Twitter Plot Summary: Grave robber Arthur Blake is interviewed by an Irish priest just before being sent to the guillotine. He recounts a wild career.
It’s an interesting tale, the one about Burke and Hare the 19th century grave robbers who achieved notoriety for their antics. I Sell The Dead draws heavy influence from that story without actually telling that tale, which may be obvious to most people but I feel it worth pointing out for the sake of clarity.
Ron Perlman will do anything for a pay cheque it seems, but thankfully he always proves to be a great performer no matter the quality of the material or, in this case, the quality of his accent. Here he is the apparently Irish Father Duffy who has been sent to note down the last words of grave robber Arthur Blake (Dominic Monaghan), who finds himself behind bars after being framed for murder and discovering that his long time grave robbing collaborator Willy Grimes has already attended his appointment with Madame Guillotine.
Taking place over a series of vignettes interspersed with Perlman and Monaghan chatting in the latter’s cell, we get to sit and watch the life of Arthur Blake as he learns the art of robbing graves and the inherent perils of such work, gore and supernatural goings on growing stranger and more peculiar with each passing incident. What starts as a standard historical romp soon turns into a number of amusing homages to classic horror moments, be they demon vampire women, zombies, or the literally out of this world concept of pint size aliens being buried on Earth.
Horror legend Angus Scrimm – you know, the tall chap from the Phantasm series – shows up as a doctor, Quint, who initially hires the grave robbers to provide him with a constant supply of cadavers. Soon enough they part ways in a rather interesting manner, leaving Blake and Grimes to make even more money from their work – all the while having to avoid the attentions of rival grave robber, the very serious and very bearded Cornelius Murphy (John Speredakos).
As a supposed horror comedy, it presents more amusement in its Father Ted style Irish accents than it does in any of the attempts at jokes. But with that in mind, there’s fun to be had in the ambiguity of Blake’s story. Is all of this he’s recounting just a tall tale, or is there an element of reality to his version of events? It’s a point that keeps you guessing until the very end, and proves to be the most interesting angle of the entire story.
All of this wouldn’t be quite so bad if the music was far lower in the audio mix, although that may be more to do with the fact I watched it via the Horror Channel rather than on a DVD or via streaming, as their picture and audio quality is frequently of a lower quality than a standard TV channel. I’m not sure this would have made any difference at all in the grand scheme of things, but it was a slight annoyance all the same. A good if somewhat basic and flawed horror comedy.