From the nation that gave us Taika Waititi and Jacinda Ardern comes a supernatural dark comedy about a medium practitioner and full stoner nicknamed Marbles (Thomas Sainsbury), who gains the gift of clairvoyance after mixing marijuana and prescription medication. Before you can say “the Spliff Sense,” Marbles is approached by a recently murdered cop (Hayden J Weal) asking for help tracking down his killer before they strike again.
Combining elements of Ghost, Ghost Town and R.I.P.D., Dead may not be particularly original but it reveals what stoner comedy looks like in New Zealand, with its gentle characters, quirky humour and underlying sadness. The quirkiness seems more affected than in recent Kiwi comedies like Hunt for the Wilderpeople or The Breaker Upperers, feeling very much like a wannabe cult favourite, as though director Weal is hoping to make up for a lack of cohesion with sheer oddity value.
His success rate is roughly medium, delivering good-natured goofs and likeable characters, without the depth to make the emotional moments work. Written by its two co-stars, the script is amiable if never laugh-out-loud funny, until a nonsensical plot twist precipitates a jarring tonal shift, at which point the jokes stop. Dead. This ends the movie on an oddly depressing note, although Sainsbury is consistently enjoyable and pleasantly understated as the stoned spirit-seeker.
Like last year’s Little Monsters, this is another Antipodean arrival anatomically indebted to Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, but whose uncertain execution falls short of its attractive mashup appeal. In the end the kitsch indie vibes, slightly forced atonalities and confusingly rushed climax override any genuine emotion or comic potential, despite some undeniably lively moments.
Dead is released digitally on demand on 27th October 2020.
Watch the trailer for Dead here: