by Philip Clarke
CALGARY-Being a criminal can oftentimes be a messy business. Especially when you have to find a way to discreetly dispose of a body, or in some cases several. Enter William (Aidan Devine) who’s just the man for the job. For those in the know, his more affectionate moniker of The Candy Butcher is one that’s spoken throughout the land in both quiet whispers and hushed tones. William is there to fix your problem with some surgical tools, a bathtub and chemicals Breaking Bad-style for good measure. He’ll turn the other way by taking the body off your hands, for a small fee of course. Sounds clean and simple enough, right? In a world full of gangsters, degenerates and scum-sucking lowlifes, business for the butcher sure is booming.
I’ll Take Your Dead is a clever twist on the crime genre with a strong mix of horror elements baked in throughout. Even a man as skilled as he is, The Butcher is ready to hang up his bone saws and meat cleavers in favour of a more quaint-sized motor-home with his young daughter Gloria (Ava Preston). All goes to hell when one of William’s bodies isn’t in fact a body at all. Jackie (Jess Salguiero) wakes up mere moments from being spliced open, and throws their bizarro family dynamic for a real loop.
From the opening moments, the grim and horrific atmosphere of this small and relatively contained chamber piece of a world is immediately felt. Director Chad Archibald instantly transports the viewer into the dark and sinister Canadian underbelly through an opening monologue full of foreboding, to the smartly Saw-inspired opening credits. The film isn’t gory the entire way through, which it very easily could have been. Had the case been so and the film been overly gratuitous, it likely would have gotten to the point of blandness in losing its shock factor. When it is indeed gory, the film doesn’t skimp on the horrific imagery to hit the viewer with maximum blood-splattering effect.
Every single performance is fantastic. Ari Millen as Reggie in particular gets several great moments throughout. Fans of his from Orphan Black will certainly be impressed. The standout of the film however is by far Preston as a young girl in a very adult world. She shows an incredible amount of dynamism throughout her performance, never once delivering a wrong note. Whether she’s girlishly exuberant, totally horrified or grief-stricken and heartbroken, her performance surpasses that of many child actors. She is absolutely one to watch.
Writer Jayme Laforest also does something incredibly smart with his script. The film is ingeniously injected with the darkest tinge of black humour. There are many moments throughout that are darkly comedic, but particularly in the last act as the narrative absurdity ramps itself up, so do the hilarious jokes that always land a hundred percent of the time.
I’ll Take Your Dead is a prime of example of a film where every single ingredient comes together and works in perfect harmony.Aidan Devine, Ari Millen, Ava Preston, Calgary International Film Festival, Chad Archibald, I'll Take Your Dead, Jayme Laforest, Jess Salguiero