I’ve never seen a movie quite like Dead Dicks as it has one of the more unique ideas I’ve seen in recent years: what if every time you killed yourself, a giant vagina on the wall rebirthed you? I know, this sounds batshit crazy, and it is, but they play it straight and that makes this movie pretty damn fun, because obviously problems will come from this situation, like what do you do with your corpse now that you’re back, particularly if you have company coming over? How do you explain to the neighbor that the violent shaking is from you being pushed out of a giant vagina on your wall? All those questions and more get answered in this strange, yet delightful indie movie.
Short synopsis for context: Becca has been accepted to grad school, and she needs to tell her mentally unstable brother, Richie. When she goes to his apartment, she discovers his corpse, and then he just casually pops up naked and says "hi," and explains that he gets rebirthed from the wall every time he kills himself, which has been a few times now.
While the premise is fairly basic, and the movie is almost entirely set in Richie’s apartment complex, it works extraordinarily well. The struggle of figuring out why this is happening, of how to dispose of the corpses, and what to do about the annoying, nosy neighbor give the movie plenty to work with to fill the 83-minute runtime.
While this is the feature length debut from directors Chris Bavota and Lee Paula Springer, they did a great job of creating a movie that felt real while maintaining an engrossing narrative, despite the outlandish premise. Also, even though the majority of the movie takes place in an apartment, they were able to use the space wisely and shoot from multiple angles and perspectives to keep the movie feeling fresh. Most of the camera work is fairly basic, but this movie is much more personal, and character driven than a typical scary movie, so the basics work as they focus on the characters and on highlighting their states of mind.
There were some issues with the production, like a glaring continuity error. Every time a person is shown being reborn, they end up awakening almost immediately and are naked. However, they use a plot device at one point that a character dies without her knowledge and is reborn, and she is dressed and put back where she died so when she wakes, she won’t notice. This isn’t a huge deal, but as her resurrection played out so different than the other ones, it was a jarring continuity issue for me that really took me out of the moment.
While I won’t spoil the ending, I do need to talk about it. Dead Dicks has somewhat of philosophical ending that doesn’t provide any concrete resolution. This is clearly a narrative and stylistic choice, and I am sure that some people will love it, but it didn’t do much for me.
The primary cast only consists of three people: Becca, the main protagonist, her brother Richie, who is a mentally ill, suicidal artist, and Matt, the downstairs neighbor who is fed up with Richie. Jillian Harris plays Becca, and she does a great job with the role. Becca clearly has plenty of experience dealing with her brother and his issues, so as odd as everything in this movie it, it’s no surprise she just kind of jumps in and gets to work on the problems. Harris perfectly delivers Becca’s weariness, exasperation, and strained love with a reserved yet emotional performance that makes Becca feel completely real.
I have to say, Richie is probably my favorite character in the movie due in no small part to the brilliant way that Heston Horwin portrays him. There are so many cliched ways that a suicidal artist could be portrayed, but Horwin infuses Richie with this charming combination of aloofness, stoicism, and mania and while it may not sound like these attributes would work together, Horwin delivers them perfectly as Richie’s reaction to the strange suicide rebirth loop he’s found himself in.
Matt, played by Matt Keyes, is the embodiment of a young professional who just wants an uncomplicated living situation. Unfortunately, he is constantly being annoyed by Richie, and he ends up torn between what he wants and being compassionate. Keyes strikes the balance quite well, and delivers a solid, believable performance of a man who has simply had enough and won’t take it anymore.
While I think Dead Dicks should have come up with a better title, it is actually a pretty damn entertaining movie. It boasts solid performances and an engrossing story that, while maybe not fully satisfying when all is said and done, will certainly keep you thinking about it for quite some time. If you’re in the mood for something horrorish but a bit lighter, check this movie out, it’ll probably hit the spot.
Dead Dicks is now available on Blu-ray and DVD, as well as on VOD platforms, courtesy of Artsploitation Films.