Movie Reviews 400 – I’ll Take Your Dead (2018)

I was in the midst of writing up a review for a complete different film this week when I got the chance to view a screening of I’ll Take Your Dead compliments of a contest from the folks who run the Blood in the Snow festival. While I avoid trailers before watching movies I was curious enough to look up the IMDB rating (which I usually considered trustworthy) to set my expectations. With that rating in hand and yet another title with the word Dead (come on everyone, having yet another “Dead” title is … dead) I expected a passable feature and not much else. Much to my surprise, what I got was a thrilling, edge-of-your-seat treat from start to finish. As soon as I walked out of that theater I knew that my “review of the week” plans had changed (Sorry Scorsese! Mean Streets will have to wait for another day) so here we are with this instead.

Growing up without a mom can be tough. It’s a little tougher when money is tight. Tougher still when your father has reluctantly become the local disposer of bullet hole riddled bodies for hardened criminals. But things get downright complicated when one of those bodies fails to meet the basic requirement of being dead. I don’t mean that in an un-dead ghostly sense (although this film has that as well), rather just someone who was mistaken for being dead.

Directed by Chad Archibald and written by Jayme Laforest (based on a story by Archibald), the simple premise is that William (Aidan Devine) who lives with his daughter Gloria (Ava Preston) in a remote horse farm has become the drop man for slain victims of area gangs when one particular unwanted drop has another unwelcome surprise, a wounded but very much alive Jackie (Jess Salgueiro). Despite doing his best to shield his daughter from his recently  acquired trade, she is well aware of his activities and even gives him a helping hand when the occasional body have to be schlepped from the road to the barn. When Jackie awakens tied to a bed she predictably befriends young Gloria hoping she will aid her to escape. But when she believes that a rescue party is on the way it turns out to be anything but. Oh, and did I mention that Gloria sees dead people? Those bodies that have come through her father’s disposal duties aren’t quite done yet.

The script is taut and to the point without unnecessary dialogue or distractions. We commiserate with William trying to do what is right for his daughter as he saves his blood stained earnings with dreams of moving to a little house in El Paso. We feel empathy for Jackie caught up in gangland lies and deception. And mostly we get to know wise beyond her age Gloria, mourning a lost mother while holding her dad together despite her own burdens. The acting is top notch across the board but Preston steals the show. Talent that young is hard to come by for even run-of-the-mill roles but here she deftly nails a wide rage beyond the sympathetic, intelligent kid. While online searches is suspiciously scant on her bio, not surprisingly IMDB reveals she is already a seasoned actor with nearly ten years and dozens of roles under her belt.

After watching the film I realized that the horror angle, while not superfluous, could have been eliminated entirely and then with a few changes here and there and the plot would have still been strong enough to stand as simple thriller. A good story is a good story, and when you have the right people working on it you end up with a movie like this.  I’ll be looking forward to catching more films from the entire creative team and will be revisiting this one soon when released on media.

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