Grimmfest 2018: I’ll Take Your Dead

by Rachel Bellwoar

We’ve all seen the movie or TV show where the father does bad things for a living, tries to keep it a secret from his family, but they find out and it tears the family asunder. In director, Chad Archibald, and writer, Jayme Laforest’s, film, I’ll Take Your Dead, William (Aidan Devine) gets rid of dead bodies for criminals. They drop them off at his farm and he cuts them up and disposes of them with a furnace and tub of acid. When we join the movie it’s during one of these drop-offs but when Reggie (Ari Millen) knocks on the door it’s not William who answers, but his twelve-year-old daughter, Gloria (Ava Preston).

She wasn’t supposed to do that, and when William shows up he scolds her for it, but Gloria’s presence continues to be less than a fluke. Later, when Reggie makes obvious threats towards Gloria’s person, she’s standing by the side of the house, in a winter hat, and when they drive away she walks to where her father is by the bodies and offers to help.
Now, she’s not involved in the chopping up process. William does that alone, but as for what he does for a living, Gloria knows, and it’s that knowledge that ensures I’ll Take Your Dead won’t play out the way “my father does bad things” films usually do. There’s a trade-off that comes from letting Gloria in on the truth that completely delivers on psychological intrigue and while there are moments where you can see how tough Gloria is (like when one of the bodies (Jess Salgueiro) turns out to be alive and Gloria tells William he should’ve let her die), you also meet the traumatized girl who’s afraid to enter the basement and who is haunted by the ghosts of some of the bodies she sees.

“You always said these people are bad,” Gloria reminds William, and having Jackie, as we learn her name is, survive becomes an affront to the fragile absolution that has allowed William’s work to continue. If Jackie deserved to be saved then other victims might’ve as well, and Preston does an amazing job bridging these different emotions as Gloria.
If Preston is the breakout of I’ll Take Your Dead, Devine is also well cast, as a Bruce Willis type who can play up the menace for his clients, who refer to him as the Candy Butcher, but whose feelings about his work are far more complicated than that. As they try to decide what to do with Jackie, she tries to formulate a plan to escape and her attempts to gain Gloria’s trust, who she sees as the weaker party, are well-attempted and admirable.
We never really find out how deep Jackie was in her old life, which creates some causal uncertainty leading up to the climax. We never see anyone bring her a waste bucket, so there’s that unsolved mystery, and there are moments in the climax where you might question whether there was enough time, or if something should’ve been louder than it was portrayed onscreen. The supernatural aspects get turned up a lot, and I don’t know if there was enough build-up for that to happen (though it’s hard to dismiss the karmic justice), but ultimately how a character went to the bathroom isn’t going to break a film, especially one with as much going for it as I’ll Take Your Dead.
Steph Copeland‘s instrumental score doesn’t always swing for the expected, which adds to the whole experience, and I like how Archibald trusts viewers to pick up on a flashback without coloring it differently from the rest of the film. A crime drama that works in all the places that matter most, I’ll Take Your Dead made its UK premiere at Grimmfest and is a Black Fawn Films production.

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