This light-hearted comedy horror about the lives and deaths of a pair of body-snatchers is everything that Burke and Hare wasn’t and that is charming and genuinely funny. I’ve always liked Dominic Monaghan and this is another great part for him. This film appeared with no fanfare or publicity on the DVD shelves and not many people have heard of it which is a pity.
The film opens with execution of Willie Grimes (Larry Fessenden) by guillotine. Arthur Blake, his partner in crime, is sitting in his cell waiting on his turn and he gets a visit from a priest Father Francis Duffy (Ron Perlman). Duffy wants hear all about Blake’s life of crime as a warning to others of where such a life leads. Blake has been charged with murder but he denies this charge but is happy to admit to the crime of bodysnatching. He was found by the authorities by a trail of body parts to his door which is an insult to Blake’s intelligence. This was the same evidence that they used to catch Willie.
Blake is reluctant to speak but as soon Duffy produces a bottle of booze his tongue loosens up and he tells his story in flashback. He first started working for Willie as a boy of about twelve. Willie was going to kill him and sell his corpse but instead he took him on as an apprentice. Willie taught him all the tricks of the trade but for many years they worked exclusively for Dr Vernon Quint (Angus Scrimm), a medical researcher with a big demand for fresh corpses and enough dirt on Grimes and Blake to keep them from quitting. With the families of the dead getting more active at protecting their dead relatives they have to get more creative at finding bodies for Quint. When Blake’s auntie dies he goes to the house where her corpse is laid out for a wake and fakes grief so he can be alone to steal the body.
Ronnie the landlord at their local bar is a good source of information on jobs and he tells them about a corpse that changes their lives. Blake explains that they had just been body snatchers digging up the dead but with this job they became ghouls who would dig up anything dead or undead. It’s not too hard to guess what that means about what they dig up out on the moors in a remote grave in unhallowed ground at a crossroads. They find the corpse of a young woman with a stake through her chest and a wreath of garlic bulbs around her neck. Willie is worried by this but Blake tosses away the garlic wreath calling it superstitious gobshite. He pulls out the stake and they get ready to load the body onto the cart. But the body gets up the two men run. She is a vampire but they never call her that. The cart breaks it wheel and they see the vampire in front of them. Grimes runs off and Blake approaches the woman who turns and leaps at him. Willie appears hits her off Blake with shovel and she disappears only to leap at them later and attack Grimes who was holding the wooden stake and he stabs into her and she drops dead again. He pulls it out and puts it in again, repeating this until Blake tells him to stop it. Grimes somes up a cunning plan. They deliver the body to Dr Quint and of course when he’s alone and removes the stake from body the vampire wakes up and kills him
Now they are free of Dr Quint they can work for themselves and digging up the undead and other strange things is much more profitable than normal body-snatching Duffy asks if they had any dealing with rival gang of ghouls called the Murphy family and tells Duffy about a very strange job where the earth of the grave is frozen. They uncover a small casket that is too cold to touch and when they are carrying it they drop it and it breaks open. The creature is the familiar grey ET of modern UFO lore but they’ve seen nothing like it before. Blake lifts the body which is not frozen and much easier to carry. They get stopped by Cornelius Murphy (John Speredakos) who politely demands they give him the corpse. Grimes doesn’t want to cross Cornelius and tells Blake to do what he says but it took them hours to dig up the corpse and he’s having none of it. The two men struggle over the body but there’s a sudden flash a light and the body has vanished.
Duffy wants to know more about their dealings with the Murphy family and Blake talks about them. He describes Cornelius Murphy as a mad bastard from a long line of mad bastards whose father is an evil sadistic bastard and runs the family business from the background. Then there’s Valentine Kelly (Heather Bullock) whose face was badly disfigured in a fire so she wears a mask but she shows her face to the people she is about to kill. Lastly is Bulger (Alisdair Stewart), a large powerhouse who lost all his teeth so Cornelius got him transplanted with dog’s teeth. Ronnie tells Blake and Grimes about a big money job retrieving two crates that have washed up on a nearby island containing Romero type zombies. The only drawback is that the Murphys have already been hired for the job and Blake and Grime don’t mess with the Murphys. However thy have taken on an apprentice called Fanny Briers (Brenda Cooney) and she wants them to go for it. With some sex and constant nagging she eventually gets her way. This leads them to a showdown with Murphy family and the zombies that I won’t spoil but it certainly leaves the way open for a sequel.
I think this a great fun film with a nice cheeky sense of dark humour. Larry Fessenden and Dominic Monaghan are a good comedy double act and their banter carries the film. There’s a pulpy horror comic feel to story and in fact there is a comic book version of the film included in DVD box. I really enjoyed the story and the characters but it’s a film that doesn’t get a lot of attention and I think that it deserves a wider audience