Movies From the Black Lagoon: I Sell the Dead

Movies From the Black Lagoon
I Sell the Dead - 2009, Unrated
By Tom Doty

A pair of grave robbers find out that it's more profitable to sell the living dead than your standard corpses in this sharp horror effort that was bank rolled by the folks at "The Independent Film Channel".
Major films are so expensive to mount (thanks a lot James Cameron) that the independents have become a stomping ground for all manner of cool flicks. Your best bet for interesting genre flicks (like crime dramas, action films, and even horror) are now the independents. At a time when MGM can't afford to make a new "James Bond" film there are at least a dozen genre flicks getting cranked out every month with recognizable casts and a better than average look thanks to the digital age.
This film manages to look like it cost millions but it didn't and the budget they did have went to getting a solid cast and a proper screenplay that manages to be smart and hip while still paying respects to a slew of famous horror films (most notably those of Britain's Hammer Studios). The story begins with an eye opening sequence that establishes the tie period (19tth century Europe) and sets the tone to follow. A man is dragged from his prison cell and paraded before a cheering crowd. He is then forced down before the guillotine, which rapidly descends and manages to shear his head off only a split second after he's looked up to figure out what that suspicious noise was. The man's headlands in a well placed bucket and the curious expression on it reveals that he hadn't fully processed what was happening until it was too late.
Soon enough we meet another man, Blake, who is scheduled for the same fate. Turns out the other guy, Willie, was his partner in grave robbing and Blake will soon share his fate. He has been granted a few hours of extra life as long as he spends it talking to a priest who has come to collect material on all things ghoulish.
The interview starts off a little slowly but the priest manages to get Blake talking by sharing some alcohol with the condemned man. This greases the tongue and pretty soon we are treated to a slew of flashbacks that reveal how Blake got into the world's most despised profession. The story is not pretty. We see how far people will go when times are hard. There are a host of unsettling images that include encounters with vampires, zombies, and even evil doctors (sawbones takes on a new meaning here). There are also some lighter moments such as the pair's introduction to a new invention called "the sandwich."
Pretty soon the guys are doing so well that they wind up on the radar of a rival gang of fiends called "the Murphys." They are a scary lot and you'll see their images if you ever look up "bad dudes" on Google. Cornelius Murphy whose evil was forged by his psychotic father who delighted in killing everything that ever made his son happy leads them. The Murphy gang also includes other colorful characters like Valentine (a woman whose visage is so frightening that no one dare look at her) and Bulger, a hulking brute who sports the worst smile ever, courtesy of the British Dental Association and a mouthful of dog teeth that were sewn into his gums after his mouth healed.
The whole thing comes down to a final confrontation between our grave robbing gangs on an island where zombies are all set to finish off whoever survives the battle.
This film deserves to be seen and is further proof that the best things in horror cinema today are bypassing theaters and premiering in your house. The cast is a blend of diverse talents. Dominic Monaghan ("Lost" and "The Lord of the Rings") leads the charge as Blake but he is happy to share the screen with the amazing, and underrated, Larry Fessenden (an Independent film maker who sometimes acts and has had a hand in fusing independent cinema with the horror genre) who co-stars as Willie. There is also a sinister turn by horror veteran Angus Scrimm (the Tall Man in the "Phantasm " films) as a twisted physician. The film also gets a nice assist from Ron Perlman (Beauty and the Beast) who plays the priest. Film buffs will probably get hip to Perlman's true identity before the conclusion but it still makes of a slam-bang ending that manages to be funny, gross, and even hopeful that there is room for a sequel or two.
Best Line: "I suppose you wouldn't believe me if I told you I was innocent, of murder that is, the despicable grave robbing part sounds about right."

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail and to read to children every Wednesday at 10:30am at Borders in Hagerstown. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: dotyfox@myactv.net.