whose motives may not be entirely holy. Father Blake takes down the stories of Arthur’s career in grave-robbing, from his first job as a young boy to last job before the pair was arrested after a trail of body parts led the police directly to their respective doors. At first, the stories are the standard-issue misery, but soon they take a turn for the supernatural— as it turns out, there’s a reason that grave-robbing used to be called “the resurrection trade.”
Father Blake keeps the whiskey flowing as Arthur spins tales of run-ins with vampires, zombies, cruel doctors, and even more cruel competition. The money is better trading in the undead than the regular dead, but as Arthur explains, it’s also a lot more dangerous. The film is basically a series of adventures following Arthur and Willie as they get involved in increasingly bizarre supernatural hijinks, and with a series of increasingly colorful characters, the most notable of which are the evil Morgan clan, a team of ruthless undead traffickers with whom no one interferes. Well, no one but Arthur and Willie, anyway, with typically disastrous results.
McQuaid keeps the pace quick and the tone pitch-perfect, placing his characters in mortal danger that is often as comical as it is gruesome. It’s very funny, and the cast is great. Larry Fessenden in particular is great in his first major starring role. The film takes place almost exclusively at night, in fog-shrouded moors, moonlit graveyards, and dirty taverns, and the sets are all convincingly dingy. The film also makes use of some comic-book art transitions that transform its characters into even more literal cartoon versions of themselves, and horror fans will have fun spotting references not just to Hammer, but to other classic horror films.
Most of the time references like that just make you want to watch the other films being referenced, but that’s definitely not the case with I Sell the Dead. It’s a fast, fun, and very funny tribute to a classic style that’s refreshingly free of irony and pretension. It’s pure entertainment, a capital-M Movie, and a convincing argument for the virtues of the classic Hammer style.
I Sell the Dead will be released in limited theaters 7 August and On Demand 12 August.
NEW YORK POST
Grave robber Arthur Blake has “five hours to kill” (his words) before he becomes a headless body, courtesy of the guillotine. (His partner in crime, Willie Grimes, has already lost his head.) So Blake and a Father Duffy share a bottle of booze in Blake’s cell as the condemned man tells how he got into that ghoulish line of work.
Thus begins the lively “I Sell the Dead,” written, directed and edited by Dublin-born Glenn McQuaid.
Blake’s tale, set in 19th-century Ireland, involves stolen bodies, zombies, vampires, wanton women, cutthroat rivals — one is described by Blake as “one of the meanest bastards I’ve ever met, either alive or dead” — and enough beer to float a coffin.
Downtown icon Larry Fessenden is the producer, and also appears as Grimes. (He’s as loopy as ever.) Ron Perlman and Dominic Monaghan deliver appropriate performances as Duffy and Blake, respectively. And the production values are solid.
“I Sell the Dead” references the Edgar Allan Poe B-movies that Roger Corman cranked out in the 1960s. Britain’s Hammer flicks also come to mind. (Christopher Lee would fit right in.)
Genre fans will definitely get off on “I Sell the Dead,” but outsiders might be less enthusiastic.
It’s not often that I wish movies were longer, especially during a film festival. I get pretty dependent on cold pills during Fantasia’s gruelling schedule, so after 90 cinematic minutes I start twitching, and at two hours all I see on screen are spiders and the colour red. But I Sell the Dead is a film that could have benefit from an extra half-hour to explore more of the plot elements introduced- and then unfortunately ignored -for much of the film’s running time.
I Sell the Dead has one of the most interesting and original premises of a horror film in recent memory. Dominic Monaghan andcult filmmaker/actor Larry Fessenden play resurrectionists, grave robbers who work for medical doctors in Georgian England. Since this is a horror film, or rather a comic-book version of a horror movie, they soon discover that not all corpses are alike. While most must smell like a maggot’s sewage, some like to drink blood, eat human flesh, or resemble a mid-nineties Alien Workshop skate-deck logo.
And therein lies the problem. I Sell the Dead has a great concept, and some interesting Tales from The Crypt-meets-Guy Ritchie visuals to accompany it, but doesn’t do much with it for the bulk of the film. It’s only in the last third that the plot really gets going, as we get to know the film’s villains, a freakish clan of rival body-snatchers that could be a leprous Injustice League. As pulp antagonists go, the Murphy clan are top-notch, but they’re not really around long enough to do much. Writer/director Glenn McQuaid keeps his film so full of energy throughout that one barely notices the deficit of story as it’s unfolding. And great performances by Angus Scrimm and Ron Perlman definitely make it a fun watch for genre fans. But by the end of the film, I Sell The Dead gives the impression that it could have been so much more.
MAITLAND MCDONAGH REVIEW
How long has it been since you saw a good movie about resurrectionists? A while, I’ll wager: There’s the atmospheric Body Snatcher (1945) with Boris Karloff, one of the tiny gems turned out by Val Lewton’s legendary RKO unit; the lurid Flesh and the Fiends (1960), based on the real-life exploits of Scottish resurrectionists Burke and Hare; and 1985’s The Doctor and the Devils, inspired by the same case and based on a 1953 screenplay by poet Dylan Thomas.
Writer-director Glenn McQuaid’s I Sell the Dead is as good as any of them, but he places the basic elements — 19th-century setting, grinding poverty, a doctor willing to pay well for fresh corpses and a city full of derelicts and drifters who won’t be missed — at the service of a fresh, darkly funny blend of crime and supernatural hijinks.
In the movie’s opening sequence, veteran body snatcher Willie Grimes (producer Fessenden) is guillotined for his crimes as his younger partner, Arthur Blake (Monaghan), receives a temporary reprieve. Hulking holy man Father Francis Duffy (Perlman), who worries for Blake’s soul and wonders about Blake’s state of mind, has paid the executioner for time to speak with the condemned man. Blake obliges with the story of his association with Grimes, who began teaching him the tricks of the trade when Blake was just a child.
For a long time they were just work-a-day resurrectionists, says Blake, always devising new ways to pilfer squishy corpses and turn them into hard cash. Everything changes the night they get a tip about a woman buried at a remote crossroads: Who would inter a pretty young woman in the middle of nowhere, bulbs of garlic strung around her neck and a stake through her chest? The resurrectionists are shocked to see a real resurrection when they remove the stake: They’ve dug up a vampire and she’s hungry. Clever lads that they are, Blake and Grimes figure out a way to rid themselves of their most demanding client, a well-connected doctor (Scrimm) who always needs new corpses for his dissecting class and threatens to denounce Grimes and Blake if they don’t keep the merchandise coming. Once he’s out of their lives, Grimes, Blake and Blake’s ambitious girlfriend, Fanny (Cooney), start serving the specialty market for weird corpses — aliens, zombies and sundry monsters.
That’s a nifty premise and McQuaid has some fine fun with it, delivering an offbeat but carefully balanced mix of shocks, homages and uneasy chuckles. A lifelong fan of the Hammer studio’s gothic horror, McQuaid manages to make Staten Island look like 19th-century England by way of the Universal backlot and populates his story with colorful characters, including a thug with a mouthful of dog’s teeth and Valentine, a burn victim who hides her disfigurement behind an Eyes Without a Face-style mask.
I Sell the Dead is the kind of surprise that keeps trickling out of the House of Fessenden, a micro-budget production operation equally at home with art-house dramas like The Liberty Kid and gritty little horror movies, including The House of the Devil, The Roost and actor-producer-director Fessenden’s own The Last Winter. Clever and resourcefully art-directed though though the film, the I Sell the Dead’s success ultimately depends on the low-key chemistry between Grimes and Blake. Whether bickering like an old married couple or shrieking their way through an odd little tip of the hat to E.T., they’re a scruffier Hope and Crosby, forever on the road to the next fresh hell and determined to make the best of it.
Heading into Westwood again (ugh), I was a bit weary of I Sell The Dead. Not that it sounded bad or anything, but because I took a quick look at director Glenn McQuaid’s filmography on IMDb, and discovered that it was almost guaranteed to be scarier than anything in the film itself: The Off Season, Trigger Man, etc. But he just worked effects on those films; I Sell The Dead is his directorial debut, based on his own script. I tried to keep that in mind as I sat down to watch the film, and to my happy surprise, my fears were mostly unwarranted: this movie’s quite fun.
For starters, the tone is definitely that of old EC Comics (I just picked up “The 10 Cent Plague”, which details the efforts to censor/outlaw EC’s and other comics in the 50s, can’t wait to read it), something we don’t get often enough. Maybe folks are just too afraid to be compared to Creepshow, but this tale of a pair of graverobbers is a perfect fit for the stylized and “funny/scary” feel of Romero’s film. McQuaid tackles the inevitable comparisons head on, though, with some animated transitions and combined “overlay” style shots. But there’s nothing wrong with evoking the style of a terrific movie, and there’s no reason why the EC style should be limited to one film (one from over 25 years ago at that). Let’s bring it back!
