Film festivals can be pretty serious affairs, and the LAFF is no exception, so it’s nice to take a break now and then for something more lighthearted. Glenn McQuaid’s I Sell The Dead is a rollicking comedy about a pair of 18th-century grave-robbers, affectionately evoking the parochial camp of Hammer Horror, with a dash of Monty Python silliness.
The cartoonish tone extends from the extravagantly grotesque rival gang up against which Grimes and Blake (Larry Fessenden and Dominic Monaghan) repeatedly butt, via occasional dissolves to comic book graphics, to the central conceit, whereby selling the undead proves more lucrative than robbing regular corpses. It’s told in flashback from Blake’s execution cell, the episodes related to cheerfully hammy priest Ron Perlman over a bottle of whiskey.
Supported by fine production design and passable effects, Monaghan is not frightfully good, especially in these framing scenes (and why is he the only one without an Irish accent?) but wild-haired and gap-toothed Fessenden fares much better, with the gleam of lunacy in his eye. Similarly, the familiarity of genre tropes – bawdy tavern, strident strumpets, lots of fog – works comfortably to the film’s advantage, whilst the obviousness of a lot of the comedy notes feels disappointingly second-hand. But right down to the “surprise” ending and shameless sequel set-up, the whole film is carried off with enough reckless good humour to prove endearing, with a generous share of genuine chuckles.
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image: LA film fest