The Civil Dead
While his wife (Whitney Weir) is out of town for work, introverted photographer Clay (director and co-writer Clay Tatum) bumps into old friend Whit (co-writer Whitmer Thomas) in between sessions of drinking beer in front of the TV and running scams for rent money. There’s just one problem: Whit’s dead and only Clay can see or hear him. Told with an endearing charm and lovable awkwardness, The Civil Dead is an oddball buddy comedy that ponders what it means to be alone as the protagonists wander the streets of Los Angeles together.
From the moment Clay encounters Whit (before he’s aware that his former classmate is dead), the photographer makes half-baked excuses to part ways. Whit, conversely, is too much of a wounded puppy to be outright refused. All he wants is a friend, and since Clay is his only feasible option for companionship, he clings to him constantly, which in turn makes Clay more uncomfortable with this unwanted friendship.
Much of the humour from Tatum and Thomas’s script comes from the humdrum way this haunting is treated. In fact, the ghostly goings-on can barely be considered as hauntings in the traditional sense. While things do frequently go bump in the night, burglars and racoons are believed to be the culprits, while the thought that something supernatural could be happening is never entertained. Outside of the protagonists, none of the other characters are ever aware there’s a ghost in the picture. Not that Whit is an especially threatening-looking ghost either, dressed in an ill-fitting purple jacket and a sheepish expression.
The film is at its finest when Tatum and Thomas are hanging out together onscreen. Their lackadaisical chemistry is what holds everything together. With little in the way of a plot, however, there are too many narrative beats that become irrelevant diversions than meaningful additions to the script.
Underneath the offbeat comedy, there’s a palpable sense of melancholy laced throughout this unrequited friendship. Both characters are tragic in their own ways, and their back and forth comes to a hilarious yet heart-breaking head during the final scene. While The Civil Dead is never scary, it is a ghost story that’s unlike any other.
The Civil Dead does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for The Civil Dead here: