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DIRECTED BY: Chris Bavota, Lee Paula Springer
FEATURING: Jillian Harris, Heston Horwin, Matt Keyes
PLOT: Mentally ill and suicidal, Richard tries to off himself but is repeatedly reborn though an orifice that’s growing on his wall, leaving his apartment cluttered with corpses of his previous selves.
COMMENTS: Richie and his sister Becca debate about the exact anatomical correspondence of the orifice that has suddenly appeared on his bedroom wall. He calls it a vagina; she replies “it looks more like an asshole to me.” He sees at as a possibility of rebirth, while she sees it as just the same shit over and over? (For the record, it’s obviously shaped like a vulva; trust me, I’ve seen one before.)
Whatever the hole in the wall is, it’s driving the plot. Well, not really. The real conflict in Dead Dicks is not the eternal struggle between death and rebirth, but the more down to earth sibling drama between Richie, a mentally ill artist who annoys his only neighbor by forgetting to turn down the music after midnight, and Becca, who’s always nurturing her brother instead of pursuing her own dreams to become a nurse. As a career enabler, cleaning up her brother’s many spare corpses comes naturally to her.
Sometimes, the bare sets, unimaginative staging, and uneven sound levels—especially in the few shots occurring outside Ritchie’s apartment—smack you in the face with the fact that Dead Dicks a low-budget affair. But the main place where the budgetary limitations become intrusive is in the long middle act, where cheap conversation takes the place of more expensive action. It seems most of the available money went into a one big effect, a brief but nightmarish gore scene that does dazzle.
The acting is spotty, with Matt Keyes coming across the best (although there is little nuance required of his perpetually annoyed neighbor). Jillian Harris has a hard time of it; her character is often written so as to under-react to the insane events, and to comply with Ritchie’s odd requests too quickly. I’m not sure exactly how an actress should play a character asked, by her brother, to hack up her brother’s body; but there were many times where I expected Becca to object or freak out in a much higher register than she does. There are some attempts at black comedy—sis is more shocked by her brother’s full-frontal nudity than by the fact that he’s just come back from the dead—but on the whole the script eschews yuks in favor of a dramatic tone.
But, warts and all, Dead Dicks is worth a watch to those who find the premise or the mental illness theme compelling. It lags in the middle with a bit too much dialogue, but it starts the third act with two twists that come in quick succession, and ends on a strong note. The ultimate resolution is unexpected, and morally troubling—some may complain, but this is horror after all, and I’m glad they took this brave step rather than a more conventional feel-good ending. Dead Dicks is an ambitious and largely successful feature, though one that might have been scaled back to be an impressive short.
Plus, the body count is much higher than the total number of characters in the film, which is quite a trick to pull off.
The Artsploitation DVD/Blu-ray contains commentary from the two directors and video diaries of the production. These extras are valuable to anyone considering making their own movie.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“…Dead Dicks tackles taboos, blending trippy horror, irreverent humor, and shocking tenderness to create a film that’s both darkly challenging and wildly entertaining.”–Kirist Puchbo, Pajiba (festival screening)
2 thoughts on “CAPSULE: DEAD DICKS (2019)”
“‘Dead Dicks’ is an ambitious and largely successful feature, though one that might have been scaled back to be an impressive short.”
And there’s the rub. No matter how impressive a short film may be–and I’ve had the luxury of seeing plenty–they reach effectively Zero people compared to a mediocre feature-length film.
Even we here at 366 probably wouldn’t have given this the time of day had this been (the almost certainly) superior short film, because there’s no real market for those–which is partially because of such little awareness of them. (What I believe is called a “vicious cycle”.)