Partly a drily comedic sci-fi mystery and partly an affecting meditation on the ravages wrought by mental illness on both sufferers and their loved ones, Dead Dicks (2019) is a surprisingly moving tale with a deceptively simple premise: a severely depressed man, after attempting suicide, finds that he is unable to remain dead and is reborn in an identical copy of his own body after each demise (each new body is, naturally, birthed from an inexplicable egress point on his bedroom wall with a distinctly vaginal motif). The consequences and complications, for both himself and his beleaguered sister, add up as quickly as the number of corpses in his spacious apartment.
Becca (Jillian Harris) has spent most of her adult life taking care of her emotionally unstable older brother, Richard (Heston Horwin), an artist with a tormented soul and a tragic chemical imbalance. When she is accepted into a prestigious medical program located across the country, she agonizes over how to tell her brother—and whether she is making the right choice in leaving him. As she struggles with this dilemma, she receives a series of messages from him begging her to come to his apartment. Upon arriving, she is greeted by his dead body—and then his live one. The siblings try to solve the mystery of Richard’s newfound immortality, figure out what to do with the superfluous cadavers littering his living space, and face off with an irate and unsympathetic downstairs neighbour (Matt Keyes). Throughout this, the tone shifts between delightfully subversive deadpan humour and raw pathos as the two delve deep into their troubled family history and current unhealthy codependency.
In Dead Dicks, co-directors and writers Chris Bavota and Lee Paula Springer have created one of the most relatable and honest depictions of clinical depression and its impacts that I have seen on film. Richard’s gallows humour, pragmatic approach to suicide, and eventual shame-ridden breakdown ring true, as does Becca’s potent mixture of love, frustration, resentment, and guilt. Dead Dicks ably and confidently traverses the emotional roadmap of mental illness, often choosing the paths less travelled by other cinematic vehicles and never losing sight of its destination: a gut-punching finale that stole my breath and shook my soul.
The film screened at the Blood in the Snow Film Festival 2019 and won Best Screenplay as well as Best Actor (for Heston Horwin) at the festival’s 2019 Bloodies Awards. The Rising Star Award was shared by Lee Paula Springer and Chris Bavota. Congratulations to all involved!