I’LL TAKE YOUR DEAD Review – Humanity and Horror Come Home

I’ll Take Your Dead

Starring Aidan Devine, Ava Preston, Jess Salgueiro

Written by Jayme Laforest

Directed by Chad Archibald

Over the years, one of the great honors as a journalist is to see filmmakers come into their own. My mission as a part of covering genre media is to promote, discuss, and write about the new names who are breaking through and establishing themselves as the next generation of genre storytelling. While many journalists keep the old guard alive and creating an in the memory of, I prefer to focus on the next generation whose projects may be influential decades from now. One of these filmmakers is Chad Archibald and his filmmaking collective known as Black Fawn Films. Located up north in Ontario, Canada, Black Fawn Films is the model most filmmakers should be following and their latest I’ll Take Your Dead is the model to follow.

Building a core of talented and resourceful creators for more than a decade, Black Fawn Films does not stop. Signing an eight-picture deal with Breakthrough Entertainment back a handful of years ago, Black Fawn Films continues to pump out a new film and content at a pretty steady clip. Each film created by Black Fawn (while under the bloody and dark umbrella of horror), show their growth overall and contain signature aspects that do not make them simple cookie cutters indie filmmakers. A growing family, Black Fawn is resourceful, smart and loyal to their work and each other. Led by Filmmakers/Producers Archibald and Cody Calahan, the Black Fawn crew returns for Archibald’s tenth project, I’ll Take Your Dead which is now out through Shout! Factory. Never fully removing themselves from the bloody fingerprint which they have established with features like Bite, Let Her Out, and The Drownsman, the production team of Archibald, Calahan, DP Jeff Maher, Composer Steph Copeland, Producer Chris Giroux, and more find a balance of family drama, siege film, supernatural tale, and intense body count with this film.

I’ll Take Your Dead focuses on a man named William (Adam Devine) known in the dark corners as the “Candy Butcher.” Living an isolated life on a piece of farmland, William and his daughter Gloria (Ava Preston) stay away from the world after the loss of Gloria’s mother. Dealing with a routine and dreaming of better days ahead for himself and Gloria, William does the necessary but disturbing service of disposing of dead bodies that are dropped off by some of the sleaziest characters you can imagine. Dissolving the bodies and evidence, William wants to protect his daughter so he does the horrendous work. One afternoon, he is approached by a gang to get rid of several bodies including a young woman named Jackie (Jess Salgueiro). As William goes through the process not asking questions, he discovers that Jackie may not be the corpse the thugs believed her to be causing a series of chaotic and needed events that will change all of their worlds.

I’ll Take Your Dead is Archibald’s most balanced and most marketable film to date. In a similar vein as Archibald’s previous work, the film has a relatable and connecting narrative which is one of the things that I love about their work and makes them stand out in the vast landscape of genre cinema. Black Fawn creates ‘horror of the soul.’ Collaborating on their third feature, Archibald re-teams with Screenwriter Jayme Laforest. They had previously teamed up on 2017’s The Heretics and the infamous 2015’s Bite. Their latest collaboration focuses on another set of relatable themes, life decisions, relationships, and a coming of age for the character of Gloria. This film is more linear than their two previous collaborations with the foundation focused on drama rather a horror.

With Black Fawns history, they create a look and feel that is way more than the actual budget. Elements like the cinematography, lighting, and locations are stellar as usual and tell a lot without saying a word. Watching Black Fawn Films over the years as well as speaking with them, they have a talent to make the characters so isolated no matter the location. With I’ll Take Your Dead, we see this characterization on a micro front with the scenes inside the home and on more of a macro front with the surrounding farmland and especially the road leading into the property. The house’s cinematography and production design create a mind’s eye which reflects the incomplete and macabre life William and Gloria have created away from the world. It presents the decay reflecting the grizzly reality of their life and platform for a future. Like previous Black Fawn projects, the darkness of these damaged characters washes over the narrative with locations and FX work.

Maher’s cinematography continues to be stellar and features some of his best work to date. For those who have not watched many Black Fawn Films, the rapport of Maher and Archibald especially are at the point where they seem to be symbiotic in how the frame should look, unfold, and feel. I’ll Take Your Dead, features angles that challenge and make the viewer’s mind work. Scenes like the bathtub body dissolve, the bathroom break in, and the bedroom where Jackie is held, add intrigue and tension in the framing choices and POV. One of the few critical observations that I had about this film, falls on the poor lighting design and execution during the first part of the film. I strained to watch some of the scenes as the home was just way too dark and took away from the reveal of the characters causing them to blend into the shadows. This made me lose focus on the scene and need to focus extra on areas I shouldn’t have to.

The performances were stand out and added substance to the narrative with a new crop of talented performers joining the Black Fawn family. Devine, Preston, and Salgueiro are captivating. Each carries their own weight and work well off each other, which, in a film led by the performance overall, could have drowned it. Preston’s maturity, Devine weathered execution, and Salgueiro ability to invoke emotion and struggle pops off the screen. Their intent found in the dialogue creates an electricity and tenderness that could have been lost. The antagonists in this film seem pretty cookie cutter which is not a surprise. However, Actor Ari Millen played a brilliant sleaze as Reggie, who took this role and made it fun to root against him. Archibald and Laforest find a pace and effectively change the tone and character perspectives peeling back the layers of these characters.

I’ll Take Your Dead offers horror fans elements of PTSD, supernatural, body horror, and of course the gore that we have gotten used to with Black Fawn Films over the years. Why the gore and FX are not at the level of their previous works, I’ll Take Your Dead shows maturity and balance within the narrative first and then visual assisting. The film could have been consumed by the lore of William’s ‘Candy Butcher’ but Archibald never allows it to. As usual, Composer Steph Copeland’s fingerprint is heavy and impressive. Her score for I’ll Take Your Dead adds an emotional component that is lost on many genre films. Like her work on previous Black Fawn projects, Copeland’s instincts as a musician pay off and adds another layer to these character’s journey.

We see with Archibald’s latest, that Black Fawn Films are not just becoming genre filmmakers but genre artists. With the presence and range of Shout! Factory, this may be a huge film for the collective as they are nearing the end of their eight film deal, time will only tell. I can firmly say after watching I’ll Take Your Dead, that I am proud of the collective’s growth which I have witnessed form nearly the beginning in every capacity of the filmmaking business. They are a family and that bond shows in I’ll Take Your Dead especially with this film’s performances and character development. I’ll Take Your Dead offers something for everyone whether they are a fan of horror, action, drama, or all of the above. Archibald and Laforest give room for the characters to develop, handling their fears, choices, and themes in a relatable way. Like their previous film entries, this is another quality project that brings out the humanity in horror storytelling.

  • I'll Take Your Dead


I’ll Take Your Dead is the next step for not only Chad Archibald but Black Fawn Films. One thing I have seen more and more with this cycle of indie horror is storytelling has to be simple and human. As you go deeper into what makes us tick and move into the horror beyond the doorstep, you reveal great genre storytelling which is what we see coming from the duo of Jayme Laforest and Archibald. Not that their previous entries were not worth the time but this is horror with a heart and for me. It checks all the boxes when it comes to a film that I want to spend my time watching. I think both lead performances from Devine and Preston especially are stellar giving a reality into a necessary and grim survival situation. For me, Black Fawn comes through again and I can not wait to see the future for them as they evolve into one of the premiere horror collectives in the world by setting a statement with I’ll Take Your Dead.

User Rating 4.5 (2 votes)


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