I also dug the engaging performances by Dominic Monaghan and Larry Fessenden as Arthur and Willie, our heroes. Monaghan is in slightly familiar territory; some of his dialogue and character actions brings Charlie Pace to mind, but he’s having a lot of fun, and as long as he’s starring in a film, he is not romancing my beloved Evangeline Lilly, so I am all for him starring in more films. Plus, his character explains sandwiches at one point, forever endearing the character to me. Fessenden is even better though. It’s rare to see him in such a large role (Habit I think is the only one he may have had more screen time, and that’s just because the movie’s longer), and he is a riot, owning most of the film’s best moments. His unconventional appearance limits the type of roles he can take, but it’s good to know that when the need arises, he can do more than pop up in minor roles.
It’s also impressive on a technical level. The budget surely wasn’t too high, but they really sell the “ye olden tymes” setting with the sets and exterior locations (graveyards, mostly). So I was amazed to discover that the entire film was shot in New York, including parts of Manhattan. It takes place in some unspecified time in the past (let’s say the late 1700s), so you’d suspect maybe some isolated European villa served as the primary shooting location, but nope. Everything’s within driving distance of the Empire State building. Excellent work. The opening credits are also incredible; it’s one of the best of its type I have seen in ages.
The only area that could have used some work is in the story’s structure. It feels too episodic at times, without any real driving force heading toward the film’s conclusion. For example, at one point they dig up the grave of what turns out to be an alien, and you think that the movie is suddenly going to kick it up a notch and open up this large conspiracy of grave robbing or something, but once the particular matter is dealt with, it’s never mentioned again. McQuaid admits that the film started off as an anthology (before he decided to focus on the Monaghan and Fessenden characters), but it often still feels that way. There are basically four stories in the film of about 20 minutes or so each, plus a wraparound with Monaghan telling the story (stories) to Ron Perlman. And each story works on its own, but when combined it feels a bit like watching four episodes of a TV show back to back, rather than a typical cinematic feature. And again, the film is still plenty entertaining, but I just wish that the story was as impressive as its cast and technical aspects.
Image Comics will be putting out a one-shot comic that tells the film’s story (with some changes; it was based on an earlier draft of the script, presumably one without budgetary limitations factored in) this August, and I can’t wait to get it. The art in the film (and on the film’s awesome poster) is quite good, and I suspect that the story may even be more enjoyable in graphic form. It would certainly make an excellent monthly series, with Arthur and Willie continually discovering different monsters (along with the alien, the movie also has vampires, zombies, and ghouls), grave-robbing rivals, etc. Fans of “The Goon” or Ben Templesmith’s “Wormwood” series would definitely dig it.
In a genre that continues to look to Leatherface for its gory inspiration — here come the power tools, there go the frightened blondes — filmmaker Larry Fessenden prefers to focus on Val Lewton.
That 1940s producer preferred adult shocks, and he supervised a series of movies — including “The Curse of the Cat People” and “I Walked With a Zombie” — whose literate shudders belied their B-movie titles. Fessenden has been quietly doing the same.
As a director, his pictures “Wendigo” and “The Last Winter” got more spooky mileage out of what you didn’t see than what you did. As a producer, his micro-budgeted ScareFlix company encourages the production of similarly artful (but never artsy) horrors.
” I Sell the Dead” is the latest, and it’s gruesomely good.
A fond tip of the hat to the old Hammer gothics of the 1860s — you keep expecting to see Michael Ripper pop up as an undertaker — it tells the story of Blake and Grimes, two 19th century grave robbers. They’ve been caught at last, and a peculiar priest gives the younger Blake a chance to confess. His story takes us on a flashback fright show.
It’s a colorful trip. In director Glenn McQuaid’s smart and anecdotal script, it’s not the grave robbers who provide the horrors, but what they accidentally steal. One dearly beloved turns out to be a vampire, happy to be freed — and hungry. Other resting places shelter zombies.
Fessenden himself plays Grimes (and occasionally nibbles the scenery). Dominic Monaghan of “Lost” is his young assistant, Blake, and Ron Perlman and Angus Scrimm — a spooky presence in so many “Phantasm” movies — add some fearsome familiarity.
The real star of the film, though, may be the art and production team. “I Sell the Dead” was shot in bits and pieces around New York and for about the price of the catering budget on “A Perfect Getaway,” also out this week. But thanks to a bit of CGI (and a lot of helpful shadows) it all looks like 1850.
Sometimes, the approach is a little inconsistent. The occasional use of graphic art seems out of character with the movie’s mood; so, too, does one unsatisfying sequence involving an alien who seems to have beamed down from the planet Papier Mache.
But horror fans will enjoy the references to films both high (one scarred villain wears a mask out of “Eyes Without a Face”) and low (the final credits bear the old Universal Studios line, “A good cast is worth repeating!”). And movie fans of all kinds will appreciate a film that knows the differences among “terror,” “terrible” and “terribly good fun.”.
NY DAILY NEWS
A horror comedy that wants to tap the vein of the ’60s Hammer Studios classics, director Glenn McQuaid’s movie, filled with lilting Cockney accents, lantern-lit crypts and ghouls gone wild, appreciates how creepy a graveyard is but doesn’t have enough plot to fill itself up. Still, Dominic Monaghan (“Lost”) is a puckish 18th-century body snatcher confessing he and his mentor’s (Larry Fessenden) deeds to a priest (Ron Perlman). Low-budget, grubby and gleeful, but with a nice sense of style and apparently an endless supply of dry ice. Points deducted, though, for a too-easy alien-corpse joke.
NEW YORK MAGAZINE
Macabre horror-comedy about a pair of Irish grave robbers balances its goofier elements with a sense of genre fun. The offbeat plotting and devil-may-care acting aren’t for all tastes, but midnight-movie fans will dig it up.
In an age where movies rely on faulty digital monsters, predictable plots, realism and marketing it’s refreshing for something so unique, evocative and nostalgic like ‘I Sell The Dead’ to come along. Though this movie isn’t gore heavy, it does have this certain spooky charm that we just don’t get in modern horror films. I’m not even certain as if one would lable this a horror movie in it’s strictest sense but it does have the elements. A macabre tale of two graverobbers and their fortunes and misfortunes during their entaining adventures.
In the mid 1700s (estimated), Arthur Blake sits in his cell and awaits the gallow. He has been commited of murder, and the despicle act of graverobbing. Father Duffy visits him to record his final words and stories. Although he was innocent of murder, he was infact, guilty of the despicle act of graverobbing. So he tells the tales of how he started his trade, met his mentor and partner, Willie Grimes, a savy grisly fellow who is loyal to the craft of robbing bodies of their graves, and the many ventures he had. Such include the relationship with his client Dr. Vernon Quint, a discontent doctor who demands fresh corpses on his slab so he could solve the mysteries of life. Spooky outages across the countryside of Ireland (assuming, perhaps Scotland) where they encounter various forms of the undead and supernatural. Then there’s their feud with a rival gang of ghouls, The House Of Murphy. Sick and twisted theives of cemetaries, they are ruthless and merciless. Led by the leader Corneillius Murphy, a corpse grinder who can smell the dead miles away.
This movie is just pure brilliance. It’s full of dark humor and film noir type atmosphere (such that reminds me of ‘The Black Cat’ and ‘Nosferatu’). I loved the chilly graveyard scenes and the monsters where crafted in excellence. There aren’t too many special effects (mainly because none where needed). However there was suberb acting, great plot twists and never lacked in creativity or imagation. It also stars Larry Fessenden (director of Wendigo) as Willie Grimes.
All in all a real fun spookshow that has great review value and memorable moments. If this had a little more exposure I would gurantee you it would be an instant cult classic. Check it out!
I Sell the Dead arrives lovingly crafted for a small but loyal brand of moviegoers, the kind who best appreciate their comedy blackened to a crisp—with a few corpses thrown in for good measure. The charmingly no-budget feature debut of Glenn McQuaid, the movie follows a 19th-century grave robber (Lost’s Dominic Monaghan) as he awaits the guillotine and recounts his life story to a priest (played by Ron Perlman, in case there was any doubt what kind of movie this is). Mist-shrouded and whiskey-soaked tales of the dead and undead follow with cheerful gallows humor and estimable makeup effects by rising genre stars Pete Gerner and Brian Spears.
McQuaid recalls Terry Gilliam with his flights into the absurd and his penchant for choking dry humor, and he punctuates this mostly funny movie with bits of animation that mix in an off-kilter storybook element. His screenplay never reaches his visual heights, but I Sell the Dead is ultimately a testament to old-fashioned creative ingenuity, the sort of movie only hungry young talents with a very limited cash flow could cook up. Let it be the first of many.
“I Sell the Dead” is the latest film from Larry Fessenden’s Glass Eye Pix and Scareflix production companies and, like most films from Larry, “I Sell the Dead” REALLY delivers!! Starring Dominic “Lost” Monaghan, Ron “Hellboy” Perlman, Angus “Phantasm” Scrimm and Fessenden himself, the film revolves around a pair of 18th-century graverobbers, Arthur Blake (Monaghan) and Willie Grimes (Fessenden), as they TRY to make a (dis) honest living but are constantly running a-foul of sinister doctors, murderous competitors and, of course, the law.
