Toronto After Dark Review: Deadheads
Mike (Michael McKiddy) wakes up in a laboratory with amnesia, somehow less dead than the other zombies running around the countryside. He quickly teams up with Brent (Ross Kidder), an even more talkative zombie, and finds himself on a quest to win back the heart of his girlfriend Ellie (Natalie Victoria). Trouble follows wherever they go, and there’s nothing quite like watching the trials and tribulations of two of the undead. Deadheads is a zombie buddy comedy with a heart, and an incredibly fun one at that.
This is the type of independent horror film I really love to watch. Not only is it flat-out entertaining, but you can tell that it is made with dedication and respect for a variety of genres. Deadheads is incredibly witty and clever, somehow managing to create a zombie romantic comedy that doesn’t seem ridiculous. Brother writing/directing team Brett and Drew Pierce craft a script with unhealthy amounts of zombie madness, but also featuring a road trip and romance. What else could you ask for?
These aren’t your typical zombies, and you should be prepared for that going in. As Ben Bussey in his FrightFest review of Deadheads noted: “take the film in the spirit it is intended.” There’s no better advice before you watch Deadheads, which is meant to be a dark, funny, unique take on the subgenre. If you over-analyze it, you will not enjoy Deadheads, which would be tragic because the film is genuinely entertaining. From a great beginning where Mike, a zombie himself, runs from other zombies, to an absurd yet rewarding ending, there’s a lot here to enjoy. Additionally, there’s an interactive element to Deadheads that I loved, solely due to the continuous and often hilarious pop culture references. Though I usually consider festival screenings a rather sacred space and ban myself from talking, I couldn’t help leaning over to a friend and asking if a certain sequence was a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off reference. This doesn’t make Deadheads a perfect film – it falls flat at times, and the middle runs slowly, heavy with the strain of too many characters. That being said, it all pays off in the end, in a silly, reflexive moment.
Deadheads is a well-rounded film complete with heartwarming scenes, and some genuinely dark moments that surprised me. The actors look like they’re having as much fun as I did watching it, and the film wouldn’t work without good chemistry between the two leads, Michael McKiddy and Ross Kidder. Natalie Victoria is also a welcome addition, as gorgeous and earnest in person as she is on screen. Backed by a fresh, fast-paced script filled with quick, witty dialogue, Deadheads is the perfect film for late-night viewings with groups of friends, and is absolutely ideal for a screening at a drive-in. (I will continue to hope for US and Canadian distribution so this can actually happen.)
Deadheads was helped along by being paired with perfect short – Play Dead, which focuses on the lives of our pets in the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse. Also a unique and darkly funny take on zombies, Play Dead made me smile and cringe, which set the perfect tone for two hours well-spent in a theater.