2020, NR, 83 min. Directed by Chris Bavota. Starring Heston Horwin, Jillian Harris, Matt Keyes.
REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., July 24, 2020
It sounds like a bad joke. It's a title designed to draw you in. But calling this film Dead Dicks really provides a little insight into the self-hatred at the heart of this intriguing and touching SF drama about the dysfunctional relationship between siblings.
Richie (Horwin) is the Dicks in question (and trust me, no one called Richard likes being called Dick), but that diminutive nickname is the least of his problems. He's plagued by depression and suicidal thoughts, constantly blasting his music at his neighbors, and ever more dependent on his sister, Becca (Harris). She's finally got a chance at getting out, but she's terrified of the consequences, that Richie will finally take the most extreme step when he finds out. Tragically, it turns out that he has indeed committed suicide. The only problem is that, even though he's most definitely dead, it doesn't seem to have taken. Something in his apartment keeps bringing him back, much to his coal-black-humored chagrin.The debut feature by writer/director Chris Bavota and co-writer Lee Paula Springer, Dead Dicks never lets its science fiction mechanism (odd as it is) outweigh what matters, which is a delicate and tragic depiction of codependency. Once Becca crosses the threshold, it's a sealed bottle drama – made so not by the powers of the strange orifice that emits a new Richie every time he kills himself (which happens a lot, in the name of science), but by the years of need and love between them.
The inevitable dark comedy of trying to dispose of multiple identical bodies never feels intrusive, with Harris and Horwin turning sibling bickering into a kitchen sink drama built on well-depicted familiarity. The crushing soundtrack by Julien Verschooris (amplified by an ebbing and cresting riff that meets at the cusp between ambient and guitar-wrecking post-rock by L.A.-based Tusk & Bruiser, aka Jeremy Faccone and Jaison Karner) reinforces that this is a very personal take on metaphysical horror. Brutally honest, startlingly insightful, and poignant when it could have been bizarre, Dead Dicks earns its tragic, purposefully misleading title and reframes it with dire meaning.
A version of this review ran as part of our Other Worlds 2019 coverage.
Dead Dicks is available on VOD starting July 28.