DIFF 2011 Review: BURKE AND HARE
The triumphant return of John Landis, it turns out, isn't as triumphant at we might have hoped. I don't think it's unreasonable to assume that a dark comedy promising macabre and mayhem from the man who brought us AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE, and THRILLER would be something to get excited for. Unfortunately, BURKE AND HARE never quite finds its pulse with a plot that goes quickly into rigor mortis before it can come back from the grave.
Surely, one would have faith that a cast made up of Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis, Isla Fisher, Jessica Hynes, Tom Wilkinson, and Tim Curry could resurrect a film from mediocrity. Unfortunately, that too proves to be outside the realm of miracles for BURKE AND HARE, based around the real life legend of two Irish immigrants who committed serial murders in Scotland between 1827 and 1828 for the purpose of selling the bodies to science.
The film (loosely based on the historical events of the Burke and Hare murders) pits two doctors (Wilkinson and Curry) against each other, as they compete to make an advancement in medical science worthy of a king's riches and glory. Quite the challenge, as there seems to be a shortage of fresh cadavers lying around town. That is until two entrepreneurial gentlemen by the name of William Burke (Pegg) and William Hare (Serkis) come along with a plan so good it will make the piles of money rise as high as the bodies. Or so they think.
As the titular grave robbers turned murderers-for-money, the duo of Pegg and Serkis are the most redeemable quality the film carries, as they bring to it their individual and particular brands of English charm. Yet, the pair aren't given the room to really stretch, with the script from Nick Moorcroft and Piers Ashworth as the main culprit: those promises of mayhem and macabre aren't quite delivered upon as the film never quite goes to the dark and dreary places it teases. Aside from a few gory gags intended to evoke groans from the grossed-out audience, the film is absent of any true fun, dark qualities that the script teases at or that Landis' aforementioned films were known for.
Hollywood thinks everything nowadays needs zombies and vampires and ghouls, oh my! Well, BURKE AND HARE is one film that could have been a livened up by the undead.