Becca’s careworn life, concerning for her mentally unstable brother as well as maintaining her expenses through the up and down cashflow of a bartender’s tour, suddenly gleams with a ray of hope when a prestigious opportunity she’s earned calls for her to move across country in a matter of weeks, but when her brother, Ritchie, leaves multiple distressing messages on her phone, Becca’s continuing efforts to care for her troubled older brother forces her to abandoned the bar’s night shift duty and check on him. What Becca finds is Ritchie’s dead body strung up in the closet, and another Ritchie dead body electrocuted in the tub, and a very much alive Ritchie walking around naked. The perplexing phenomena all stems around a vaginal resembling wet stain on the bedroom wall that birth’s another copy of Ritchie after each death, but with every copy comes copious amounts of provocative questions that keep Becca from leaving Ritchie’s forlorn and tormented side or is it something much more paranormal detaining her?
Welcome back to our part two of the unofficial look at independent Canadian horror with a totally different and existential horror entitled “Dead Dicks” from the dynamic directing duo of Chris Bavota and Lee Paul Springer. Also possessing creative control of their own script, Bavota and Springer flex their filmmaking muscles by initiating themselves into the feature film market with an alternative impression on the lingering effects of mental illness and suicide, which Bavota and Springer preface the film responsibly with a public service announcement for audiences where those struggling with suicide or those who know someone struggling can reach out for information and help via a suicide prevention hotline telephone number. Believe it or not, ItsBlogginEvil has been exposed to some script work by Chris Bavota who penned the tyke-terrible, otherworldly beings in “Ghastlies,” helmed by Brett Kelly, and while I admire Kelly’s legendary practical effects ambitions on a microscopic budget and “Ghastlies” praise to the cult of small creature features villains, like “Gremlins” or “Critters,” I ultimately found the film and the screenplay to be fragmented and unflattering that doesn’t live up to honoring the retro creature ideals in a heavily slapstick and erroneous attempt. However, from 2016 to 2019, Bavota has shown to have an increased level of story maturity in his writing with, perhaps, an assist from his colleague Springer for their subject matter and execution of “Dead Dicks,” a production of Bavota and Springer’s Postal Code Films company in association with Red Clay Productions and distributed by Devilworks and Artsploitation Films.
The low-key cast brings a blanket of intimacy that’s synonymous with how suicide is often a loner’s internal battle with themselves. In this regard, Bavota and Springer needed an alleviator for the somber material with a pitch perfect front man in order to radiate the dry humor and convey the relatively taboo message of speaking up, speaking out, and speaking for suicidal tendencies. They found that man to be Heston Horwin who the filmmakers had had in mind to play the role of Ritchie. Bringing the quick wit and exact timing to Ritchie’s compromised soul, and serving also as executive producer on the film, Horwin becomes the vexed tinkerer trying to problem solve the causality of his own immortality who is stuck in a loop, a motif of in death there is life that continues to pop up, and also contorts his personality to make Ritchie a Rubik cube of anxiety, twisting and turning with tacit body language that serves as a roadblock to his frequently burdened little sister, Becca, played by newcomer Jillian Harris. The strong female role is outlined with meticulously sage from a new actress submersed for the first time credited in an existential and cosmic horror with a genitalia fascination. The duo becomes a trio when Matt Keyes enters the fold as the annoyed apartment neighbor one floor door to be jostled into Ritchie and Becca’s abundant death dilemma. Also known in character as Matt, Keyes deceives as a snarky, impatient prude masking his nice guy principles but when enough is enough, Keyes goes into angry neighbor mode whose fed up with Ritchie’s loud music and building shaking incidents.
“Dead Dicks” doesn’t boil down to simply suicide as the main theme to digest, but sharpens the graphite toward a much broader point that incorporates the lingering shockwave effects of severe mental illness while touching upon the bitter aftertaste of post-suicide. Becca’s caught in Ritchie’s woeful web that results in her always picking up the pieces left in her big brother’s wake. The act of unreciprocated love for Ritchie stems from almost losing him when they were younger, an anecdotal story brought up a couple of times between Becca and Ritchie, and the image of his lifeless body in the hospital has been forever seared in Becca’s mind and body matrix to the point she feels indebted to protect him. It took Ritchie to die, multiple times, for him to understand the inflexibilities of the loop Becca is coiled into with his own unhinged state and can’t proceed forward with her own life. Each copy of his former self slices away a layer of unstable irrationality that have become blinders detrimental to his and his sister’s life and once he’s reached the core of his true self, clarity forms around processing the chaos around him, but doesn’t ever remove the sadness and pain that has been imprinted onto him over the years from family and friends distrust and disdain and that makes his argument to die that much more logical to himself because for Becca to be free from the loop, which is represented by being trapped inside Ritchie’s apartment and objects around him that go into restart mode like the earshot cacophony of heavy rock music starting over after every death, one of them must die and the other be reborn. All of this is in encompassed with a display of in your face genitalia, a discolored wall that suspends death, and grimly funny gore that seamlessly blend computer imagery and practical effect, making “Dead Dicks” a taut downcast, dark comedy full of ostentatious and provocative symbolism from our Canadian neighbors!
The seismically cosmic “Dead Dicks” is intrinsic to the creative fluidity of the indie film culture and is now available on an Artsploitation Films’ Blu-ray release. The release is presented in in a widescreen, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, captured with an Arri Alexa camera providing a clean digital picture vivid in detail and distinct depth. The entire color package denotes warm atmospherics, more so from Ritchie’s off white and mustard yellow apartment to the hot soft pink of the vaginal canal scene, that becomes a consistent and engrossing product worked by cinematographer Nicolas Venne to still be able to find the humanizing angle of each individual character. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound for the first half is quite wonky that perhaps stems from mismanaged discerning the vocals properly, leaving the dialogue depth obscured from background to foreground and from foreground to background. On the story’s flipside, the issues are worked out which would suggest the cluster of shots and audio takes were eventually adjusted or tweaked to sync appropriately. Julien Verschooris’ score and the introduction of Tusk and Bruiser on the soundtrack is an eclectic mix of dramatic synth and grunge rock that impeccably keeps the nearly one-location film from getting stale with a coagulating of an energizing and mellow temperment which would usually have a counter-effective result. Bonus features include commentary by directors Chris Bavota and Lee Paul Springer, four video diaries from the directors that span from pre-production to after the first week of production, a FX featurette that exhibits Matt Keyes going through a cast mold for his head and how his wonderfully gore scene was accomplished, and, lastly, four trailers from films distributed by Artsploitation Films. “Dead Dicks” is pneumatically bursting with the compressed scent of David Cronenberg; a deluxe doppelganger dark comedy bound with provoking the consequences surrounding death in a surrealistic effort to ease in and move past an inexorable acceptance.