The film has a wonderful vintage look to it, lots of fog and leafless trees, and I was really impressed when I realized that “I Sell the Dead” was shot entirely in New York State. The production design really captured 18th-century Ireland and the actors had their Irish/Cockney/British accents down. There were also some great humorous set pieces, mostly between Monaghan and Fessenden – with their chemistry, they could well be the 21st-century’s answer to Abbott and Costello – and even Perlman and Scrimm had their moments. And not always necessarily on-screen.
The story unfolds as young Arthur Blake is recounting his years of graverobbing to a priest, Father Duffy (Perlman), before he goes to the guillotine as Grimes has just (hilariously) done. Starting young, Blake (Daniel Manche plays the young Blake) is introduced to the dead in all their gruesomeness and beauty. But when the sinister Dr. Vernon Quint (Scrimm) starts applying some serious pressure on our protagonists to bring him “FRESHER!!” bodies so that he might “work”on them, the two graverobbers start digging up…things…even they can’t quite explain. When they come across a female vampire, one of my favorite “corpses”, hilarity ensues as well as revenge.
Besides Dr. Quint and the law, our boys must also deal with a sinister rival grave robbing clan, the House of Murphy, run by the menacing Cornelius Murphy (John Speredakos), the masked-because-her-face-is-so-disfigured-that-she-kills-with-it Valentine Murphy (Heather Bullock), Bulger (Alisdair Stewart) who has a mouth of razor sharp teeth and the never-seen-except-in-silhouette head of the clan, Murphy Senior.
This movie is just SO much FUN!! Zombies, vampires, body parts, Blake and Grimes themselves and their peculiar adventures as well as the Hammer Film look to the movie all add up to another great movie for Halloween (add “Trick ‘r Treat” to this for a great double feature on All Hallow’s Eve).
The DVD, which comes out in the UK on November 2 from Anchor Bay on both DVD (£15.99) and Blu-ray (£24.99) has extras which include two commentaries: one with producer/actor Larry Fessenden and actor Dominic Monaghan and the other with writer/director Glenn McQuaid. There is also an hour-long “Making of” featurette and a 10-minute visual effects Behind the Scenes. The DVD should also come with a full-color comic book (we think!!!).
DON’T MISS THIS MOVIE!!!
I Sell the Dead is a good title. It neatly labels the film it’s attached to as a horror-comedy without overstating its case, something you can’t really say for a title like Dracula, Dead and Loving It. It also suggests a first person viewpoint, the nefarious profession of the character, and even gives a hint of the confessional nature of the storytelling. Not a bad start.
The character in question is Arthur Blake, who the night before his execution for grave robbing and murder is paid a visit by Father Francis Duffy, a holy man charged with recording his last words and the truth about his crimes. Arthur denies murder but admits to the grave robbing and provides Duffy with a detailed chronicle of his childhood involvement with professional body snatcher Willie Grimes and their subsequent adventures, including their work for the unpleasant Dr. Vernon Quint, their conflict with dangerous rivals The House of Murphy, and Arthur’s brief but fateful relationship with the over-enthusiastic Fanny Bryers.The film’s tone and even a couple of its influences are established in the opening few minutes via some nicely designed retro credits, Jeff Grace’s sprightly main theme and a opening scene in which a loudly uncooperative Grimes is dragged to the guillotine and beheaded, a sequence that could have been lifted straight from classic Hammer and that terminates in a switch to drawn graphics styled on Creepshow’s story links. The meeting of Alex and Father Murphy is an unforced comedy treat, as the two share a bottle of whiskey (yes I’m aware of the spelling – this is Ireland after all) and Alex recalls his misadventures in light-hearted and increasingly improbable flashback.
I Sell the Dead has a lot going for it and an awful lot to like, visually and thematically referencing the golden days of Hammer and Amicus and melding a number of horror sub-genres without slipping into full-blown parody. That doesn’t mean fun is not had with the cross-genre concept – after coming under repeated attack from a vampire they’ve dug up and set loose, Willie amuses himself by removing and re-inserting the stake in her heart to momentarily re-animate her, switching her on and off like a newly discovered clockwork toy. Even more outrageous is when the unearth up a small alien, whose strangeness and eventual disappearance into the heavens becomes incidental background detail to the pair’s first encounter with the House of Murphy.
The cast are a joy, led by Dominic Monaghan’s chirpy Arthur and Larry Fessenden’s snarling Willie, but it’s the supporting players that give the film its cult potential, with Quint played with dignified relish by Phantasm’s Angus Scrimm, and the always lovely Ron Perlman having the time of his life as Father Duffy, employing a similar Irish lilt to that used by Colin Farrell in Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges to turn even sentence pronunciation into a series of small comic delights.
Where the film is on shakier ground is in a central narrative that doesn’t really go anywhere and feels primarily designed to move us from one odd encounter to the next, almost all of which involve body snatching of some sort. In between the characters engage in sometimes drawn-out chat that, although broken up by some lively stories within stories, is never quite as funny as you suspect it could have been and which trots to a finale that, while amusing, feels more like the end of a scene than a story resolution.
But it’s still an immensely likeable film, not quite as sassy or funny as advance word has suggested, but so damned good-natured and with just enough inventive black humour and batty gags to earn it a warm place in the heart of any true horror devotee. And it’s hard not to break into the widest of smiles when Myrtle Murphy removes her Eyes Without a Face mask to reveal a face so horrendously scarred that it can’t be shown on screen and makes even the living dead scream in terror.
SOUND AND VISION
One of those Blu-ray transfer that looks good without knocking you for six – the sharpness is consistently good but rarely outstanding, at its best on facial close-ups, establishing wides and the sunlit brightness of the beach scenes towards the end. The colours are distinct within the restrictions of the post-production colour timing and the contrast is well balanced, with solid black levels and reasonable shadow detail, though this does briefly lose its integrity when the young Arthur descends into a grave to assist with his first body snatch. The comic book elements and atmospheric matte paintings are very attractively reproduced.
The soundtrack choice is between DTS-HD Master Audio and PCM stereo 2.0 – both are clear and decently mixed, but the DTS is definitely superior, having a crispness and range that the stereo track can’t match. Perhaps surprisingly, the majority of the dialogue and sound effects sit front and centre, but the music and the odd sound effect (location atmospherics and particularly thunder – always a favourite) are spread nicely around the room.
Commentary by director Glenn McQuaid
A slightly staccato but still engaging commentary from first-time director McQuaid, who’s a little in awe of the cast he managed to secure and pleasingly open about his borrowings and influences, as well as providing some revealing and even surprising background information, from the real New York bar redressed for pub scenes that I was convinced were studio sets, to the gorgeous Hammer-esque landscapes that are actually matte paintings animated in After Effects. The development of the project from his 2005 short film The Resurrection Apprentice is outlined, and the work of Freddie Francis and particularly his 1963 Paranoiac are quoted as key influences on the visual style. Nice to know, also, that I wasn’t the only enthusiast for the music of Martyn Bates and his band Eyeless in Gaza.
Commentary with actors Dominic Monaghan and Larry Fessenden
Having got so much on the filming from director McQuaid, you might be wondering what extra information on the production would be supplied by lead players Dominic Monaghan and Larry Fessenden, especially given that Fessenden was also one of the film’s producers. Precious little, as it happens, as where McQuaid approaches his commentary with a degree of serious intent, for these two it’s a barrel of laughs, as they take the piss out of just about everything (including and especially each other), repeat lines from the film with exaggerated delivery, pass comments on Ron Perlman’s hair and teeth, and recall some of their more enjoyable memories of the shoot itself. They also say “I love this…” an awful lot. How you react to all this will depend on your tolerance or even enjoyment of such commentaries – certainly if it were the only one here I’d feel it was an opportunity wasted, but given the detail provided by McQuaid’s commentary and the featurette below, I enjoyed this tomfoolery a great deal – it’s actually quite comforting to know that a successful and acclaimed actor like Monaghan can be as engagingly silly as the worst of us.
Making of I Sell the Dead featurette (64:11)
Featurette? At over an hour in length this would seem to qualify for reclassification, but the super-loose structure, extensive behind-the-scenes footage and impromptu interviews with cast and crew do tend to fit that format. Filming at several of the locations is observed, with a lot of time spent on the beach shoot and everything from make-up to effects and props given some attention, and there’s an intriguing shot of Monaghan removing a set of prop shackles with bolt cutters – not for the first time, he assures us. The lighting used in the New York bar used for the pub scenes was of particular interest to this camera type, and Ron Perlman’s views on working on independent films are well worth hearing. As a whole it rambles a little, but is still very worthwhile. Like the other featurette here, it’s presented 1080i, but this one was shot on what looks like DV, so doesn’t benefit greatly from the resolution increase.
I Sell the Dead – The Visual Effects (13:05)
A fascinating trip through the creation of some of the film’s key effects, most of which was done in-house. The farmed-out effects (to reveal their nature would spoil a last-scene surprise) are explained in some detail by the good people responsible for their creation.
