DVD Review: I Sell the Dead

Hi all…

Grave robbing. These days it doesn’t happen much. But in the 19th century it was a booming business, even if it was highly illegal. For writer/director Glenn McQuaid’s directorial debut, I have to say though the setting and story were in a horror style, it was the comedy that shined through for me. For a first-time director, it was top-notch.

I Sell the Dead follows the path of Arthur Blake, a 19th century historical figure known to steal bodies from cemeteries and coffins throughout England until his eventual capture. In the movie, Blake (played by Dominic Monaghan of The Lord of the Rings, Lost, and Flash Forward) decides to weave a tale for the strange priest, Father Duffy (Ron Perlman of Hellboy and Sons of Anarchy) who comes to talk to him before his hanging. Add to that the unique character of Willie Grimes (Larry Fessenden, who also produced the film), the body thief who trains young Angus in the art of body snatching, and Dr. Vernon Quint (Angus Scrimm of Phantasm fame), the doctor for whom Angus and Willie steal the bodies… It’s a unique cast.

However, the strange non-supernatural characters like Dr. Quint and Father Duffy are only part of the equation. When corpses run low due to better security measures, you start getting more creative in where you look for bodies. What happens when you encounter a good looking corpse stabbed with a stake through the heart? Do you remove it to take the body to the good Dr. giving you so many problems? Or what happens when you encounter strange creatures that like to eat your flesh and don’t react quite the same way living things do when you chop off their limbs…

The horror bits were balanced out with the gallows humor throughout the production. It seemed more in the spirit of Evil Dead than a serious film. Don’t let that stop you from watching though – there’s plenty of blood and violence to go around.

Included with the DVD is an I Sell the Dead comic book that follows the story as well, in a slightly more artistic fashion. That said, the special effects in the movie were perfect. Understated in many places, but just enough so that when certain things happen later on (like the slitting of a throat or stabbing in the forehead) they have a bit more shock value.

In addition, you get two bonuses on the DVD – “The Making of I SELL THE DEAD” and “Visual Effects Behind the Scenes.”

According to “The Making of…”, the film was shot in New York, and there was an incredible amount of work that went into simply getting ready to shoot. The props alone must have taken weeks of preparation. Filming on location as opposed to on a controlled set makes things much more challenging to do, but obviously the cast and crew had a good time and worked hard to make the film great!

And in “Visual Effects Behind the Scenes” you get a chance to see how they took the location-shot footage and introduced computerized effects to fill in the blanks (like Willie holding his disembodied head in his hand during one scene). Storyboarding and 3D computerized animatics made it easier to try and plan for the unexpected, but it’s fascinating to see scenes progress from drawings to cartoons to live action in the movie.

IFC Films has released two of my favorite films in recent months on DVD – Dead Snow and now I Sell the Dead. Who can pass up a horror-comedy about zombies OR grave robbers? Be sure to check them out at your favorite retail or rental counter.

–Fitz

p.s. Check out this film and others at Barnes and Noble!

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Movie Review: Underworld: Rise of the Lycans

Hey all…

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is another entry in the dark world of Underworld. Did I mention that it was dark? Yes, I know we’re talking vampires (allergic to sunlight) and werewolves (like moons), but come on… a little more daylight couldn’t have killed too many vamps, could it?

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans

[rating:2.5/4]

This time, we see how the Lycans (led again by Michael Sheen as Lucian) broke free from their vampire oppressors (led once again by Bill Nighy as Viktor) before the first Underworld movie was released back in… 2003. Wow. Kate Beckinsdale looked great in those tight fitting leather clothes in 2003 and again in 2006 in Underworld: Evolution. She even makes a brief appearance at the end of Rise of the Lycans, which I thought was a nice touch…

Where was I? Oh yes… back to the Lycans. Instead of the beautiful Kate, we have the beautiful Rhona Mitra playing Sonja, Viktor’s daughter. Why doesn’t Sonja show up in the first two movies? Well, you’ll find out by the end of this one.

The Lycans are a group of werewolf-like creatures that become very primal when they change. That was until Lucian was born, a Lycan who could change between human and Lycan forms. Viktor almost killed him at birth, but decided to see what he could do.

So Lucian was allowed to grow up as a slave of the vampires and train to be a fine warrior and blacksmith. Viktor decided that it might be a good thing to keep Lucian around and let him bite a few other humans to create more of these human-variety Lycans. They were chained up and used to protect the vampire holdings during the day while the vampires slept…

Any time you try and chain an animal forever, the chains eventually chaffe. Lucian and his Lycans were no different. Of course, there was a small wrinkle… Lucian and Sonja were lovers. Daddy would definitely not approve, so they snuck around like Romeo and Juliette. And we all know secrets don’t last forever.

That said… I thought this was a decent movie in the Underworld universe. It wasn’t spellbinding. I think the first one was still the best in that regard. They’re all derivative of White Wolf‘s “World of Darkness” (a series of roleplaying games that started in the 1990s and dealt with the world of vampires and werewolves). Mix vampires and werewolves, add in some Romeo and Juliette and a bit of Gladiator, and look… you have an Underworld movie.

Rise of the Lycans dragged in a few places, but I thought overall it worked fine. I now understand more of the backstory and why Lucian hated the vampires so much in the first movie.

Underworld (2003 film)
Image via Wikipedia

And I thought Mitra did a fine job stepping into a role quite similar to her role in Doomsday a year or so ago. She can certainly kick butt and take names. Kate did it better, but maybe that’s just because she did it first (though historically, Sonja came before Kate’s Selene).

Anyway… I’ll give Underworld: Rise of the Lycans 2.5 out of 4. The fight scenes were fun and the backstory filled in some holes in the Underworld universe. We’ll see where Len Wiseman and company take the story next.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up either of the first two Underworld movies at Amazon:

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