I have been a fan of John Landis ever since I was a kid, when I stayed up late to watch “An American Werewolf in London” (1981). I must confess I have been waiting for years to see his next horror/black comedy. So of course I had certain expectations. Thankfully I was not disappointed.
The film centers around the story of William Burke and William Hare, who made their livings grave digging and selling the bodies to medical professionals. Of course the two central characters have become more sympathetic, in “Burke and Hare” their murderous rampage is seen more as a series of bad luck that snowballs, based on desperation and (particularly on the part of Hare) greed rather than a murder spree. It begins innocently enough, with one of the Hare’s lodgers dying before he can pay the rent and Lucky (Hare’s wife) insists that the two men dispose of the body. Deciding that it’s going to be hard work they decide to visit the pub where it just so happens an old acquaintance tells Hare that Doctor Knox (Tom Wilkinson “The Full Monty”) is desperate for fresh corpses to dissect for his anatomy students. The two men collect their money and return home. Events wouldn’t have spiraled if another lodger Christopher Lee hadn’t been dying, as an old man taking his time to die, Burke and Hare decide to help…speed up the process.
So many cameos so little time!
Who would have thought that; Christopher Lee, Ronnie Corbett (giving a fantastic performance as the captain of the Scottish Militia) and Bill Bailey would all appear in one film, then when you add Reece Shearsmith, Steven Merchant, Tim Curry, you wind up with an impressively stellar cast.
Here Simon Pegg is reunited with his “Spaced” co-star Jessica Hynes (in this case she plays the wife of William Hare) both pull off their Irish accents with aplomb, and Andy Serkis’s impersonation of William Wordsworth is worth a star all it’s own. The only downside to this film was Isla Fisher’s accent, however she does make a truly fantastic Macbeth.
All in all this film is a great watch, full of (literally) gallows humour, and the lead’s are sympathetic enough, that you really don’t mind their serial killing.
Review by Samantha Armstrong