I Sell the Dead has already found a small but very appreciative audience and deserves to find a wider one on DVD and Blu-ray. I’m not sure it’s the great film that some have claimed, but it’s still one I’ve built a real affection for and have found myself encouraging others to see. Whether the Blu-ray is worth the extra cost over the DVD I can’t say, having not seen the latter, but I’ve no complaints about the transfer and the extras are a nice mixture of the informative and the playful, and add to the sense that all involved had as much fun making it as audiences seem to have watching it.
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
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.
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.
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.
Dominic Monaghan and Larry Fessenden star as body-snatchers flogging the dead in 19th Century Blighty in this jauntily old-fashioned Brit horror.
First-time writer/director Glenn McQuaid throws in the odd alien, zombie and vampire to keep the gruesome guffaws flowing.
TIME OUT: NEW YORK
Joshua Rothkopf Aug 11 2009
The year’s most deliriously heavy title comes attached to a cheeky Victorian-era horror-comedy about grave-robbing—and it’s not just human corpses being raided here.
I Sell the Dead is a throwback to long-dormant strands of Gothic thriller-making: Britain’s tall-hatted Hammer flicks of the 1950s and ’60s and Roger Corman’s cheapie Poe adaptations, schlockfests filled with fake fog and faker cockney accents. (Not so surprisingly, this production was lensed largely on Staten Island.) Irish-born writer-director Glenn McQuaid presents his severed limbs with a chortle, not with Saw’s lip-smacking stare. The results are endearing, if a touch tame.
After killing off one of its main protagonists by guillotine, I Sell the Deadsettles into a flashback structure, as condemned prisoner Arthur (Monaghan) relates his ghoulish apprenticeship under the tutelage of the late Willie Grimes (Fessenden) to a whiskey-generous father-confessor (Perlman, clearly enjoying himself). There’s an evil medical experimenter who employs the duo to provide him with fresh supplies, but after one dead body pulls off some Raimi-style hysterics, the tone shifts strongly into the supernatural. Elsewhere, I Sell the Dead flirts uncertainly with cartoonish Creepshow-like panels, and the acting is just polite enough to leave the movie tonally stranded. More hammy nourishment—perhaps some mysteriously meaty shepherd’s pies—is required.
Comedy and horror are an often ungainly mixture. The easy way out is to (subtly) satirize or (broadly) spoof the conventions and clichés of the horror genre, and the results are … generally not all that impressive. (For every one Shaun of the Dead, there are at least three Stan Helsing(s).) But what’s a lot more interesting is when a group of filmmakers can take a macabre tale of murder and mayhem … and somehow still find the sunny absurdity of all those gruesome situations. Even more impressive is when they’re able to translate all the terrors and the giggles onto the screen in one fun little package.
Obviously I believe Glenn McQuaid’s I Sell the Dead covers those bases nicely — otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered with all that set-up.
We open in a grungy 19th century prison, and before the viewer even realizes that they’re being prepared for a “flashback story,” they’re introduced to an Irish priest (Ron Perlman) and a convicted grave-robber (Dominic Monaghan) who is destined for the hangman’s noose only a few hours. In an effort to alleviate his guilt, the affable Arthur Blake begins spinning his yarns for his “captive” audience. And they’re all some pretty grossly amusing stories.
Blake and his sleazy partner Grimes (Larry Fessenden) steal corpses, you see, and their business is more or less booming. Or it would be if not for the nauseating Murphy clan (the only real competition in the grave-robbing business, but a powerful one) and an ever-escalating series of mishaps involving dead bodies … and just a few not-so-dead bodies as well. Yep, when it’s not a horror tale, a buddy comedy, or a flashback-happy love letter to Sam Raimi, I Sell the Dead also deals with … well, let’s just say “the undead,” and that way we’re not spoiling any surprises.
And speaking of surprises, let’s throw some praise towards first-timer Glenn McQuaid and his hardworking crew. While it’s plainly evident that I Sell the Dead is a relatively low-budget affair, the flick is also a testament to simple but important things like snappy dialogue, narrative curve balls, clever story structure, and plain old fashioned fun. And even with that relatively low budget, I Sell the Dead still looks and sounds (and almost smells) a lot better than it probably ought to.
Genre fans will no doubt delight in the presence of genre lord Ron Perlman, and (as usual) Dominic Monaghan makes for an effortlessly affable anti-hero. Also quite fun are Larry Fessenden (as the rather scummy grave-robber Grimes) and Angus Scrimm as a daunting doctor. Bonus points for a few truly funny bits and some slick effects work, but the best parts of I Sell the Dead come in the script, the comfortably clever flashback structure, and some really amusing interplay between Monghan and Fessenden.
Plus I Sell the Dead capably delivers a half-dozen sub-genres in less than 88 minutes. That’s just plain old fun, regardless of how much the flick cost to produce.
MPI Home Video does well by this strong little indie. Available on DVD or blu-ray (cool!), the flick is supplemented by two very different audio commentaries. The first, with writer/director Glenn McQuaid, is personable and informative, but the second, with co-stars Dominic Monaghan and Larry Fessenden is just pretty damn funny. (Anyone who’s been through the Lord of the Rings commentaries knows that Monaghan is a hoot, and Mr. Fessenden — a multi-talented filmmaker in his own right — trades banter with the Brit to fine effect.) Also included is a very solid hour-long making-of documentary and a shorter featurette on the film’s special effects.
All that and the blu-ray only cost me $16!
– See more at: http://www.fearnet.com/news/review/blu-ray-review-i-sell-dead#sthash.agqNVHAw.dpuf
COLIN COVERT September 18, 2009
“I Sell the Dead” (★★★, unrated) starts slow but crosses the finish line like a sprinter. After his mentor Willie is guillotined, Arthur, his junior partner in grave-robbing, confesses the details of his crimes as a “resurrectionist” to inquisitive Father Duffy. A wickedly morbid story it is, as the team encounters cadaver-hungry doctors, vicious rival corpse-snatchers and all manner of deceased creatures who refuse to stay dead. The film isn’t a true chiller, but a blackly comedic buddy movie that recalls the Hammer horror cheapies of decades past. The budget was clearly minuscule, but writer/director Glenn McQuaid’s deft dialogue, strong characters and clever plotting attracted some impressive acting talent. Dominic Monaghan (pictured) makes Arthur nonchalant about his career as a tomb raider, and “Hellboy’s” Ron Perlman is deliciously hammy as the inquisitive Irish priest. The film, showing tonight and Saturday (9:30 p.m., 309 SE. Oak St., Mpls., $5-$7), kicks off a monthlong late-night horror series at Oak Street Cinema. Canadian zombie chiller“Pontypool” plays Sept. 24-26 and the Norwegian shock comedy“Dead Snow,” featuring skiers besieged by a battalion of undead Nazi brain-eaters, runs Oct. 8-10.
Don R. Lewis August 15, 2009
“I Sell the Dead” is an awesome little horror throwback that is done extremely well considering what must have been a fairly small budget. And by saying the film has a small budget is by no means a knock as the clever and fun script managed to lure both Dominic Monaghan and Ron Perlman, but the whole film just has an air of smart, exhilarating indie spirit throughout. From spraying blood to boogey men to “what-the-hell-was-THAT-thing type effects, “I Sell the Dead” is just good old fashioned horror. And besides, when you’re making a fun film with good people and a smart script, you don’t need CGI or overblown scares and frights. Throw in a clear vision as to what your film is supposed to be and “I Sell the Dead” is a winner.
The basic storyline centers on Arthur Blake (Monaghan) and Willie Grimes (Fessenden), 2 grave robbers in what seems to be turn of the century England. Foggy streets lined with cobblestones give way to rickety graveyards on the outskirts of town where Grimes and Blake make their living digging up fresh corpses for local kook Dr. Quint (Scrimm). The film kicks off as Blake awaits execution for his crimes and is joined by Father Duffy (Perlman) to fess up to his wrong-doings. Over a bottle of whiskey, Blake recounts how he got into the grave robbing business and regales the priest with tales of horror, backstabbing and creatures of the night as evidently the area Grimes and Blake live in is rife with zombies, demons, vampires and your basic menagerie of ghouls.
While the film tends to be a tad too episodic, in the end it actually made me wish “I Sell the Dead” was a weekly series in which Grimes and Blake encounter some new kind of supernatural being they must conquer. I’d watch that show and if you see the film, I guarantee you would too. But as a film, it works too in that old-timey ghost story kind of way. Fessenden and Monaghan play off each other like some kind of classic comedy duo from films of yesteryear and again, even though there’s a feel of “and then this happened, and then this, it’s really hard not to be on board through the duration of the film.
Getting back to the low budget nature of the film, it’s important to note the amazing looking special effects and makeup work. These are classic blood and guts effects people, and they look really good. The film also features some nifty comic book style computer animation that reminded me of the classic film “Creepshow” which was undoubtedly an influence here. All in all “I Sell the Dead” is a good old fashioned horror movie for fans of classic monster movies and things that go bump in the night.
