OCTOBER 16, 2011
Hey remember one review ago when I was championing Exit Humanity for taking zombies seriously for a change? Now I’m going to do the same for DeadHeads, which is a full blown zombie comedy – there are barely even any other zombies in it besides our two heroes, who retain their intelligence and ability to speak even though the few others they encounter (and their trusty sidekick Cheese) are typical moaning/drooling dolts. In lieu of zombie action, it’s the sweet and quite funny tale of a guy seeking to tell his girlfriend how he feels about her and give her the engagement ring he had in his pocket prior to being killed.
The backstory is that these zombies are the result of yet another military experiment, and since our guys are the most successful test subjects, the agents want them back. So it becomes a road/chase movie, with our heroes heading back to Michigan to meet up with the girl, all the while evading a trio of hardasses that are hellbent on capturing them. It’s very much in the spirit of 80s teen comedies (if the Brent character was a girl it would almost feel like A Sure Thing), right down to one of the military guys being an alpha male macho douchebag that William Zabka would have played if the movie HAD been made in the 80s, and the hero having to prove to his girlfriend’s dad that he is worthy of her hand.
But it’s funny as hell. The random asides, Brent’s slightly stoner-esque but endlessly enthusiastic nature, and even the slapstick-y elements involving their deteriorating zombie state play great – the audience was laughing at all the right spots, with very few clunkers. The script is also careful with its movie references; this is in “our world” so they have the Transformers movies and such (I think I even caught a Cast Away reference), and even go see Evil Dead at one point, but it never becomes too winky or even strained – they naturally feel like the sort of things an obvious slacker type like Brent would watch and reference once he found himself in the situation (as I might).
As the hero Mike, Michael McKiddy is quite charming and makes an impression even though Brent (Ross Kidder) gets most of the funny lines. It goes on a bit long, but when Mike finally meets up with his girlfriend and delivers a little speech (while in a ridiculous mascot costume, posing as another classmate at a reunion so he can hide his zombie status), you can really feel for the guy. The movie doesn’t have them eating anyone, or even killing their attackers despite numerous chances to do so, so zombie or not, it’s quite easy to accept them as true heroes, not “well they’re zombies but they can’t help eating people” characters such as Bub or whatever.
Also, since one of my few issues with Exit Humanity was that the “bury the ashes” quest was seemingly forgotten for a while, I liked that it kept moving, never letting us forget why we were on this journey. I forget/missed where the journey began, but it takes a few days to get to Michigan, thanks to a few setbacks (mostly the constant threat of the military). They are aided by a guy named Chuck who doesn’t seem to notice/care that they’re zombies, and he (oddly enough) has his own ashes quest to complete that provides a nice little subplot as well as a motivator for Mike, as Chuck’s sadness over the loss of his beloved makes him further realize the importance of love and all that corny shit that wouldn’t work if you didn’t like the characters. Not Shakespeare, but its more than you can usually expect in a zombie film (that I saw two zombie modern movies in a row with characters I cared about is just sort of mind-blowing. Kudos, Screamfest!).
I just wish the finale wasn’t so extended. Everything is about him getting back to the girl, and he does that at the reunion, but then the military guys cause a problem, they get taken away, then another plot twist and they’re back on the road, seeking to meet her at a second location. I think everything could have gone down at the reunion with no jump in time and it would have worked just as well if not better, as it makes the second scene a bit anticlimactic. Also, on the outtake reel we see a better resolution to a goofy subplot about one character’s “detachable” body part than was presented in the film itself, which is a bit odd. Put that stuff back in!
According to the post-film Q&A, the film has secured distribution in most major territories, but not the US. This doesn’t surprise me – it’s an original, crowd-pleasing horror movie. The US distributors only want remakes and sequels, or movies that can shock and awe. That Serbian Film or Human Centipede 2 may have better theatrical releases in the US than this movie is just plain depressing. But by this point I’m sick of trying to convince you guys to show more support for the original horror movies that come around, because no one apparently listens, so I’ll just say that I wish Brett and Drew Pierce luck on their attempt to secure an acceptable release for their charming and very fun movie. I will also suggest maybe they throw a “2” at the end of the title to increase their chances in a marketplace that seemingly punishes those who dare to make a movie that won’t already have a built in awareness.
What say you?