lostboy: (chocula)
[personal profile] lostboy
Just watched "I Sell the Dead" this weekend courtesy of Netflix.  All in all, it was a deeply, deeply flawed little flick, albeit with a few weirdly enjoyable elements.   Beware of semi-spoilers ahead (well, not really though.)

The script (by "Kissing Jessica Stein's" Glenn McQuaid) was mostly uninspired and motheaten, with barely enough story to fill an 85 minute feature.   In fact, there really wasn't enough story to fill a feature, and what little was there felt as though it could have fit neatly into a "Tales From the Crypt" TV format.

The basic tale follows the recounted exploits of a graverobber named Arthur (played by  Dominic Monaghan of "Lost" and LoTR fame) and his mentor/partner Willie (an entertaining Larry Fessenden, the brainchild behind the great indie vampire flick "Habit").  The film opens with Willie's execution at the guillotine.  While Arthur awaits his similar fate, a rascally monk (played by Ron Perlman, with what I have to say was an impressive brogue) interviews him regarding the nature of his bizarre career path and how he came to be on death row.   Why am I emphasizing that?  Well, I'll get to it in a minute.

So, yes, this is one of those "Flashback" movies.   After a brief  (but, still, somehow overlong) back story that straddles their early graverobbing days, Arthur and Willie eventually bumble their way into the lucrative and cutthroat business of supernatural ghouling.  Basically, they dig up vampires and sell them to unnamed individuals for the purpose of... well, if you're hoping for a clever explanation of who is buying these undead vampires, why they are so highly sought after, and what they are doing with them after purchase, sorry but that's probably in another, far wittier movie.  This tale focuses more on the bumptious relationship between our two anti-heroes, and their run-ins with a rival crew of vamp-snatchers known as "The Murphy Gang."

Without going into much in-depth detail about the story (and really, them waters is ankle deep to begin with), I think the best way to describe it is as a series of mildly funny set-pieces.  There's a small bit about aliens.  There's a funny and slightly scary run-in with their first vampire that was reminiscent of Polanski's far superior "Fearless Vampire Killers."  There's a tacked-on love interest that occupies about ten minutes of screen time and zero minutes of logic.  In fact, as you near the end, the filmmakers seem to be in such a mad rush to come up with some sort of climax that most of the primary "villains" and "heroes" all seem to be introduced mere moments before that climax happens.  Moreover, the occasionally witty moments (mostly thanks to  Fessenden's waugh-ing, bleary-eyed charm) seem so exterior to the story that they could have been inserted into a movie about anything.  A fucking fishing movie, I don't know.  When you add in the fact that the already razor-thin premise of  "ghouls stealing vampires" is never explained or explored in even a cursory way, the film feels like a rough sketch of a pilot for a TV series.  One that will get canceled long before Sweeps.

As described above, the movie sounds like much more of a mess than it actually was.  The costuming and cinematography were very passable, and the production values in general give you the sense that the team involved was very passionate about making the film look and sound good.  The acting was good across the board, including the smaller character roles (TV veteran Joel Garland hands in a very nice performance as Ronnie the bartender).

But.... gah.  The story.  The story.  The story!   This film is even more proof - in an already overflowing ocean of proof - that if you have no script then you have no movie.  I don't care if you assemble the most talented and dedicated team in the world and amass a 13-figure budget.  Without a logical plot, without a reliable interior world, without resolving your pinches and mapping them back to your major plot arc - for instance "how they came to be on death row" - you have squat.  Your wonderful art picture will simply collapse under the weight of its own genius.  The holes in "I Sell the Dead" are so gaping and outrageous, that part of me believes that something happened with this movie in post-production.  In other words, perhaps the editor chopped this thing up worse than a Joan Rivers "tune-up" surgery.  Or, maybe what was trimmed away was just more clumsy, meandering lard, and they figured they already had enough of that in there and thought "Well, at least we can get the thing in under 1'30min."  This happens sometimes.

So anyway, in good conscience I can't recommend the film.  It is more of a minor curiosity for vampire film afficionados, particularly those who enjoy comic-horror hybrids like Fright Night, BTVS, Fearless Vampire Killers, etc.  I Sell the Dead shares DNA with those films, but only in the annoying little brother/sister way, where it tries to copy a joke they heard you tell once.  The joke fails miserably and eventually stops making any kind of sense, so they go back to picking boogers and eating them instead.   
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August 2012

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