Burke and Hare (2010)
Starring: Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis, Isla Fisher, Tom Wilkinson, Tim Curry
Director: John Landis
Plot: In Edinburgh, Scotland of the 1820's, two ex-grave robbers find a lucrative business providing cadavers to a medical school, resorting to killing local citizens to keep business going.
Review: The notorious grave-robbing and murder spree that shook Scotland in the early 19th century
- and the two men behind them - has had previous film versions, all adapted to enhance the macabre aspects of the tale. The latest take,
Burke and Hare, retells it as screwball comedy with a considerable budget, superb location recreation and an impressive European cast - too bad the staid narrative and failed comic timing make it all just a missed opportunity. Director Landis has had a long cinematic career, with such popular comic hits as
Animal House and the cult horror classic An American Werewolf in
London, the latter having admittedly one of the best man-to-beast transformations ever put to screen. Putting his experience of the two together should have provided for a raunchy, entertaining black comedy, but in this, his first film in a decade, he tackles the morbid tale in rather pedestrian manner, and the gallows
humor based on the real-life facts is pretty much flat and uninspired. It doesn't help that the film feels the need to throw in a vapid romance, some shenanigans regarding an all-female troupe staging Macbeth, and the uncommon lack of strong British humor or wit. Worse, the slapstick and gross-out jokes just aren't funny, and it's a waste of such talents as Tom Wilkinson and Tim Curry (as antagonistic head surgeons) among others. As the leads, Pegg and Sirkis do commendable, if broad, turns as the titular murderers and, despite their characters' dastardly misdeeds, it's hard not to sympathize. The film goes down easy enough, in truth, but it's too bad they're stuck in a film that isn't up to them.