Christopher Monfette AUGUST 7, 2009
In the vast pantheon of Hollywood movie titles, I Sell the Dead ain’t bad. It’s a strange, off-beat title that at first seems a bit unwieldy before eventually piquing your interest. How exactly does one sell the dead? And to whom do you sell them? Any film with “dead” in the title has got to be a horror film, right? Yet I Sell the Dead is just so downright odd that might it be, one supposes, a horror-comedy? Are the dead actually dead? Are they un-dead? Does selling the dead pay well, or do you have to take a side job? If the dead you’ve sold turn out to be un-dead, do you give refunds?
Which is all just a playful way of saying that I Sell the Dead is as bizarre and puzzling as its title implies. Created by writer/director Glenn McQuaid, the film tells the story of two low-rent graverobbers in 19th-century Ireland, one of whom, Willie Grimes, is beheaded in the very first scene. Left to confess their sins to the enigmatic priest, Father Duffy (Ron Perlman), Grimes’ younger partner lays out how the pair came to be arrested, charged and ultimately sentenced to death. Played by Dominic Monaghan, Arthur Blake’s tutelage under Grimes results in a series of nearly episodic vignettes as the two reluctant friends dig up corpses, encounter the undead, discover the body of what may be an extra terrestrial and finally cross paths with rival graverobbers, The House of Murphy. It is their attempts to swindle the violent, half-crazed sons and daughters of the House out of a few undead bodies that eventually leads to their being tossed in prison for murder, but the road getting there is both horrific and horrifically funny.
The film is semi-stylized, throwing in a few illustrated, comic-book style frames when introducing the members of the House of Murphy, and despite some lackluster make-up effects, the shoestring budget is hardly over-obvious. The film is visually impressive, boasting some nice digital-matte backdrops to provide the illusion of a bustling, centuries-old township, as well as some nice production design to help further sell the period setting.
The performances are wry and believable with a fun turn by the Phantasm himself, Angus Scrimm. Monaghan rises above the TV material we’ve seen him tackle lately to convincingly fill the role, using his sarcastic wit and boyish charm to help enhance the humor of the piece. The horror isn’t particularly terrifying so much as it is amusing, and while the world could be described as real-ish, there’s little explanation as to why the countryside is awash in walking corpses.
I Sell the Dead is an amusing horror/comedy with a few worthwhile twists and turns, as well as few head-scratching, genre-bending moments. It’s not likely to be for everyone, but it works well enough within its own wheelhouse to deserve a heap of fun, low-budget praise. If you don’t catch this one in theatres, check it on IFC On Demand.
Sci-Fi Movie Page
Horror comedies need to work even harder than straight horror to make an impression . . .
Sam Raimi (Evil Dead 2, Army of Darkness) casts a pretty long shadow in that department, and without some real imagination on your side, you’re bound to end up aping him. Alternately, you might follow theScream model and try to be too hip for the room rather than investing anything in the story.
Which is why I Sell The Dead deserves special mention, though in and of itself it’s merely reliable entertainment. It goes about its task with inspiration and heart, helping to bridge the gaps between its ambitions and its budget. With an original concept and a deep affection for the roots of the horror genre, the resulting package becomes awfully hard to resist.
And let’s be honest: we don’t see nearly enough movies about grave robbers these days!
The pair here make a fine couple of rogues, engaged in their dirty business back in the days when men were men and teeth were rotten. Grimes (Larry Fessenden) is the senior half of the duo, showing the ropes to his young partner Blake (Dominic Monaghan of Lost fame) as they skulk through the graveyards of Victorian England.
They unearth fresh corpses for unscrupulous doctors, selling them for a pretty penny before various irate relatives catch up to them. The problem is that the doctor they work for (Angus Scrimm) would rather blackmail them than pay them – if they balk, he’ll just call the cops — which puts a crimp in their already less-than-glamorous lifestyle. Things change when they unearth a body that refuses to stay dead, which both solves their immediate difficulties and creates some nasty new ones.
The bulk of the film takes place in flashback, as Blake sits in prison for his crimes and a cantankerous old monk (Ron Perlman, Hellboy) records his last confession. The tactic sets up a fair number of twists, which are quite fun despite the fact that you can see most of them coming. So it goes with most of I Sell the Dead.
Writer/director Glenn McQuaid buries himself deep in standard tropes, then elevates them by providing new wrinkles and clever variations at every turn. Some of the surprises are visual; others come via a funny bit of dialogue or an interesting narrative development. In each case, however, they take a turn from the expected into moderately fresh territory, making gleeful smiles very easy to come by.
Similarly, the film’s Gothic atmosphere remains a textbook case of how to do more with less. This production clearly has very little money, and I imagine a fair chunk of it went to high-profile actors like Monaghan and Perlman. But for all their shoestring qualities, the art direction and visual effects have an air of delightful whimsy to them: matte paintings of darkened moors, zombie make-up that implies what it can’t overtly show us, and a strong sense of wit to push the green screen further than it might go otherwise.
More importantly, I Sell The Dead enjoys the characters as much as it enjoys the shocks and the jokes. Grimes and Blake make a thoroughly entertaining duo, as do their various rivals in the grave-robbing trade. Monaghan and Perlman establish a keen repartee in the framing device which powers the film past a few mild stumbling points of the “flashbacks within flashbacks” variety.
While the plot embraces an unduly episodic format – feeling more like a collection of incidents than a proper story – that’s in keeping with the E.C. Comics vibe which McQuaid carefully cultivates through occasional fades to four-color artwork. The technique helps it strike the right balance between originality and reverence, between honoring the films which came before it and establishing its own identity. The comic book which accompanies it promises more adventures of these characters in the future; watching I Sell The Dead, it’s hard not to be pleased at the prospect.
THE DISCS: The Blu-Ray offers a typical cocktail of special features: an hour-long behind-the-scenes documentary, a short special effects doc (which proves very insightful) and audio commentary from the filmmakers and cast. The image quality doesn’t benefit from the Blu-Ray treatment, however; it’s decent, but rather grainy as one might expect from a film with a less-than-bottomless budget. Casual viewers can probably go with the DVD and not miss a thing.
WORTH IT? Absolutely. Its funny and energetic story reminds us yet again that you don’t need money if you have real creativity in your corner.
RECOMMENDATION: Hard-core horror fans might be a little put off at the lack of real shocks – this is really more comedy than horror – but the copious bloodshed and cock-eyed sense of humor make it terrific viewing for genre fans and newcomers alike.
Jeffrey Bloomer September 21, 2009
FROM THE DIRECTOR (AUGUST, 2008)
A few years back I made a short film called THE RESURRECTION APPRENTICE. A simple story of a young boy¹s
first night on the job as a grave-robber. I¹ve always been fascinated with the fog-drenched, blood-soaked films of
Amicus and Hammer. The short was an homage to that sort of thing. On finishing the short I felt there was a lot
more to explore in the world I had created. So I expanded the concept, creating new situations for my grave robbers
Willie Grimes and Arthur Blake.
I SELL THE DEAD is told in flashback, I chose this technique because it allowed me to play with different styles.
It also gave me creative license to be broader with the story telling, after all, these memories, these sketches are
from the mouth of one bored, drunken grave robber… a not entirely trustworthy historian.
Once I had a solid draft of the script I showed it to Larry Fessenden, who suggest we first adapt it into a comic
book with BRAHM REVEL. Fessenden had collaborated with Revel on two of his earlier films, WENDIGO and THE
LAST WINTER. The process was invaluable. Seeing the script in visual form before production, helped shape the
atmosphere and visual style of the movie. Fessenden and I then invited producer Peter Phok to join the project.
Peter brought an ambition to the project that helped it see the light of day. Armed with comic book and script we
sent out kits to our first choices, Ron Perlman, Dominic Monaghan and Angus Scrmm. With some finagling we
managed to get them all.
To help communicate my vision I created a visual diary, I collected photograph stills and posters as well as preshot
scenes and worked with animatics. All this helped shape my visual vocabulary so that when it was time to
work with my DP, Art Department and Costume Designer, I could quickly convey what was needed.
Making a low-budget period film in NYC was a challenge. Knowing we couldn’t afford to build sets we spent
months location scouting. Finally settling on Staten Island, Long Island and one week before shooting, we chose
NYC bar The Scratcher for our grave robber’s tavern THE FORTUNE OF WAR. Where location wasn’t enough to
convey the world, I relied on photography, illustration, traditional matte painting and computer effects to expand
I had a very clear idea of how the film should sound. Working with my composer, Jeff Grace, early on in the project
was beneficial. We listened to a lot of music, everything from pagan folk to psychedelia. We talked about our
favorite scores, why they worked and what they added. By the time it came to writing the music we were on the
same page. We would eventually go on to incorporate brass, winds and strings as well as an array of “out” instruments
like the saw and the human whistle. With the spirit of my heroes John Williams and Ennio Morricone, the
music is as boisterous as the characters in the film.
I SELL THE DEAD is an old fashioned buddy flick. Sketches of a friendship, as told by a marked man. Of course
it’s also a movie about robbing graves, and more importantly, robbing graves of the undead.
I hope you enjoy.
