Burke and Hare (15, 91 mins)
Director: John Landis
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
It’s Edinburgh in 1828, a time of great scientific endeavour. But the medical schools are running low on fresh cadavers, which means a fine chance for a pair of enterprising Irish immigrants like William Burke (Simon Pegg) and William Hare (Andy Serkis, who came on board after David Tennant dropped out) to make some easy money.
Beginning with their newly deceased tenant, Burke and Hare discover that Dr Robert Knox will give them £5 for each corpse. But with the bodies not all that easy to come across, they're forced to turn to murder to supply the demand.
With the subject matter, the release date and the fact it’s from the director of An American Werewolf in London, you might be going in to Burke and Hare expecting a horror. In actual fact it’s a knockabout black farce, and a reasonably funny one at that. Considering they barely scratch the morality of the situation, it’s probably the only way to make the material palatable.
Filmed mostly on location in a foggy and dank Edinburgh, the alleyways and cobbled streets of the capital look absolutely glorious. Burke and Hare themselves aren’t actually all that interesting, hence the need for loads of side characters and subplots, like Burke financing a play by the actress (Isla Fisher) he takes a fancy to.
Serkis is funnier and more invested than Pegg by some distance, but supporting players like Tom Wilkinson and Tim Curry all get a chance to try out their Scottish accents and mostly do quite well - Fisher not so much.
This is a true story expect for the parts that are not, says the blurb at the start, but that’s neither here nor there. What matters is that it’s fun, and on that count Burke and Hare just about delivers the goods.