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On Hollowhood, “the best independent film magazine in the UK”, horror movie, I’ll Take Your Dead, film review, written by Jonathan McKinney.

Jonathan McKinney on Hollowhood The Magazine

Written by Jonathan McKinney


I’ll Take Your Dead

I'll Take Your Dead Film Review by Jonathan McKinney on Hollowhood
I’ll Take Your Dead

I’ll Take Your Dead follows William who 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. After a woman’s body, is dumped at the house, William begins his meticulous process when he realizes, she’s not actually dead.

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“Sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s alive and who’s dead,” begins I’ll Take Your Dead via the narration of Gloria (Ava Preston), the twelve-year-old daughter of William the ‘Candy Butcher’ (Aidan Devine). This sentiment—the difficulty of discerning between the living and the dead—is what launches the story being told here, so I understand the line, but it makes less sense taken literally because Gloria regularly sees dead people wandering about her home and they really do look quite dead, shuffling emotionless like zombies with gory wounds and haunting, glowing eyes. She doesn’t seem to find it too tricky figuring out who is alive and who isn’t.

Themes Of I’ll Take Your Dead

I’ll Take Your Dead is a crime-themed horror from director Chad Archibald and writer Jayme Laforest, who teamed up for earlier offerings Bite and The Heretics.

Gloria’s father William is a criminal, and a victim of circumstance. He has become a man who disposes of bodies in his remote farm house for gangsters in the local city, but this is a fate that happened to him, rather than a career he sought out. This allows the film to explore the idea that crime spreads and envelops otherwise law-abiding men and women, and Devine plays the role solemnly and earnestly, carrying a constant sadness both because of the soulless work he’s doing and because of the death of his wife.

I’ll Take Your Dead Story Conflict

The central conflict begins when some gangsters bring three bodies to William’s door, and it transpires that one of them, Jackie (Jess Salgueiro), is still alive. I like the idea that Gloria’s narration from the beginning of the film was a subtle dig at Reggie (Ari Millen), the crook who delivered the three bodies and failed to notice that one of them was still breathing. Once William discovers that Jackie is alive, he stitches up her wounds, sedates her, and ties her to a bed. She’s tied up for quite some time and it’s unclear whether Jackie was being allowed bathroom trips but neither William nor Gloria seem to react to any nasty smells developing, so… I guess we’re not supposed to think about it too much?

Now, a well told story typically follows a protagonist with a clear goal. In this case, William’s plan is to save enough of his ill-gotten gains and escape to El Paso with his daughter. As convenience would have it, he’s very close to executing this plan when the complication of Jackie enters his life. Now he must figure out how to do right by his hostage, and deliver his daughter from the dangerous, ethically compromised life he’s made her complicit in.

The conflict is balanced expertly. We completely understand William’s motivation. Who wouldn’t want to get his daughter out of a life like this? On the other hand, Jackie is terrified, tied up, and traumatised, and she just wants to escape. She doesn’t have any reason to trust William. She was shot and woke up tied to a bed. Her willingness to do whatever it takes to get out, equally, makes perfect sense. As a result, the tension feels like it’s built on solid ground, and during the watch it’s hard to judge the words or actions of either party, such as when Jackie manages to get hold of her phone, which fortunately hasn’t run out of battery, and calls her boyfriend Carter (Brandon McKnight), begging him to come and rescue her.

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My Opinion On I’ll Take Your Dead

I would have liked the script to establish what William’s story goal was more quickly. The film chooses to spend its first forty minutes or so building the atmosphere out of quiet grief and Gloria’s fear instead. This choice does add the horror element to this picture: all the souls of the bodies disappeared by William remain in the house, and some of them communicate with his daughter. One of them, a demonic black-and-red-faced creature, sometimes stalks her, and makes her want to avoid the basement at all costs.

Throughout the movie, it’s unclear why Gloria can see the morbid ghosts and William cannot, and this lack of clarity only gets worse towards the end, but that’s getting into spoilers, so I’ll leave it there. I found myself wondering what the point of the supernatural element was for a good chunk of the movie, as it didn’t seem to connect to the crime drama playing out at all, but there is a uniting of these two plots by the finale which is fairly satisfying and incredibly poignant.

Ava Preston is the star of the show. She is formidable, vulnerable, she has an innocence to her, and when she’s called on to perform high emotion she emphatically delivers. The movie was worth watching just for her performance throughout. All the actors deliver. The music, the direction, and the dialogue are all enjoyable too. The score is by the Toronto based composer Steph Copeland, a rich combination of distorted strings, orchestral elements, and pulsing, dirty synths which drive the tension into all the right places at all the right times. It’s a great score, it does exactly what it should, although I would have liked more melodies and memorable character themes but that’s just my taste.

Despite some minor nit-picks, I enjoyed I’ll Take Your Dead quite a lot. Some slow burn horror movies can go a little too slowly at the beginning, for my taste, but this rattled along nicely even while the film was building its atmosphere and not putting a lot of activity in front of me. There are good scary moments, good creepy moments, and good emotional moments, all in eighty-five spookily entertaining minutes.

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