DOMINIC MONAGHAN, “Arthur Blake” — Dominic Monaghan is best-known for his role in the movie adaptations of “Lord of the Rings”. Before that, he became known in England for his role in the British television drama “Hetty Wainthropp Investigates” (1996). He was studying English Literature, Drama and Geography at Sixth Form College when he was offered the co-starring role in the series, which ran for four seasons. His other television credits include “This Is Personal: The Hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper” (2000) (mini) and a leading role in _Monsignor Renard (1999) , a series starring John Thaw.
On the stage, Monaghan has performed in the world premiere UK production of The Resurrectionists, Whale and Annie and Fanny from Bolton to Rome. Since watching Star Wars when he was six years old, Dominic has been consumed by films. His other obsessions include writing, music, fashion, playing/watching soccer and surfing. Utilizing his writing skills, he and LOTR co-star Billy Boyd are collaborating on a script.
Born and raised in Berlin, Monaghan and his family moved to England when he was twelve. In addition to speaking fluent German, he has a knack at impersonations and accents. He frequently returns to his hometown of Manchester, England.
LARRY FESSENDEN, “Willie Grimes” – Producer — Larry Fessenden is the writer, director and editor of the award-winning art-horror movies HABIT, NO TELLING, and WENDIGO. His most recent film, THE LAST WINTER, starring Ron Perlman, Connie Britton and James Le Gros, premiered at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival.
As a character actor Fessenden has appeared in numerous films, including Neil Jordan’s forthcoming THE BRAVE ONE, Jim Jarmusch’s BROKEN FLOWERS, Martin Scorsese’s BRINGING OUT THE DEAD, Steve Buscemi’s ANIMAL FACTORY, Brad Anderson’s SESSION 9, and IMAGINARY HEROES by Dan Harris. Fessenden stars in HABIT, and the Sundance pictures MARGARITA HAPPY HOUR (Ilya Chaiken) and RIVER OF GRASS (Kelly Reichardt).
Since 2003, Fessenden has been a producer on various projects including Ilya Chaiken’s forthcoming LIBERTY KID, Douglas Buck’s remake of DePalma’s SISTERS, Jeff Winner’s SATELITE and David Gebroe’s ZOMBIE HONEYMOON. Under his low budget horror banner ScareFlix, he has produced Ti West’s THE ROOST, and TRIGGER MAN, and James Felix McKenney’s THE OFF SEASON and AUTOMATONS. Fall 2006 sees production on two new Scareflix: Graham Reznick’s I CAN SEE YOU and Glenn McQuaid’s I SELL THE DEAD.
Fessenden has operated the production company Glass Eye Pix since 1985, with the mission of supporting individual voices in the arts.
RON PERLMAN, “Father Duffy” — An award-winning actor, has moved seamlessly between the worlds of film, television, and theater for almost three decades. Having received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Minnesota, he returned to his native New York to begin his professional career in theater, delving into the works of contemporaries like Pinter and Beckett as well as the classics of Shakespeare, Marlowe, Ibsen, and Checkov with two recent trips back to Broadway in A FEW GOOD MEN and BUS STOP.
His film career began in the early eighties with two films back to back for director Jean Jacques Annaud; QUEST FOR FIRE, for which he received a Canadian Academy Award nomination, and the role of Salvatore, the hunchback in Umberto Eco’s THE NAME OF THE ROSE. Perlman continues his unique collaboration with French directors, starring in Jean Pierre Juenet and Marc Caro’s award winning CITY OF LOST CHILDREN and costarring with Sigourney Weaver and Winona Ryder in Juenet’s ALIEN RESURRECTION. Other film work includes roles in studio ventures such as THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU, ROMEO IS BLEEDING, FLUKE, THE ADVENTURES OF HUCK FINN, AND SLEEPWALKERS as well as independent films including CRONOS, THE LAST SUPPER, and WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS, FROGS FOR SNAKES, I WOKE UP EARLY THE DAY I DIED, TINSELTOWN, and Miramax’s HAPPY TEXAS.
Perlman’s film career was interrupted for a three-year run on CBS’ critically acclaimed BEAUTY AND THE BEAST for which he received a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor along with two Emmy Nominations and three Viewers For Quality Television Awards. Other television work includes HBO’s THE SECOND CIVIL WAR, MR. STITCH, THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN ZOOM, the Rob Nilsson adaptation of the Rod Serling classic A TOWN HAS TURNED TO DUST for the Sci-Fi Channel, THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, marking his second collaboration with CBS, New Line Cinema’s feature PRICE OF GLORY with Jimmy Smits, Mandalay’s, ENEMY AT THE GATE, opposite Jude Law, New Line Cinema’s BLADE II, Paramount’s STAR TREK: NEMISIS, the Oscar winning short film TWO SOLDIERS, Guillermo del Toro’s HELLBOY for Revolution Studios in which he plays the title character. Stephen King’s mini-series DESPERATION FOR ABC, and IN THE NAME OF THE KING with Jason Statham and John Rhys-Davies. Perlman was recently seen in MASTERS OF HORROR, directed by John Carpenter, for Showtime, as well as the independent feature MUTANT CHRONICLES, starring opposite Stephen Rea and John Malkovich.
AGNUS SCRIMM, “Dr. Vernon Quint” — The evil screen villain Angus Scrimm well known as “The Tall Man” in Don Coscarelli’s “Phantasm” (1979) and its sequels grew up in Kansas City, but in his teens moved to California and studied drama at USC under William C. De Mille. The very first film role for Angus was another “Tall Man” in the history books. He played the role of Abraham Lincoln in an educational film made by Encyclopaedia Brittanica which led him to a steady career in theater, television and film. Scrimm made a foray into acting with his big-screen debut in the 1976 feature Jim, The World’s Greatest, which was directed by then 18 years old Don Coscarelli. During this time he was using his birth name -Lawrence Rory Guy. He adopted the stage name “Angus Scrimm” three years later for his performance in a Coscarelli’s horror/sci-fi opus Phantasm (1979), which would mark Scrimm’s permanent impression upon modern cinema.
His role as the infamous Tall Man has earned him the praise of critics world-wide, as well as a large following of fans. His success in the ‘Phantasm’ films has been parlayed into numerous other malevolent roles including, the evil Dr. Sin Do in The Lost Empire (1983), Vlad the Vampire King in Subspecies (1991), and as the nefarious Dr. Lyme opposite Nicolas Cage and Charlie Sheen in Deadfall (1993). Scrimm did intriguing double duty as the diabolical Seer and the angelic Systems Operator in Mindwarp (1990), co-starring Bruce Campbell. He did a shock cameo in the Italian film Fatal Frame (1996), opposite Christopher Lee and Donald Pleasence and managed a gleeful parody of himself as hulking henchman in Transylvania Twist (1990). But Scrimm has not limited his career efforts to simply acting. As a journalist he has written and edited for TV Guide, Cinema Magazine, the Los Angeles Herald Examiner and other publications.
He has also written liner notes for thousands of LPs and CDs for everyone from classical music to jazz, from Frank Sinatra and the Beatles to Arthur Rubinstein and Itzhak Perlman. He won a Grammy award for best album liner notes..
EILEEN COLGAN, “Maisey O’Connell” — Eileen started her career in Dublin and worked in theatres there and in London where she also worked extensively in radio and television. After joining the Abbey Theatre Players she appeared regularly there in shows like ‘The Winters Tale’, ‘Measure for Measure’, ‘The Hostage’, ‘Ulysses in Nightown’, ‘Richard’s Cork Leg’ and ‘Talbot’s Box’ amongst many others (the latter two shows also enjoyed successful London seasons).
She had the distinction of being invitied to Tokyo to play Molly Bloom during the James Joyce Centenary Celebrations there, and later, both at home, in Britain and in the United States she received unanimous acclaim for her performance of Molly in the stage adaptation (by Anthony Cronin and Ronnie Walsh) of ‘Ulysses’ which was a hihghlight of Dublin European City of Culture in 1991 enjoying a record-breaking run. During the last couple of years she has brought the characters in the John B. Keane play ‘Moll’, ‘The Chastitute’ and ‘Letters to a T.D.’ to packed audiences in the theatres of Ireland.
Most recently Eileen appeaered in ‘Desert Lullaby’ in the Everyman Palace Cork and on national tour, directed by Caroline Fitzgerald for Galloglass Theatre Company. Her television credits are numerous, notably her performance in ‘Hatchet’ for which she won the Jacobs Award for Best Television Performance by an Actress and also Norrie in ‘The Real Charlotte’, Mrs.Ryan in ‘The Lilac Bus’ and more recently as the mother in ‘The Return’ (Granada) with Julie Walters and as Mrs. Painter in ‘Malice Aforethought’ (Granada). Eileen is perhaps best known to Irish audiences as Mynagh, the priest’s housekeeper in Ireland’s longest running series ‘Glenroe’ (RTE). Eileen most recently appeared as Nora in the film adaptation of Maeve Binchy’s novel ‘Tara Road’ with Andie McDowell and Stephen Rea and will soon appear as in ‘Single-Handed’, the 4-part TV series for RTE, directed by Colm McCarthy.
