Monday 26 October 2020

Dead (New Zealand 2020: Dir Hayden J.Weal)

Weal's second feature mines the 'I see dead people' shtick of 1999's The Sixth Sense and the supernatural cop buddy antics of movies like 1988's Dead Heat and R.I.P.D. from 2013.

Marbles (Thomas Sainsbury), a seemingly hopeless stoner, peddles an unusual service; he can see and talk to the recently departed when they are in a limbo state prior to arriving at their final destination, as it were. This means that loved ones of the newly deceased can have one last conversation with them, mediated via Marbles. The gift is actually chemically generated; he discovered the ability after combining a dose of his late father's prescription drugs and marijuana, which by practice he has distilled into a serum with which he injects himself, giving roughly one hour of veil lifting per hit.

Two events occur that set him on his future course: one, his mother decides to sell the family farm and move on, much to Marbles' distress. He's given a chance to buy it but has to come up with $150,000 pronto; second, the spirit of a murdered policeman, Officer Jason Tagg (Weal) contacts Marbles to ask his help to track down Tagg's killer. Marbles is initially reluctant but the ghost's offer to cut him in on his life assurance payout would provide the cash he now needs, to, pardon the pun, buy the farm.

Marbles is aided in his task by Tagg's still alive foster sister Yana (Tomai Ihaia), who was assisting Tagg prior to his death with the tracking of a serial killer in the city. Yana, an alcoholic lawyer, is housebound with a tracking device after a drink drive conviction. The killer's previous victims have all been gay and Tagg, who was gay himself, remains convinced that, although murdered in the line of duty, he was targeted. 

Dead has a good heart. It's an occasionally sweet, amiable film and while its plot may meander, it takes us to some good places. The team of Tagg and Marbles does what all good cinematic partnerships should do; underscore mutual affection with a load of bickering. The humour is often hit and miss, and the gay scenes are played for laughs but none of this is cruelly intended. And there's some interesting little bits of supernatural lore, like the rot that sets into ghostly bodies if they spend too much time in limbo. 

Weal, on director, co-writer and actor duties has arguably stretched himself a bit thin here, but the strength of his cast bring it to the finish line, and one or two scenes are so funny and well observed that they bode well for the guy's next film.

Dead will be available on Digital Download from 27th October. 

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