Studio: Shout! Studios
Director: Chad Archibald
Writer: Jayme Laforest
Producer: Cody Calahan, Chad Archibald, Christopher Giroux
Stars: Aidan Devine, Ava Preston, Jess Salgueiro, Brandon McKnight, Michael Reventar, Ari Millen
A butcher who secretly disposes of dead bodies inadvertently puts his ghost-sensitive daughter in danger when his latest job turns out to still be alive.
Deadwood had Mister Wu. Criminals in a cold corner of Canada have ‘The Candy Butcher.’ He’s who gangsters go to when a dead body needs to disappear with no questions asked and no breadcrumbs left for police to find.
According to urban legend, The Candy Butcher acquired his nickname because to him, blood is sweet, and he has supposedly been bathing in it for years. Other whispers on the street believe the butcher eats bodies to make them vanish. Another rumor says someone once saw him sewing severed limbs together like some sort of Frankenstein’s Monster.
The truth isn’t nearly as sinister as the fiction. William ended up in the body disposal trade by incidental extortion. He remained there by financial necessity. In reality, he is an unassuming widower struggling to raise his 12-year-old daughter Gloria on an isolated farm whose best days are behind them.
William doesn’t want the new job of disappearing three bodies belonging to gangbanger Reggie’s rivals. But a vague threat in Gloria’s direction forces William’s hand. Once William gets on his gloves and gets down to work, Reggie becomes a secondary concern. William knows what to do with dead bodies. But when one of them turns out to still be alive, William finds himself facing a situation his two-person family isn’t prepared for.
Rarely are the names of Black Fawn Films or director Chad Archibald bandied about whenever there is a popular discussion about the contemporary indie horror landscape. Maybe they fly too far under most radars. Maybe they don’t receive comparable coverage in the United States as they might in their native Canada. Whatever the reason, fright film fans keeping them on the cusp are missing an intriguing creative progression from one production to the next.
You don’t have to enjoy each individual movie from Black Fawn Films, I certainly don’t, to appreciate what the company is doing. They’re not changing the game. They’re not shaking the Earth. Whether it’s the body horror of “Bite” (review here), the occult eeriness of “The Heretics” (review here), or the throwback thrills of “Bed of the Dead” (review here), Black Fawn and Chad Archibald simply produce consistently creepy pictures that look good, play well, and generally outpace average efforts released in the same space.
“I’ll Take Your Dead” represents Archibald and Black Fawn’s current peak of what their formula for high quality, low-budget genre fare can achieve. In accordance with their grounded approach, the film isn’t some senses-shattering epic built around high concept spectacle. “I’ll Take Your Dead” is only a rock solid suspense thriller with an engaging story, sharp execution, and satisfying entertainment value.
Its actors aren’t household names. Again, it doesn’t matter. “I’ll Take Your Dead” merely sets out to install qualified professionals on both sides of the camera regardless of résumé.
Jayme Laforest’s character-driven script calls for impassioned performances, even if they aren’t showy roles. Aidan Devine sets the tone with a dour demeanor that simultaneously suggests a fragile father figure who is as caring on the inside as he is callous on the outside. Ava Preston powers the other part of the movie’s emotional battery as Gloria. As a little girl made more mature by her mother’s death as well as the ability to see ghosts, Preston overdramatizes Gloria a smidge. Yet when it comes to child actors still learning how to adjust their knobs, I’ll take the lesser evil of pouring it on a touch thick to woodenly underperforming any day of the week.
Ari Millen of “Orphan Black” applies some theatrics of his own with the physical characteristics of loose cannon thug Reggie. Really though, Millen only appears to be relishing the villain role a pinch, which isn’t a sin. Other than one or two mustache-twirling teases, Millen, like the rest of the cast, breathes a third-dimension into the person on the page to create a captivating onscreen presence.
Even with a keen sense for keeping the film trim through cinematic camerawork and tight editing, nits are ripe for picking, particularly regarding the payoff. The supernatural hook melting into the movie isn’t truly essential aside from deus ex machina employment down the line. “I’ll Take Your Dead” also has the kind of conclusion where an interior location suddenly becomes improbably labyrinthine to recalibrate how remaining players are separated.
But the film’s relative straightforwardness doesn’t demand to be picked apart by a detailed analysis. It doesn’t demand a craftily worded review either. “I’ll Take Your Dead” is just a cool little crime drama whose direction doesn’t drive down an obvious road, which keeps intrigue high even when intensity may be low. Like the majority of Black Fawn Films’ output, “I’ll Take Your Dead” demonstrates that “worth watching” is preferable to “must see” as an appropriate accolade equal to the movie’s capable accomplishments as enjoyable genre entertainment.
Review Score: 80