I love me some horror comedies and I hate me some horror period pieces (unless they take place in the 80s…). I Sell the Dead is both, so I tried to give it the benefit of the doubt. The first time I saw it, I simply could not stick with it. I figured I’d give it another try. While I could appreciate the horror comedy, the movie just doesn’t grab me.
Basically, it’s about this dude from Lost who, in order to save himself from the guillotine, tells Hellboy, who plays a priest here, about how he became an apprentice to a grave robber.
So begins an incredibly disjointed flashback to his partnership with his mentor (b-movie horror dude Larry Fessenden). Rather than feeling like one flowing narrative, the film comes across as a series of vignettes of grave robberies. There are a couple of funny and entertaining horror comedy scenes that barely carry the story arc.
The Tall Man from Phantasm is added for what feels like the grounding part of the story. He’s a dastardly doctor and it seems the grave robbers will be working for him. Nope. That story goes away. Apparently, that was just to establish that they aren’t just grave robbers, but ghouls.
There’s fun poked at the invention of sandwiches. Sucking at history and hating period pieces, I just couldn’t put the moment into any comical context. Then they have an entertaining confrontation with a vampire, so I thought it was going to be a vampire movie. Nope. That’s the only vampire. Then they dig up an alien. And then that story is beamed out of the movie. Finally, they start to dig up zombies and that seems to be the sticking point of the film.
Then suddenly, more than halfway through the film, it is established that there’s a rival grave robbing gang. Also, a female partner is introduced to team up with our main pair. At last, it’s time for some specific motivation for the characters, so there’s a rushed journey, a rushed battle with the enemy (and zombies), we learn what becomes of our protagonist after his story is told, and we get a cheesy zombie jump at the screen for the final frame.
Despite taking place in the olden days, I Sell the Dead could have worked for me if it had been at least somewhat cohesive, especially since the main pair makes a great comedy duo and I so wanted to love the movie. Great performances and clever moments here and there just aren’t enough to hold it together.