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Film / Burke and Hare

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Burke and Hare (2010) is a Black Comedy based on the infamous William Burke and William Hare and their killing spree in 1820's Scotland. Burke and Hare are two ne'er-do-wells who hit upon a new source of income: providing anatomists with corpses for dissection and study. When grave-robbing proves to not be a fruitful enough source of dead bodies, Burke and Hare decide to start making corpses themselves—by killing people. Meanwhile, Burke has fallen in love with a retired prostitute who wants to stage an all female version of Macbeth—and the cops are after them. Directed by John Landis and starring Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis, Isla Fisher, Tom Wilkinson and Tim Curry.

Not to be confused with the 1972 British horror movie of the same name, which is also inspired by the real life murderers.

This movie provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Hare is shown eating from a fish bone.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Isla Fisher as Ginny as Macbeth.
  • Black Comedy: Very much so.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Angus telling us, the audience, about 1820's Edinburgh, Scotland.
  • The Cameo: Several:
    • Christopher Lee has one scene as Burke and Hare's first official victim.
    • Stephen Merchant is a footman.
    • Paul Whitehouse is a drunken gentleman the duo fail to kill.
    • Michael Winner also goes uncredited as a carriage-bound victim.
    • Ray Harryhausen also gets one as an unnamed doctor.
    • And the real William Burke gets one at the end, though it is only a bit part.
  • Crapsack World
  • The Dragon: Fergus to Danny McTavish. Becomes the Dragon Ascendant when he helps Burke and Hare kills his boss for a reward.
  • Advertisement:
  • Gallows Humor: Ending on an actual gallows.
  • Grave Robbing: One way to provide corpses for anatomists.
  • High-Pressure Blood: Happens to a poor man behind Dr. Monro when he cuts an artery during an amputation For Science!.
  • Historical Domain Character: William Burke, William Hare, Dr. Robert Knox and Dr. Alexander Monro.
    • With less historical justification, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charles Darwin (who did at least study in Edinburgh around that time) and Nicephore Niepce also get dragged into the story.
    • Greyfriars Bobby yaps suspiciously at the two men as they're digging up a corpse, albeit in the wrong decade.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: The real Burke and Hare were quite a bit more cold blooded, preying on old ladies, a boy, and a mentally retarded man. Hare also ratted Burke out in exchange for immunity.
  • Hollywood Heart Attack: How one of the victims dies.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Ginny, although she's actually a retired prostitute.
  • Hypocritical Humour: "Watch your language, you fucking son of a bitch bastard."
    • Hangman is talking to the audience: "People who kill other people for profit are evil." And then proceeds to accept money for doing his job.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: Lucky. It apparently helps her think, even when she's reduced to a moaning cross-eyed mess.
  • Jump Scare: Burke appearing out of nowhere in a darkened tunnel, used as part of an attack to get an obese man to have a heart attack.
  • Karma Houdini: Hare and Lucky escape any form of punishment whatsoever, much like in reality, where Burke did not fact give his own life to save his loved ones. In fact, Hare sold him out and got away with it.
  • Last Request: Burke confesses to the killings on one condition - that he is allowed to spend the night with Ginny, his true love.
  • Love Makes You Evil: In a sense. One of the reasons that Burke keeps going along with the killings is so he can finance Ginny's version of Macbeth.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: No other way to keep the "product" coming.
  • The Napoleon: Tam McLintock.
  • Neck Lift: One intended victim does this with Burke and Hare at the same time.
  • Not What It Looks Like: When Hare is checking Burke's wound and their landlady walks by. "You have a perfectly lovely arse."
  • Off the Wagon: Lucky.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted, as in real life. Both Hare and Burke are named William.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Both Burke and Hare are often referred to as "Willy".
  • The Rival: Dr. Knox (a dandy and forward thinker) versus the more old fashioned Professor Monro. They regularly spar verbally and almost seem to enjoy it.
    Professor Monro: How are your students enjoying your lectures?"
    Doctor Knox: Er, not as much as I understand they're enjoying your wife, sir.
  • Running Gag: Burke's constant unsuccessful attempts to have sex with Ginny. They are finally able to make love the night before his execution.
    • The militiaman who faints at every moment of gruesomeness.
  • Shot in the Ass: Burke by the militia.
  • Slasher Smile: Fergus.
  • Snake Oil Salesman:The "moss" that cures everything, according to Burke.
  • Spit Take: Ginny when Burke tells her he'll bankroll the play.
  • Staircase Tumble: Used by the duo in one of their attempted murders, much to their chagrin when the drunk gets up and continues dancing down the street.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Burke.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The opening disclaimer reads "THIS IS BASED ON A TRUE STORY EXCEPT FOR THE PARTS WHICH ARE NOT". In addition to Historical Hero Upgrade above, the story of Burke bankrolling a play is invented. Knox continued to practice in Edinburgh for many years.
  • Video Credits
  • Villain Protagonists: Although Burke is portrayed as more of an Punch-Clock Villain, being much more reluctant to go ahead with the murders and, unlike Hare, is guilt-ridden over his part in them.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue:
    Burke: On display in Edinburgh's anatomy museum to this very day
    Hare: Founded the first funeral parlor with Lucky, which eventually got a royal seal
    Ginny: Became a famous actress... though not a very good one
    Photographer: Became one of fathers of photography
    Doctor's assistant: Went on a voyage of discovery and wrote a very controversial book
    Doctor who ordered all the "product": Went to America
  • Young Future Famous People: Dr. Monro's assistant is a young Charles Darwin.