JOHN SPEREDAKOS, “Cornelius Murphy” — I SELL THE DEAD is John’s fourth collaboration with Larry Fessenden and Glass Eye Pix, having appeared in WENDIGO (as Otis), Ti West’s THE ROOST and, briefly, in Larry’s upcoming THE LAST WINTER. Other film work includes INSIDE MAN (dir. Spike Lee), FANTASTIC FOUR, RULES OF ENGAGEMENT (dir. William Friedkin), SCHOOL TIES, JERSEY GIRL, TOWN DIARY, and THE TRADE. John plays a starring role in the upcoming indie film UNCONSCIOUS, directed by Brad Wigor.
Numerous television credits include a recurring role on Denis Leary’s “Rescue Me”, and recent work on “Law & Order”, “Law & Order CI”, and “Law & Order SVU”. John was directed by Sidney Lumet in “100 Centre Street”, was a series regular on Oprah Winfrey’s “Brewster Place” and ABC’s “Sirens”, and played Buck in the CBS mini-series “Return to Lonesome Dove”. Other TV roles include “Queens Supreme”, “Education of Max Bickford”, “New York Undercover” and “Far East” (PBS).
His stage work includes Broadway (‘A View from the Bridge’), the national tour of ‘Death of a Salesman’ (with Hal Holbrook), and numerous off-Broadway productions including last summer’s NY Fringe Festival premier “This Won’t Take Long” by David M. Korn.
BRENDA COONEY, “Fanny Bryers” — Brenda Cooney has been performing and studying in NYC for almost 7 years. She has starred in many independant films and Off-Off Broadway theater projects. But nothing has come close to her most recent role as Fanny Bryers in the movie “I Sell The Dead”. In July she will be playing the role of “Meghan” in the indie film “Across Dot Ave.”. Her most recent theater endevour was in the play “Da” at the Heights Players in Brooklyn, which was well received. To find out more about Brenda you can visit her website at www.brendacooney.com or check her out on IMDB.
JOEL MARSH GARLAND, “Ronnie” — Joel Marsh Garland is a graduate of Bennington College, he has been involved in NYC theatre since the late 90s as an actor, director, electrician, writer, singer, and reluctant designer most recently on stage as Klieg in Essential Self Defense at Playwright’s Horizons. He has appeared films; The Undying, Rocket Science, Lady In the Water, See You in September, The Night Listener, Watching the Detectives, The Believer, Maid in Manhattan, Interstate 84,Snipes; on TV’s; Law & Order, Law & Order SVU, The West Wing, Third Watch, Conviction, Kidnapped, Jonny Zero, Witchblade, Life on Mars, Kings. Look for him in theaters next summer in The Bounty, in FX pilot Fire in the Hole and in Spike TVs upcoming movie Black Souls. Joel is the lead singer for the Atomic Grind Show (www.atomicgrindshow.com) and plays a mean game of scrabble.
AIDEN REDMOND, “Jack Flood” — I Sell The Dead marks this Dublin born actor’s film debut Redmond’s other film work includes the eagerly anticipated Untitled David Barker Project. He is currently in pre-production for the upcoming comedy feature, The Arrangement, which begins shooting in New York, Winter 2008. Recent stage engagements include Off-Broadway produced Sive at the Repertory Theatre and Anna Christie at CenterStage.
GLENN MCQUAID – Director + Writer — Irish writer director Glenn McQuaid was born and raised on the North side of Dublin. As a teenager he was a member of The Dublin Youth Theater and worked as an extra on several productions going on in Ireland at that time.
From 1999 on, he has worked in the post production field as a visual effects artist and title designer in both New York and Dublin. McQuaid’s first Collaboration with Larry Fessenden came about when he came on board to coordinate the visual effects on the Ti West directed indie THE ROOST. Since then he has worked on several of Fessenden’s Glass Eye Pix productions including THE OFF SEASON and TRIGGER MAN.
In 2005 he worked as 2nd unit director and visual effects coordinator for Larry Fessenden’s THE LAST WINTER. He also designed the credit sequence for the film. Also in 2005, McQuaid wrote and directed the short film THE RESURRECTION APPRENTICE which premiered in Montreal at the Fantasia film festival.
Inspired by classic ghost stories, gallows humor and murder ballads; I Sell The Dead marks McQuaid’s feature film debut; It’s a love letter to the fog drenched classics of years past and showcases McQuaid’s love for fantasy and story telling..
PETER PHOK – Producer — Born in New York City and graduate of the School of Visual Arts, Peter joined the industry with Ti West’s (fellow SVA classmate and collaborator) THE ROOST as a production manager and associate producer. THE ROOST world premiered at the 2005 South by Southwest film festival with great success, earning theatrical release as well as video distribution on DVD. Phok continued his career working various positions as an assistant director, production manager, and line producer on independent films. This brought him the opportunity to produce TRIGGER MAN with Ti West and Larry Fessenden. TRIGGER MAN also premiered at the 2007 SXSW film festival.
Phok continues to produce for Fessenden’s company Glass Eye Pix, debuting Graham Reznick’s I CAN SEE YOU, also J.T. Petty’s short film, BLOOD RED EARTH, about a Lakota family during the late 1800’s, presented byFearNet HD as a prequel to Liongate’s THE BURROWERS. Most recently, Phok and Fessenden teamed up with HISTORY OF VIOLENCE executive producers, Roger Kass and Josh Braun, to produce Ti West’s HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, a period film, set in the 80’s about a babysitter working for a satanic worshipping family, for MPI/Dark Sky Films. When not working Peter can usually be found playing golf in Long Island as he considers his next project.
RICK LOPEZ – Cinematographer — A former cinematography instructor at Columbia University, Rick López has filmed more than 80 features, shorts, commercials, and documentaries. Variety magazine has described his work as “expert.” His work has screened at festivals around the world including the Berlin Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, the Hamptons Film Festival, CamerImage: the International Festival for the Art of Cinematography, and countless others. Before embarking on a career as a professional cinemtographer, López worked as a Congressional aide in Washington, DC, and earned a graduate degree in history from Stanford University.
DAVID BELL – Production Design — David Bell is a painter, sculptor, and production designer. He has designed three feature films including THE ROOST and END OF THE LINE. His work can be seen in music videos for Panic at the Disco, Mogwai, The Blue Man Group and several others. He has directed a music video for Fear Before the March of Flames and is currently directing a stop-motion animated short film. A graduate of Parsons School of Design, he lives and works in New York City. www.davidbellstudio.com
BECK UNDERWOOD – Art Director — Beck has transitioned between the literature and film world for the past two decades. She was the founder of the children’s book series ZUZU for many years. Her film career began as a production designer on HOLLOW VENUS: DIARY OF A GO-GO DANCER and shortly after she production designed NO TELLING. I SELL THE DEAD has brought her back to the feature film world. She has since served in the art department on James Felix McKenney’s SATAN HATES YOU.
JEFF GRACE – Composer — Jeff Grace is a composer working for film, concert and stage. His work has been performed by Flux Quartet, Bulgarica Philharmonia, Lucia Micarelli, Valentina Farcas (Berlin Comic Opera), Marcus DeLoach (New York City Opera), Kenny Barron and members of the Metropolitan and New York Philharmonic orchestras.Jeff’s recent film credits include Larry Fessenden’s THE LAST WINTER, Ti West’s THE ROOST and TRIGGER MAN, and Ilya Chaiken’s LIBERTY KID, as well as NBC’s Fear Itself episode SKIN & BONES.
From 2001 to 2004 Jeff was an assistant to Academy Award winning composer Howard Shore working on the three films of Peter Jackson’s THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, Martin Scorsese’s THE GANGS OF NEW YORK, David Cronenberg’s SPIDER, David Fincher’s PANIC ROOM, and Frank Oz’s THE SCORE. Through that association, Jeff worked with such artists as Renee Fleming, Annie Lennox, Enya, Isabel Bayrakdarian, Kronos Quartet, The London Philharmonic Orchestra, Terry Edward’s London Voices, and top studio orchestras and musicians in London, Los Angeles and New York.
VISUAL EFFECTS TEAM
Visual effects on I SELL THE DEAD were accomplished both in-house and through offerings at satellite companies under the effects supervision of MATT CONNOLLY, whose previous employers include Nick Digital, Psyop, The Ebeling Group, Nickelodeon and most recently, RhinoFx for Dreamworks’ GHOST TOWN.
Compositor JOHN LOUGHLIN took on the brunt of the work in-house for I SELL THE DEAD. He has previously worked on Glass Eye Pix’s THE LAST WINTER and LIBERTY KID.
Even before production, long-time Glass Eye Pix concept artist BRAHM REVEL (WENDIGO, THE ROOST, THE LAST WINTER) created a full length comic-book of the script to begin a dialogue about the look and pacing of the movie. Some of the comic-book images appear as graphic interludes in the film. Revel also fed concept art to photo-real magician RAM BAT to create the townscapes and landscapes that establish the period setting. Ram Bat worked out of Los Angeles, fresh off doing concept art for John Singleton’s A-TEAM. Emmy Award winner TAMMY SUTTON-WALKER also provided compositing work from the west coast.
