Director Chad Archibald and the Black Fawn Films crew are no strangers to the horror genre. They’ve delivered one hit after the next in recent years, but I’ve admittedly noticed a bit of retread in their last few releases. I love body horror and gross transformations as much as the next guy, but I always felt there was a higher gear that the team could reach. That’s why I was excited to hear that Archibald’s latest, I’ll Take Your Dead, would be a rather significant departure from what we’ve come to expect from the seasoned group of Canadian filmmakers. It’s a huge gamble, but it paid off. I’ll Take Your Dead is arguably the strongest film in the production team’s growing filmography, and it’s a wildly original and powerful genre mashup that proves these guys are just getting started.

Ava Preston should be on the radar of every producer and casting agent on the continent.

Viewers follow a father and daughter whom reside in a secluded farmhouse, but this isn’t your standard genre setup. William and his daughter, Gloria, live relatively normal and quiet lives. The only difference between them and thousands of other families is that their home has become the premiere destination for criminals of all walks to dispose of bodies. William, for reasons explained in the film, has become known as “the butcher” and has developed a system sure to turn even the largest of bodies to the smoothest of liquids. It’s a refreshing play on what families can normalize for the sake of making ends meet–and that’s a narrative thread that pops up more than once in I’ll Take Your Dead’s brisk hour and 18 minute runtime. But Archibald and writer Jayme Laforest dive into more than just normalizing the extreme. They also shine light on the consequences and aftershock of exposing children to such things. It’s here that the film pivots from crime thriller to supernatural horror.

A wildly original and powerful genre mashup.

My main (and basically only) gripe is that the supernatural element simply isn’t needed. Sure, it helps it fit into the genre and gives me an excuse to write about it, but this is a film that succeeds due to its original concept and exceptionally talented cast–not sinister music queues or spooky apparitions. Independent genre films often feature men and women who are relatively green when it comes to feature film experience, and that can lead to some rather less-than-desired performances. I’ll Take Your Dead has no such issue. In fact, it features one of the most well rounded casts from top to bottom that I’ve seen in years. Ava Preston (Gloria) should be on the radar of every producer and casting agent on the continent. She’s truly fantastic, and I expect to see her popping up in Hollywood before long. But, frankly, everyone involved knocks it out of the park on this one.

Don’t expect buckets of blood or creatures sliming around. This is more about family and heart than horror, and it’s a better film for it. That said, bodies are dismembered, people are shot, burned, and dissolved–the Black Fawn crew leaves a familiar fingerprint when available. I would have personally preferred the conclusion to be a little cleaner, but there’s no denying the impact of the narrative and the growth of the filmmakers. Hat tip to all involved. Recommended to even the blackest of hearts out there.