Movie Review: Burke and Hare (2010)

This is a horror-comedy directed by John Landis (no one does this genre better) and starring Simon Pegg (who has found his forte in horror comedy, as well). It’s set in Victorian London, a setting that has found recent popularity again in the genre with NBC’s “Dracula”, Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful” …but this is more reminiscent of Sweeney Todd than any classic monster mash.

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Burke (Simon Pegg, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End, Fantastic Fear of Everything) and Hare (Andy Serkis, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) are two Irish immigrants living in London who can not find suitable work. They stumble on a profitable venture after trying to dispose of the corpse of another resident at their rooming house and they find that selling cadavers to a medical school could be quite profitable. Only, a good corpse is hard to find, and they become increasingly more desperate and ridiculous in their venture. Burke, for his part, isn’t that gung-ho about their scheme until he meets Ginny Hawkins (Isla Fisher) -a former sex worker looking for financial backing for an all women production of Macbeth.

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Burke becomes taken with her and their increasingly bizarre killing spree ramps up.

The find themselves in danger when the corpses become recognizable and the medical professor is confronted.

Some of this is based on a 16 victim killing spree in West Port in the 19th century, that much is true. The real story is much more macabre, Burke and Hare were found out and turned in by Burke’s lover, the duo found lure people in, get them drunk and suffocate them.

Slapstick murder, increasingly wild schemes and cover ups, naive lovers and neighbors, and a soundtrack and costuming that doesn’t try too hard at realism and atmosphere. It’s nearly perfect and I’m not sure why this film isn’t more popular.

That being said: all the women are side characters or motivation for the men. Not that they are quite 2-D… but they are not much more and there are virtually no PoC characters even in the background.

4/5

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