Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.
Preston Barta // Features Editor
I’LL TAKE YOUR DEAD
The premise of I’LL TAKE YOUR DEAD is rife with opportunities. While watching JOHN WICK, you may have wondered, “What is it like to be part of the cleanup crew that removes the bodies Keanu Reeves makes part of his home decor?” That thought certainly resurfaced while watching the trailer for Shout! Studios’ I’LL TAKE YOUR DEAD.
In the trailer, you see a gang (including Ari Millen and Michael Reventar) dropping off a few bodies at this man’s country home. They call this man “the Butcher,” but some even call him “Candyman.” (Somewhere Tony Todd is considering making this screenwriter his victim.) His real name, however, is just William (Aidan Devine of A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE). People on the street have turned William into a legend, coming up with stories that are akin to the ones Buzz tells his younger brother Kevin McAllister about in HOME ALONE. Remember Old Man Marley? Like Old Man Marley, William is just trying to be there for a loved one. In William’s case, it’s his preteen daughter Gloria (a rather exceptional Ava Preston).
Gloria has been surrounded by death her entire life; although, she’s not as jolly about it like Anna Chlumsky in MY GIRL. (I just made two Macaulay Culkin references, and I’m not even to the meat of this review yet.) She has developed real relationships with the dead, like that Shyamalan kid who sees dead people. (You will notice many moments that call attention to other films. It may not be an intentional decision for the filmmakers, but it doesn’t stop you from making those connections.) Gloria speaks to the dead and is haunted by them. Naturally, the dead are the source of all this movie’s jump-scares. One of them even has a flaming Ghost Rider-like appearance. (It’s extreme sometimes.)
Unfortunately, the real story is about one of the bodies that those thugs drop off. They give William a little cash and ask him to dispose of the departed, no questions asked. But William can’t hold his tongue and things get a bit heated. William quickly diffuses the tension and accepts the bodies before it turns into a Tarantino movie.
From there, we are introduced to William’s process. He cuts off the limbs of the dead and tosses the parts in a bath full of acid. However, one of the bodies is still alive. Her name is Jackie (Jess Salgueiro), and she trying to sort through her hurricane of confusion and stay conscious with a few bullet holes in her.
So, what could have been a remarkable character study that dives into the relationship between William and his daughter Gloria, becomes a mere hostage movie with a few sprinkles of THE SIXTH SENSE thrown in. The problem is it’s not really that interesting. I found myself disengaged by the story and poking holes in the characters’ logic.
For one, I thought William wasn’t the carefully calculated character he needed to be for his line of work. I too often thought, “Really? You don’t check the pulses of all the bodies?” — “You don’t do [this?]” — “You do [that?]” It’s frustrating when the audience is continuously questioning the characters’ decisions. Not to mention how nervous I would be to have a job like William when people on the street know where I live. Maybe a police officer could be posing as a gang member. If it were me, I would have a more elaborate system and would be way more protective for my daughter’s sake. I’m thinking Ryan Gosling from DRIVE: Here are my rules. If you don’t like them, your face will have an appointment with my boot in an elevator.
There are admittedly a few right notes amongst the absurdity, however. I appreciate the film’s quieter moments, such as Gloria asking her dad about his past, his time in El Paso and Gloria’s mother. If the movie had explored its characters to greater depths, those moments of horror would have a more significant impact. But it’s too busy throwing familiar elements at us, including Jackie trying to manipulate Gloria, Jackie trying to get her cellphone from her purse to call someone to get her – blah, blah, blah.
Bottom line, I’LL TAKE YOUR DEAD fills its storyline with too much nonsense. The scenes of horror never ring true, and the film buries its potential to be unique. It’s a forgettable effort.
Shout! Studios will release I’LL TAKE YOUR DEAD in select theaters and VOD everywhere May 3.