Everyone is good at something, even if they do not want to be. Ask a random sampling of people how they came into their current profession and the overwhelming response will be that they just kind of fell into it. Money talks and so does fear. Writer Jayme LaForest (God of Accident 2010, The Heretics 2017) and Director Chad Archibald (Ejecta 2014, Bite 2015) have created I’ll Take Your Dead, a film that shows that just because a person is good at their job, does not mean they are the typical standard.
Scheduled for a limited theaters in 2019 in advance of a VOD and Blu-ray/DVD release via Shout! Studios later in the year, I’ll Take Your Dead follows the story of William (Aidan Devine: A History of Violence 2005, Suicide Squad 2016) and his daughter, Gloria (Ava Preston: Odd Squad 2014, Wandering Wenda 2017), live alone in an old farmhouse. He is the picture of a loving father willing to do whatever he needs in order to keep his daughter happy and safe. But William is known by another name other than Dad: ee is the Candy Butcher, the go-to man when gangs want to dispose of bodies. The nickname exists as William tends to eat candy during the process. It is a profession he fell into and is quite good at, not something he is especially proud of. As a result of his work, at twelve-years-old Gloria has seen her fair share of dead bodies. It has become her norm, so much so that she is haunted by the dead that are disposed of in her own home.
One day, Reggie (Ari Millen: Orphan Black series, Rupture 2016) and his gang bring William three bodies to dispose of – two men and a woman. As he is prepping her body to be disposed, William is shocked to realize that she is still alive and, while he might cut up and get rid of bodies, he is not a murderer. He decides to keep the woman hostage, at least until she is healed enough to leave on her own. Her name is Jackie (Jess Salgueiro: Orphan Black series, Mary Kills People 2017) and, though she is obviously terrified of her new situation, she is a strong, streetwise woman determined to survive. Gloria is less than pleased for this woman to be in her home, but Jackie’s presence is not just a nuisance for Gloria: an alive Jackie suddenly changes the game, and William must now reevaluate how he will continue to keep his precious daughter safe.
The bond between father and daughter can be sometimes be a murky area. Little girls have a tendency to look up to their dads, as they are usually the first examples of strength and security; this is especially true when the mother is absent. Part of the genius of this film is the fact that William is honestly a very wholesome, caring man who would do anything to keep his daughter safe from the evils of the world. Divine is excellent as the viewer can see the actual weight of William’s situation visible on his shoulders. While he is aware that his daughter should not be exposed to the bodies, like most parents he realizes quickly that he cannot shelter her from everything. Gloria is aware of everything, he just does not allow her to help with his work.
The dynamic between the two of them is complex and heartwarming. Yes, William is doing bad things, but is he really a bad guy? Everyone has to make money to provide for their family. All the money he makes from the gangs go directly to a glass pickle jar to get Gloria away from the nightmare they have found themselves in. The entire film, all of the choices he makes are solely to protect Gloria. He is clearly not the kind of man that one would envision nonchalantly cutting up and dissolving bodies into a tub of lye. The strange juxtaposition between loving dad and the Candy Butcher is just one layer of complexity that allows the film to stand out from others in the genre.
At the same time, William is trying to protect her, Gloria is going through her own issues. She is a growing girl of twelve, and this is an extremely pivotal time in a young girl’s life. Dads do not have all the answers. In the middle of the chaos that Jackie’s presence has caused, the bond between father and daughter is tested. Preston is a phenomenal young actress that is able to walk the fine line between creepy and normal child. Yes, her dad butchers people in the house. Yes, she sees their ghosts. Yes, she has an overconfidence in her position in this world because of her age and the attention her father has given her. But she is still a young girl who misses her mother. There is a vulnerability that is awakened through the character once Jackie appears in the picture. Preston lights up the screen and allows her character to progress organically. The majority of films with young actors tend to shy away from fully developing their characters and allowing them progress. Had this been the case, the film would have lost every shred of authenticity and magic; this is both a testament to the writing as well as the talent that Preston possesses.
Everything comes down to choices. If William had an ounce of evil in his body, then the film would be drastically different and not as compelling. If Salgueiro’s Jackie was a weak character, then the film would not be worth watching. Viewers find it easier to root for a strong person fighting for their lives than someone who is willing to just accept the dangerous position they find themselves in. Jackie is street smart and, just like William, has done some terrible things, but she is not an evil person at her core; she is just a product of her circumstances and the life she has fallen into. The only iffy idea in the entire film is the fact that Gloria sees the dead in her home: it does almost feel like a cliché, but with such strong multifaceted characters populating the film it somehow works.
I’ll Take Your Dead is a film that was set up for success and does not disappoint. The writing is clever and intriguing, while the casting of every character is nothing short of perfection. I’ll Take Your Dead is a fantastic mix of thrilling Horror with whispers of a coming-of-age story for a young girl. Not an easy mix, but Archibald has somehow made it feel organic and heart-stopping. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives I’ll Take Your Dead 4.5 out of 5 stars.