I’ll Take Your Dead from Black Fawn Films tells the tale of William (Aidan Devine, TV’s Impulse), a widower raising his daughter, Gloria (Ava Preston, Critters Attack!) in a hostile, gang-filled environment. If you’re not familiar with Black Fawn Films past offerings, flicks like Bite (2015), The Heritics (2017) and Antisocial (2013) are all great places to start. Their movies have been featured in some of the biggest film festivals such as Fantasia International Film Festival and Stiges International as well as horror magazine giants Fangoria and Rue-Morgue to name a few.
After an encounter with a wounded criminal years earlier, William is charged with disposing dead bodies for gangs in the nearby city, earning him the nickname The Butcher. Pre-teen Gloria, however, has become used to thugs ditching the dead at their front door and even claims the lost souls of those bodies are haunting their house. On one particularly grey, wintery day, three dead bodies are left for William to take care of. But the peace of the farm’s existence is threatened when William finds that the corpse of a woman named Jackie (Jess Salgueiro, TV’s Mary Kills People) is not actually dead. With fears of gang retaliation should they find her alive, William patches her up and holds her captive until he can figure out a solid plan of action. Soon, Jackie’s attackers catch wind that she’s still alive and move in on the farm to finish what they started.
“I’ll Take Your Dead is a moody, melancholy trip through the dark recesses of loss and grief”
Out of the gate, I’ll Take Your Dead felt very personal to me. It has a very “family above all else” feel and that read well throughout the story. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why this was at first but soon two different reasons came to light. The first being the story is essentially about just that, family above all else. The relationship between William and his daughter Gloria is tender, loving, funny and heartbreaking. Everything that real families are. Director Chad Archibald shows that with great conviction and while its a little too on the nose at points, it comes off beautifully between the two characters.
The second I didn’t realize until the closing credits rolled and a dedication to Archibald’s late mother faded up from the black. And there it was, the essence of the film. The loss of a loved one and the darkness grief brings with it. William, Gloria and the horrors they endure all seem to be representations of Archibald’s own real-life grief and despite the tragic origins of the director’s story, it paints a stunningly beautiful picture from the heart of a mourning son.
Visually, this film is remarkable. The cinematography by Jeff Meher (Let Her Out) paints an incredibly dreary winter of isolation and desolation where the hope of brighter days sits just on the peripheral of both the farm and the characters. With its washed-out colors and muted tones, the bleakness of the atmosphere adds greatly to the aesthetic of the film leaving the viewer just as cold and isolated as the images being shown. While this is a pretty gloomy picture for the most part, it also offers some great comic relief and some wonderfully light moments between William and Gloria.
Most indie films, not Hollywood indie, but true indie films are faced with many obstacles that most Hollywood studios rarely face. Budget constraints, budget constraints and more budget constraints are the woes of an indie filmmaker and when the budget is king, that trickles down to every aspect of the production, casting being one of them. But the cast for I’ll Take Your Dead is as solid and as top-notch as anything Hollywood can throw at us. Aidan Devine’s portrayal of the pragmatic patriarch, William, is a solid performance as is Jess Salgueiro’s turn as Jackie, the streetwise, stuck-in-bad-circumstances girl left for dead after a vicious shooting. Brandon McKnight’s Carter, the double-crossing boyfriend and Michael Reventar’s scumbag gangbanger Diaz are both characters you love to hate.
“It made me laugh, it touched my heart and it boiled my blood”
The real highlights for me were Preston’s Gloria and Millen’s Reggie. Preston has this quality about her that is beyond her years while still being a kid. There’s a grounding in her character that makes you believe that a twelve-year-old girl who sees so much death can still be a decent, relatively unaffected child. There is a light in her character that shines despite the lonely existence she lives. And aside from the comic relief that Millen provides as degenerate Reggie, his overall portrayal is damn near perfect. The role could very easily be turned into a caricature by any other actor but Millen’s choices are far too multifaceted to allow for a stereotypical pedestrian performance. He switches back and forth from comedian to psychopath like he’s trying on hats and it’s seamless every time. By far, the standout performance of the movie.
I’ll Take Your Dead is a moody, melancholy trip through the dark recesses of loss and grief. It’s a combination of a family/crime drama and a supernatural horror film that builds nicely from start to finish hitting all the right moments at all the right times. It made me laugh, it touched my heart and it boiled my blood. When the lights came up at the end, I felt as though I had seen inside the director’s heart. It’s not often that you hear the word poignant used when talking about a horror movie, but that is how I feel about I’ll Take Your Dead.
I’ll Take Your Dead is available on Blu-ray and DVD now. Will you be picking up a copy? Let us know on Twitter, in the Nightmare on Film Street Subreddit, and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club. Stay creepy, kids!