DEAD DICKS / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: CHRIS BAVOTA, LEE PAULA SPRINGER / STARRING: HESTON HORWIN, JILLIAN HARRIS, MATT KEYES / RELEASE DATE: TBC
The opening few minutes of Dead Dicks may well be the most harrowing and upsetting images committed to film. For some, it will be too much to take, but stick with it and you’ll find an off-beat, occasionally funny, but ultimately thought-provoking piece of art.
Richie (Horwin) is a depressed artist who has been worrying his sister, Becca (Harris), for a while with his suicidal tendencies. She’s just accepted her dream job but it will mean moving away and she’s dreading telling him. Unfortunately, when she goes to see him, she finds him hanged in the closet. She distraught, but that will turn to confusion when he suddenly appears behind her, stark naked and clutching a cereal bowl. Something in his apartment is not allowing him to die. He’s tried. Several times. Each time, he is ‘reborn’ through a strange-looking hole in the wall. Now they have a problem: how do they get rid of the four dead Richies? (Richard = Dick, geddit?) They need to do it quick since the landlord is due thanks to the annoyed downstairs neighbour reporting him for interrupting his rest.
Once past the very unsettling opening, Dead Dicks plays more like the unbalanced cousin of a David Cronenberg film. It continually wrong-foots the viewer and is all the more powerful for it. The portrayal of mental illness is handled very well and doesn’t pull any punches, be it in the depiction of the effects on the siblings, or the aftermath of suicide. The numbers of the crisis service in Canada are displayed before anything else here, and this can also be seen as a ‘trigger warning’ for what’s to come. It’s an important subject, and although set in an entertaining sci-fi horror element, Dead Dicks doesn’t make light of it nor use it for shock value.
The conundrum the brother and sister team find themselves in is as enjoyable as it is mind-boggling. As the pair attempt to make sense of what’s going on, the tension mounting with the neighbour reaches boiling point. For what is essentially a three-hander with suicide as a prominent subject, Dead Dicks keeps things reasonably light-hearted. That is, until we get to the relationship between the siblings. As hearts are being poured out, it’s hard not to feel for the characters on both sides. It’s to Horwin and Harris’ credit that this works so well.
Dead Dicks is a difficult film to recommend to a general audience. It will be hard going for many, and for those who have suffered on both sides of a mental health problem, it’s an emotional watch. At times disturbing, often humorous, but always compelling.