(director/writer: Glenn McQuaid; cinematographer: Richard Lopez; editor: Glenn McQuaid; music: Jeff Grace; cast: Dominic Monaghan (Arthur Blake), Ron Perlman (Father Duffy), Larry Fessenden (Willie Grimes), Angus Scrimm (Dr. Vernon Quint), John Speredakos (Cornelius Murphy), Brenda Cooney (Fanny Bryers), Alisdair Stewart (Bulger), Eileen Colgan (Maisey); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Larry Fessenden; IFC Films; 2008)

“Uneven Victorian-era supernatural horror-comedy about grave-robbing.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Irish born filmmaker Glenn McQuaid is writer-director of thisuneven Victorian-era supernatural horror-comedy about grave-robbing. It’s a cheapie schlock indie that was filmed on Staten Island (getting atmosphere by full use of those fog machines), a Manhattan apartment and in NYC’s East Village. The Gothic thriller with a few perversely funny moments (most jokes are stiff), a morbid tale (that never becomes exciting and even grows wearisome) and hammy acting (that can be forgiven because the thesps are enjoying themselves and seem to show a love for those old horror flicks), owes its soul to such horror ventures by Hammer, the NYC television show “Chiller Theater,”the cartoonish Creepshow and Roger Corman’s Poe anthology series of films.

Arthur Blake (Dominic Monaghan) is the apprentice to Willie Grimes (Larry Fessenden). The two grave-robbers make a living selling the dead they stole from cemeteries. The pic opens with Willie beheaded by guillotine and Arthur, arrested and set to also be beheaded, confessing his crimes to the priest Father Duffy (Ron Perlman), in exchange for a bottle of whiskey, as not a killer but only a grave-robber. In flashback, through a series of vignettes,we learn how the duo of misfits operate. They were blackmailed into working for the greedy mad doctor anatomist, Dr. Quint (Angus Scrimm), until they cleverly arranged for his demise. The boys then find it’s more profitable to sell the corpses of the undead, but that makes them the rivals of the dangerous rogue grave-robbers of the undead “The House of Murphy.” On a mysterious island, the boys and their gritty apprentice, Fanny (Brenda Cooney), are confronted by the undead and the ruthless Cornelius Murphy (John Speredakos), the enforcer for “The House of Murphy,” who challenges them for invading the gang’s turf. This leads to a twist end at the site of the prison confessional, which might be clever but didn’t really amuse me.

The slack pace contributes to the pic’s inability to generate suspense. The dullish dialogue never registers as particularly witty, and the freezing of comic book panels into the film seems awkward and unnecessary. What works is the role of Fessenden, as the slob bumbler but endearing grave-robber with a feel for handling zombies and effortlessly shoveling out Abbott and Costello type of slapstick comedy.

REVIEWED ON 11/17/2010 GRADE: B-