There’s a certain sick pleasure in reviewing someone’s debut feature. In many ways you feel like you have a life in your hands, your blood just pulsing with the power of the decision of who lives and who dies.
Ultimately, though, you have to fall back on if you can suss out actual talent from any kind of weakness that tend to plague the output of a not yet fully formed artist.
I Sell The Dead, the first feature from Glenn McQuaid, is a good example of finding talent after separating the wheat from the chaff.
The movie unfolds as a series of episodic tales told as a final confessional before Arthur (Dominic Monaghan) is executed for a murder he claims he didn’t commit.
That murder doesn’t really factor into the movie in any real way as McQuaid is more interested in using the confessional as a jumping off point for telling some goofy stories about the grave robbing shenanigans of Arthur and his partner Willy (Larry Fessenden).
A Grave Affair:
The grave robbing is also our portal into the genre elements that the movie traffics in. Our two grave robbers basically fail their way upwards to discover a world of spooks and ghouls and the undead. Only two “corpses” that the pair comes across can really be classified as zombies, which is fine because as the movie progresses, you quickly discover that you are not watching a zombie movie but rather a darkly comic tale that takes place in a supernatural Victorian universe.
When the zombies do show up, they are very mobile and very jokey; one zombie, while locked in a cage, is constantly mugging for the camera as jokes are lobbed past it. And even though the zombies do end up factoring heavy in the third act as the movie tries to wrap up the few narrative threads it has, they really just feel like incidental creatures in world that also has vampires and alien babies.
I Sell The Dead has a very strange, cheap look to it. I couldn’t imagine seeing this movie in a theater, because the structure and the relative cheap digital look of it all make the movie come across as simply a really good YouTube video.
This partly works to the movie’s advantage because the best moments are all based around the easy and silly chemistry between Monaghan and Fessenden. Their back and forth is perfected suited to the world on the online sketch video, and this movie really does come across as just watching 85 minutes of YouTube clips.
But it all comes down to talent, and I Sell The Dead shows that McQuaid has a great handle on clever dialogue. For as much as this is a horror comedy, the movie is never better than when characters are just ribbing each other at a pub or at a grave site before the supernatural mischiefs happen.
McQuaid also has a very strong grasp on editing, displayed best in montages that feel like a rapid succession of comic book panels – in fact, a comic book was made of the film shortly after its release, which was also written by Glenn McQuaid. And maybe comics would be the best place for McQuaid to end up: His sense of dialogue and visual rhythm are perfect for that medium and would allow him to realize the nastiest of his visions without having to rely on the paltry budget he had to work with here.
‘I Sell the Dead’ trailer:
Watch ‘I Sell the Dead’:
|Buy the film at Amazon.com|
|Buy the film at Amazon.co.uk|