Hammer Horror Meets Ealing?

The trailer for John Landis‘s Burke and Hare, a fact-based black comedy about a pair of early 19th murderers (Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis) who provided cadavers for cash for medical study in Edinburgh, tells you it’s been handsomely designed and shot. But critical reaction has been mixed since opening in the U.K. two days ago. Some felt it was funny (like TimeOut‘s Tom Huddleston) and some didn’t.

Variety‘s Charles Gant wrote on 10.26 that the “creaky comedy about 19th-century corpse retailers Burke and Hare, which reps an attempt by Fragile Films to match the tone and content of such beloved Ealing classics as The Ladykillers, should rattle some funny bones in native Blighty, but may face B.O. graveyards abroad.”

EdinburghGuide.com has posted a summary of reviews, and concludes that the verdict “is a resounding thumbs-down.

“Yes, there are historical inaccuracies — hardly surprising given that the true story of Burke and Hare is of grisly serial murders. And the Scottish accents are iffy. But the main complaint, in a spate of one star and two star reviews, is that Landis’s Burke and Hare is simply not funny enough.

“Where the script stumbles,” says Gant, “is in its absence of any especially funny setpieces or memorable lines. Instead, the scribes seem to think a general tone of wry amusement will suffice, with some slapstick thrown in for good measure.

The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw concurs in his brief, two-star review, saying that B&H “just isn’t as funny as it needs to be.” And Hollywood Reporter critic Ray Bennett dismissed it as “witless drivel.”

Burke and Hare is Landis’s first film since Susan’s Plan (’98).

I can’t avoid stating the obvious about Pegg, which is that his head has inflated into the size and shape of a basketball. He needs to cut down on the lagers and the sausage and invest in a treadmill.

23 thoughts on “Hammer Horror Meets Ealing?

  1. C is for cookie on said:

    It’s not Landis’ first film in 12 years — he did make a couple of terrific documentary features — Slasher and Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project, both of which showed a great deal of wit and inventiveness on his part (I am especially fond of Slasher, which features better character development than most of Landis’ fiction films).

    After those documentaries I was hoping Landis would come back to fiction features with new energy and deepened skills. I’ll hold off judgment until I see Burke & Hare for myself, but it seems likely that those hopes will be dashed.

  2. It’s sad Landis’s name immediately turns me off, as he directed some of my favorite movies of the ’80s. But his output in the ’90s was just so bad

  3. The movie will suck badly. The reason I know it will suck badly is because it’s a film by John Landis.

    John Landis is a hack. He sucks.

    And his few films that are good, (“Animal House”) are good despite him, not because of anything he did.

    The only thing left to wonder about this particular film is where he’ll shoe-horn in the “See You Next Wednesday” movie poster and the requisite scene of a person meekly looking up to see dozens of gun barrels being pointed at him.

    Oh yeah, and he should’ve served time in the pokey for Vic Morrow’s death.

  4. Who is this movie for?

    Period comedies almost never work these days unless the period itself is treated with some sort of realism and respect. It was something I struggled with when I wrote a coming-of-age script set in 1979 … how do you do this without making it seem silly? You need to play the period straight (like A Christmas Story, for example) and let the characters run the comedy.

    Here, it’s pretty obvious that the characters are speaking modern English and are almost “out of time” for their period, so the entire thing feels like a slapstick movie playing dress-up. Doesn’t work. Neither do any of the lame gags shown in the trailer (the silver lining gag is as old as what … the human race?).

    Bad approach. Bad trailer.

  5. “He needs to cut down on the lagers and the sausage and invest in a treadmill.”

    I suppose it’s too much to speculate that he might have deliberately gained weight for the role to better look like soneone who lived in a century where the diet was largely red meat, potatoes, bread and beer.

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