DEAD DICKS (2019)
Written and Directed by Chris Bavota and Lee Paula Springer
After receiving a worrying voicemail from her brother Richie, Becca visits his flat to find his lifeless body hanging in the closet. To her absolute fright, whilst taking in the death of her brother, Richie appears alive, stark bollock naked, from out of the bedroom. It would appear that his suicide attempts, of which there have been three, have in some way been successful in killing his body but each time he’s died he has been rebirthed through a portal in his bedroom wall that looks like a vagina or an arsehole, depending on who you ask. Attempting to get their heads around this phenomenon, Richie suggests that he commit suicide again whilst Becca monitors the portal after his camcorder failed to record the event due to some sort of electro-magnetic disturbance, no doubt caused by the portal. Unable to process what is actually happening and doing everything in her power to stop him from killing himself, despite the evidence mounting up around her that he is indeed telling the truth, Becca attempts to calm her brother down in order to get a handle on the situation. However, Richie’s penchant for playing music on full blast and the thumping vibrations caused each time the portal produces a new Richie means his activities have pissed off disgruntled neighbour Matt who’s reported him to their landlord. With several dead Richie’s lying around the apartment, Becca has no choice but to cover up the other-worldly activities occurring in the flat or risk their secret getting out.
When I saw DEAD DICKS was screening at Grimmfest 2019, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Of course, the title of the film is what drew my attention as it probably did yours (filthy minds!) but in addition to the horror-comedy- laden drama that plays out, we actually have a very touching story on mental health and how it affects those who have it and their families.
The character of Richie suffers from mental health problems and it seems he has done so for quite some time. Even though she is the youngest of the two, Becca feels some sort of duty to protect her big brother to ensure he looks after himself. When she receives a dream offer from Conn-Gerber University, she is excited but concerned about how it might affect Richie and delays telling him her good news. When she turns up at his flat and sees the mess he’s got himself into, she knows she can’t leave him like this. It isn’t long before she’s as knee deep in it as Richie is and finds herself drawn ever further into his dilemma. After the initial excitement wears off and reality kicks in, Richie feels guilty for dragging his sister into it and making it her problem as well as his as the two attempt to make it out the other side in one piece.
A metaphor for depression and how it can take hold of one’s life, DEAD DICKS is a heartbreaking piece of cinema that pulls on your heart strings. Initially, you can enjoy the film as-is with the strange vagina/arsehole phenomenon pushing out copies of the people who’ve died in the flat, as Becca attempts to dispose of the mounting corpses of her brother whilst keeping aggravated neighbour Matt aat bay. However, by the end of the film, you’ll begin to appreciate what this film is trying to convey. I think if you’ve experienced depression in some shape or form, either yourself or a loved one, you’ll be able to see how much this movie accurately translates the despair and state of mind the person suffering goes through, as well as the worry experienced by those closest to them as they sacrifice their lives to help the one in need. The more you think about it, the heavier becomes, and by the final scenes, it’s a challenge not to watch without a tear in your eye.
Outside of the film’s message, DEAD DICKS has some brilliant performances from its small cast who really bring out their characters in what is an intimate, claustrophobic setting. Heston Horwin mesmerises as troubled Richie whilst Jillian Harris takes charge as Becca. Matt Keyes appears to relish displaying the simmering rage of having to live underneath the booming bass coming from Richie’s flat above as the three eventually clash with shocking and disastrous consequences. Despite its content, the film doesn’t mind injecting a bit of humour. Whether it’s Becca getting an eyeful of her brother’s dangling dong or Richie deciding to make use of one of his severed limbs to paint with, the black humour compliments the movie brilliantly, adding flourishes of laughter here and there.
A tragic, emotional tearjerker wrapped up in an intense blend of horror, sci-fi and dark comedy, DEAD DICKS is a beautiful display of heartfelt filmmaking.