Saturday 8 August 2020

100 Essential Films That Deserve More Attention - 65. Dead Dicks

People embrace the enchanting glow of the big screen for all manner of reasons; to journey to faraway places they could only ever imagine, to experience the escapism of a captivating story, or maybe to indulge in an obsession with the world of cinema. For me, all three of these reasons apply - and many more - but first and foremost is the satisfaction of recommending obscure films to other like-minded individuals who adopt them as their new favourites.

With over 100 years worth of films to choose from, and many of these now available at the click of a button, it can be extremely difficult to narrow your choices down to pick a film to watch. Although cinema has been around for over four times longer than my life on this earth, I have spent what some may consider an unhealthy amount of these years delving into the history of films to discover some of the best hidden gems out there.

This series of articles aims to highlight the overlooked masterpieces and fascinating curios that I have unearthed whilst exploring the forgotten recesses of cinema. Take a gamble on any one of these films and I guarantee that you will be eagerly awaiting all future instalments in this series. You may well have heard of a number of these films; my aim isn't merely to shine a spotlight on the most obscure films out there, but to share my enjoyment of those films which don't have the cult following I believe they deserve.

Dead Dicks
Director - Chris Bavota/Lee Paula Springer
Country - Canada
Year - 2019
Runtime - 83 minutes

When a film takes an absurd but intriguing science-fiction concept and transforms it into a profound parable on suicide and depression, you know you are in for a unique viewing experience. The tongue-in-cheek title of Dead Dicks suggests we are embarking on a somewhat puerile encounter but the sinister opening sequence is indicative of the dark recesses this thought-provoking horror visits. We are introduced to the suicidal slacker Richie (Heston Horwin) when his anxious sister Becca (Jillian Harris) visits his flat - concerned that she can't reach him on his phone. Accosted by Richie's understandably angry downstairs neighbour Matt (Matt Keyes) on the way up to his flat, Becca apologises for the disturbingly loud music emanating from her brother's apartment before heading upstairs where she finds Richie's lifeless body.

In the first of many thrilling revelations it transpires that Richie is still alive and believes that when he took his own life he was reborn out of a huge mysterious crack that has appeared in his bedroom wall. Thus begins an unsettling exploration into a fractured human psyche that traverses a broad range of elements from macabre black comedy to visceral body horror. Richie and Becca's attempts to understand the bizarre situation they find themselves in go awry when Matt enters the fray once more and disturbs the strange symbiotic connection Richie has to the hole in his wall.

Horwin is sublime in his performance as the titular 'Dick', expressing the weight of his character's depression by demonstrating a morbid acceptance of the peculiar circumstances of Richie's inability to die. Whilst Richie embraces the horrific scenario, Becca is fearful of the consequences of toying with fate and Harris emphasises this aspect of Becca's anxiety with a passionate performance as her character struggles to come to terms with the strange situation. The film's success hinges largely on the performances of its cast and they sell the outlandish idea behind Dead Dicks with a conviction that enables you to look past the constraints of a limited budget to appreciate the raw passion and energy that has been harnessed by the film-makers.

Credit is due to the practical effects team whose creative approach to depicting the film's elements of body horror would feel at home in any of David Cronenberg's earlier features. The grotesque, palpitating, cocoon like objects that emerge from the unsightly slit in Richie's wall are all too real, and the nightmarish sequences in which he bursts out of these gooey containers provoke feelings of disgust and curiosity in equal measure. It is the imposing crack on the wall though that really steals the show, particularly when Richie and Becca argue over its appearance, undecided on whether it is closer in form to resembling female genitalia or a massive arsehole.

As Richie experiments with a multitude of suicide attempts the body count begins to stack up and Becca is reluctantly forced into dismembering and disposing of his corpses. The ordeal of carving up not just one but several lifeless bodies, all of which belong to your brother, is a horrific notion although it is played primarily for laughs in Dead Dicks, alleviating the sombre mood to prevent the film's atmosphere becoming to oppressive and disturbing. This morbid humour is pitch perfect throughout, treading carefully around the sensitive subject of suicide to deliver laughs that revolve around Richie's compromising situation. 

Dead Dicks succeeds not only as a bizarre and funny sci-fi horror but as a thought-provoking piece on suicide and depression. Like the best genre films it explores the heavy themes surrounding a topic that could sadly be relatable for many viewers. Through incorporating elements of their own experiences into this brilliantly realised black comedy, the film's talented writers and Directors, Chris Bavota and Lee Paula Springer, have exposed their innermost feelings in an honest and open admission that will speak volumes to those who connect with Dead Dicks on a personal level, as well as entertaining the hell out of those who are simply looking for a wild and unforgettable ride into the unknown.

If you take the time to watch Dead Dicks then it would be awesome if you could also take the time to let me know what you thought of it, either by commenting below or tweeting me @filmbantha. Thanks, and enjoy!

For previous instalments in the series click here

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