7th October 2018 (UK Premiere)
William has a simple job: he makes dead bodies disappear. His little farm house in the country has become a dumping ground for the casualties of the gang related murders in the nearby city. His daughter Gloria has become used to corpses being dropped off at the house and is even convinced that some of them are haunting the place. And then a woman is dropped off who proves to be still alive…
Aidan Devine, Ava Preston, Jess Salgueiro
I’ll Take Your Dead has all the makings of quality pulp. It follows William (Devine), a good natured lug who lives with his daughter in the snowy removes of the American country side. But the family has a dark secret; every now and then a car will drive down their secluded road to deliver bodies. You see, William disposes of corpses for a local gang.
His daughter Gloria (Preston) isn’t having an easy time either. While her father performs his work in the back room, she sees the restless spirits of said corpses. This family unit is, to put it mildly, a little screwed up.
It’s a great set-up that allows director Chad Archibald to indulge in some effective gore and scares. But for a film about a guy who cuts up bodies, I’ll Take Your Dead is a surprisingly moving experience; one about the lengths we will go to for our children, and the example we ultimately provide for them.
In fact for a lot of the film, the supernatural elements take a backseat to the human drama. The ghosts are more of a melancholy presence, underlining the terrible human cost of William’s work. It’s only in the third act that they start to wreak havoc.
William has been forced to perform his gruesome work for the gang lest his daughter be harmed. Devine plays him as an essentially decent, if clueless man. He’s dedicated himself so completely to his daughter’s welfare that he’s blind to the morality of his actions.
It’s a smart choice that simultaneously endears us to him whilst subtly communicating the rot at the heart of this home. At one point he tells his daughter that he’s not a monster. “You melt people in the back room” she responds, rolling her eyes.
Devine is matched by Ava Preston, giving a remarkably intelligent performance as Gloria. By now, precocious children who see dead people are as much a horror standard as masked men hacking up horny teenagers. But Preston and screenwriter Jayme Laforest breathe new life into the trope.
In the beginning, Gloria is your typical freaky kid in a horror movie. But underneath there’s a palpable longing for a normal life. That longing comes to the fore when a body on William’s operating table turns out to not be as dead as initially suspected.
They nurse the woman – called Jackie – back to health. Played with a steely integrity by Jessica Salgueiro, Jackie is the first prominent woman in Gloria’s life since her mother died. Despite being tied to a bed, she starts to bond with Gloria. In one particularly touching scene she soothes the young girl after she has her first period.
But Jackie’s vitality complicates things. William doesn’t want to turn her in, but hiding her from the gang could put his daughter’s life in danger. Will William protect his daughter’s life at all costs? Or will he risk everything to show Gloria that he is a good man? The question is answered in a tense showdown worthy of any good crime thriller.
If there’s a fault to be had with I’ll Take Your Dead, it’s that it’s a little too tightly paced. At 84 minutes, it could do with more time to breathe. Archibald and Laforest have created a great trio of characters, and it’s a pity we don’t spend more time with them before things go to hell.
But that’s a good complaint to have. All to often, horror films neglect the people at the center of their stories. The effect can be depressing and nihlistic, when it’s not completely boring.
I’ll Take Your Dead on the other hand is warm, human, and very capable of getting the heart racing. It’s an independent horror film that puts most of its big studio brethren to shame, and well worth seeking out on VOD platforms.
Excellent performances all round
Affecting story between father and daughter
Satisfying final showdown
The uber tight pacing due to its brisk run time prevents further character development