Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Weeks Too Late: I Sell The Dead

I Sell The Dead. Directed & Written by Glenn McQuaid.

Preconceptions: I heard about this movie entirely by chance, as my cohort saw an ad while it was still in production. She showed it to me and I thought "huh, neat looking zombie movie" and promptly forgot about it. I came across it again, nearly a year later while looking for a bit of new horror to watch (knowing full well that the horror genre was sorry for the last movie I saw, and it certainly wouldn't hit me again). I rented this strictly on the strength of the trailer, which made it look quirky and about a variety of undead monsters rather than strictly zombies, something I haven't seen before.

General Review: I'll admit it, I don't like horrodies (the clever portmanteau movies that mush horror and comedy together have been stuck with). I am well aware that I'm the only person in the universe who didn't like Shaun of the Dead, finding the switch between serious drama and comedy too jarring (I never claimed to be sophisticated). But while this movie fell firmly in the horrodie camp (whimsical harp music during gore and all), that wasn't my main beef with it. Though, while I'm on the subject, this movie didn't even manage to confuse my brain with fear and sentiment in the off-putting way some other movies of this genre do. It managed to evoke neither. It was terribly unfunny and didn't even manage to cause a startle response to something jumping out of a box (the lowest form of horror).

No, while that would be enough to turn me off, this movie did something even worse: it attempted to create a camp, B-Movie atmosphere on purpose and failed at it. While I won't say it's impossible to set out to create something campy and cult from the get go (Hedwig and the Angry Inch comes to mind) it is nigh impossible. I understand the crass desire to cash in on a cult movie. I understand wanting to be hip and ironic (though a whole lot less, crass comes easier to me). What's great about a good low budget movie is when the writing and clever shooting makes up for the low budget. Waggling how cheap the movie is in front of our faces isn't endearing. Saying: "ha-ha, we don't have to write compelling or interesting characters because it's a cheap movie and, ha-ha isn't it fun to watch this suck, ha-ha!" doesn't fly with me. Sometimes, it can be fun to watch something suck, but not usually when it's on purpose.

This movie had a lot of potentially interesting ideas and if it had been written better it could have been neat. Grave robbers are fascinating and could be either blackly funny or frightening (or both at the same time, if you're playing to a more emotionally developed audience than me). Having them run into a pile of different undead foes is a really good idea. It makes sense, given their line of work and something I haven't seen anyone take a serious stab at (I still haven't).

The cast is basically not worth mentioning. They must have had a sandwich to feed him, so Ron Pearlman was in it. Dominic Monaghan (who played Douchey McBand, AKA Charlie, on Lost) was in it and I got the feeling he might have been able to play something a bit more complex if he'd been given a chance, but I couldn't say for sure. There was a lot of scenery chewing all around, but I'm not sure who I should blame this on the actors or the director.

The directing (except for the directing of the actors), wasn't that bad. While McQuaid didn't make very good use of most of what he had, he did put a competent looking movie together. The small budget didn't make the movie look small. I didn't feel like we were in someone's backyard in the outdoor scenes and the different graveyards were distinct. The monster make-up was also alright, if uninspired, a lot was borrowed from the Evil Dead movies (which I love, but c'mon can't we get past them and try some new ideas?).

If you're expecting a charming, funny little movie, look elsewhere. There was a kernel of a good movie in I Sell The Dead, but only a kernel. If McQuaid had taken the project more seriously, rather than just aping cult classics past, it might have blossomed into some delicious popcorn. C'mon man, take your tongue out of your cheek and perhaps strive to make a good movie rather than a deliberately bad one.

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