The FX wizards at SPONTANEOUS, known for their excellent work in the commerical industry, break into the feature film world with I SELL THE DEAD, taking on several sequences, including the climactic “headless” sequence. The Spontaneous team was comprised of senior producer BRYCE EDWARDS, and director of visual effects ANDY MILKIS, with flame work by MARIO CASERTA, and CGI byLAWRENCE NIMRICHTER.
The diverse talents and backgrounds making up the effects department were all given purpose and focus under director Glenn McQuaid, who spent the first decade of his career in the visual effects field before overseeing the creation of killer cgi bats for Ti West’s THE ROOST. McQuaid has since worked on several Glass Eye Pix films, including TRIGGER MAN and LIBERTY KIID, and was the FX supervisor on Fessenden’s ambitious THE LAST WINTER.
SPECIAL EFFECTS AND MAKE UP
Brian Spears and Pete Gerner joined forces in 2001 to form Gerner & Spears Effects (G&S FX) after meeting on the Lionsgate vampire film MIDNIGHT MASS. Now, seven years later, the duo anxiously awaits Glenn McQuaid’s epic I SELL THE DEAD, featuring G&S blood, vampires – and some very entertaining zombies.
CAST & CREW
Arthur Blake – Dominic Monaghan
Willy Grimes – Larry Fessenden
Father Duffy – Ron Perlman
Dr. Quint – Angus Scrimm
Ronnie – Joel Garland
Cornelius Murphy – John Speredakos
Fanny Bryers – Brenda Cooney
Masiey O’Connell – Eileen Colgan
Young Arthur – Daniel Manche
Bulger – Alisdair Stewart
Valentine Kelly – Heather Helton
Langol Creature – James Godwin
Old Man – James Godwin
Mortuary Creature – James Godwin
One Legged Creature – Patrick Bucklew
Young Cornelius – Jackie Arnold
Staked Woman – Heather Robb
Jack Flood – Aidan Redmond
Tommy Burke – Ken Robertson
Wake Corpse – Sheri Melby
Prostitute #1 – Jennifer Stackpole
Prostitute #2 – Susanna Crafton
Executioner – Chris Shaw
Dancing Pub Girl – Haidyn Janae Harvey
Town Drunk – Sean Reid
Howling Man – Martin Pfefferkorn
Town Crier – James Bain
FORTUNE OF WAR PATRONS
John Gerard Franklin
Mark A. Keeton
David A. Schwartz
TOWN SQUARE FOLK
Susan Janet Cooper
Todd Ryan Jones
Shawn M. Hill
Aryn Elaine Cole
Henry William Oelkers
Jessica Bay Blyweiss
Johnathan M. Parisen
Renato R. Biribin
Sara J. Courtney
James Felix McKenney
First Assistant Director – Jeremiah Kipp
Second Assistant Director – Nicole Real
Director of Photography – Richard Lopez
Gaffer – Nat Aguilar
Best Boy Electric – Stephen McNally
Additional Electric – Tim Mather
Ryan A. Minelli
Electric Intern – Samuel Rudykoff
Balloon Operator – Mario Pignard
Key Grip – Brandon Taylor
Best Boy Grip – Matthew C. Cryan
Dolly Grip – Chad Battinelli
Grip – Robin Park
Additional Grip – Eric Branco
Grip Intern – Anton Delvino
Steadicam Operator – David George Ellis
First Assistant Camera – Jae Song
Second Assistant Camera – Katie Daison
Additional Assistant Camera – James Madrid
Film Loader – Louis Zlotowicz
Camera Intern – Mike Belcher
Still Photographer – Lee Nussbaum
Video Playback – Michael Vincent
Script Supervisor – Dustin Bricker
Second Unit Director of Photography – Jae Song
EPK – Peter Matsoukas
Production Sound Mixer – Andrew Sterling
Boom Operator – Amanda Jacques
“Shady” Neal Seidman
Production Designer – David Bell
Art Director – Beck Underwood
Set Decorator/ Assistant Art Director – Devin Febbroriello
Property Master – David Fazzio
Set Dresser – Fulvio Brembrilla
Leadman – David Jones
Builder – Paul Muris
Art Assistant – Matt Stone
Art Intern – Candice Cardasis
Costume Designer – David Tabbert
Wardrobe Supervisor – Lily Hetzler
Wardrobe Assistant – Amanda Williams
Make Up Artist – Ingrid Okola Dubberke
Make Up Assistant – David Catalano
Tattoo Artist – Laynea Roberts
Hair Stylist – Mary Christine Herbeck
Special Effects Make-Up – Brian Spears
Second Second Assistant Director – Matt Corrado
R. Zach Shildwachter
First Team PA – Kevin Shields
Key Production Assistant – James Arrabito
Set PA – Garrick Cisneros
Dan J. Majkut
First Team Driver – Adrienne Dine
Production Assistants – Alex Gavin
John F Perez Jr
Production Interns – Emma Meehan
Location Scout – Adam Poswolsky
Production Coordinator – Zeke Dunn
Stunt Coordinator – Anthony Vincent
LOS ANGELES ADDITIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY CREW
Associate Producer – John Norris
Director of Photography – Christopher Wedding
Production Coordinator – William O’Hara
Wardrobe Supervisor – Robin Fitzgerald
Make Up Artist / Hair Stylist – Keiko Wedding
Sound Mixer – Martin Kittappa
“RESURRECTION APPRENTICE” CREW
Producer – Susan Bennett
Assistant Director – John C. Loughlin
Director of Photography – Mai Iskander
Costume Designer – Rachel Bick
1st Assistant Camera – Justeen Cicio
2nd Assistant Camera – Carlo DeJesus
Stedicam Operator – Francis Spieldenner
Gaffer – Mike Prisco
Best Boy Electric – Kevin Vincent
Electric – Luis Contreras
Key Grip – Chan Jeon
Best Boy Grip
Swing Grip – Vance Tucker
Sound Recordist – Ted Gesing
Boom Operator – Ethan Maile
Post Production – Supervisor Peter Phok
Post Production Coordinator – Brent Kunkle
Editor – Glenn McQuaid
Additional Editor – David Leonard
Assistant Editors – Michael Vincent
Sound Designer – Graham Reznick
Sound Supervisor – Tom Efinger
Re-recording Mixer – Tom Efinger
Dialog Editor – Dave Ellenwood
Foley Editor – Brian Scibinco
Assistant Editor – Jeff Seelye
ADR Engineer – Eric Gitelson
Foley Engineer – David Crabb
Foley Artist – Leslie Bloome
Audio Post Facility – Dig It Audio Inc.
Dig It In House Producer – Alicia Loving
Monkeyland Audio Scheduling & Operations – Maggie Maylan
Monkeyland Audio ADR Engineer – Ben Whitver
The Farm ADR Engineer – Mick Creedon
Music – Jeff Grace
Orchestrated by Jeff Grace
Produced by Jeff Grace and Dave Eggar
Mixed by Nik Chinboukas
Recorded by Nik Chinboukas and Josh Kessler with additional recording by Adam Pettis
Recorded at Bushwick Studio with additional recording at Dubway Studios
Assistant Engineers: Adam Pettis and Stephen Schappler
Studio Assistants: Brad Bordine and Daniel Sanint
Music preparation by Adriana Grace
Additional music editing by Jim Bruening
Flutes – Sato Moughalian
Oboe and English Horn – Dan Willis
Clarinet and Bass Clarinet – Meighan Stoops
Bassoon and Contabassoon – Tom Sefcovic
Horn – Louis Schwadron
Trumpet and Flugel Horn – CJ Camerieri
Trombone – Dave Nelson
Bass Trombone – Pat Herb
Tuba – Marcus Rojas
Violin – Tom Chiu
Viola – Junah Chung
Cello – Dave Eggar
Bass – Gregg August
Musical Saw – Natalia “Saw Lady” Paruz
Whistler – Josh Kessler
Effects Supervisor – Matt Connolly
Lead Compositor – John Louglin
Additional VFX Photography – John Hager
Additional VFX – Tammy Sutton-Walker
Titles – Glenn McQuaid
Storyboard Artist – Braham Revel
Comic Translations – Braham Revel
Anamatics – Matt Connolly
Matte Paintings – Ram Bat
Senior Producer – Bryce Edwards
Head of Production – Bennett Lieber
Director of Visual Effects – Andy Milkis
Flame Artist – Mario Caserta
Director of CG – Lawrence Nimrichter
CG Artists – Gonzalo Escudero
Film Processing – DuArt
HD Digital Intermediate – DuArt
DuArt Technical Supervisor – Joe Monge
DuArt Senior Producer – Larry Shore
HD Colorists – Jane Tolmachyov
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I Sell The Dead- VFX Featurette (1/2)A behind-the-scenes look at the visual effects in the film. I Sell The Dead- VFX Featurette (2/2)A behind-the-scenes look at the visual effects in the film.
||“Literally soars via the evocative and aggressive score by Jeff Grace” – HAMMER TO NAIL
I SELL THE DEAD
(2009, CD – JEFF GRACE, composer)Music from the motion pictureAVAILABLE THROUGH iTUNES