This Review is Part of Nevermore Horror’s coverage of the Blood in the Snow Film Festival
Directed & written jointly by Chris Bavota & Lee Paula Springer, DEAD DICKS is a macabre film that walks a line between psychological thriller and a science-fiction piece. This picture is centered around themes of mental health, codependency, familial relationships, depression, suicide, and redemption.
By the time the opening title sequence concludes you will have already been both horrified and intrigued by a disturbing act of self-destruction, realizing that the filmmakers have set out to do both to you before you can even get settled into your seat. “Art is not safe”, and you will feel that message loud and clear right from the very onset.
Becca (Jillian Harris) is a bartender with aspirations to move on to more fulfilling work and after learning that she has been accepted into a neuroscience nursing program out of state, she is eager to start that process. There’s only one thing stopping her…and that’s Dick. Or rather Richie, her troubled brother, played by Heston Horwin. Richie is a man for whom she is constantly having to drop everything and come to the rescue–but things have escalated to a different place now…a much darker place.
Richie repeatedly kills himself and yet each time he does, he is ‘reborn’ through a portal in the wall resembling a moldy sheetrock vagina. It’s a very surreal and nightmarish visual that serves more than one purpose in effect and plot development.
Richie is quite solipsistic and compulsively obsessive, so much so that his sister is often left to pick up the pieces of his life (and now subsequently his deaths, as well), with him barely even noticing the toll it takes on those around him. The incredibly strong bond between siblings can sometimes be taken advantage of or, in this case, taken for granted altogether.
Richie isn’t humorless or without some charm but he struggles to access these traits normally. Realizing that no one chooses to have a mental illness, nor are suicidal tendencies on the wish lists of children growing up, I eventually found myself feeling a great deal of pathos for both family members as they each began to ‘circle the drain.’
The theme of self-care becomes as vital to these characters as that of self-harm. Will Richie’s depression and continued downward spiral ruin not only his life but also that of his sister’s? Will Becca’s love for her brother cause her to lose sight of what is best for him, as well as herself?
There isn’t an abundance of comic relief in this picture, keeping the characters and subject matter cemented in a very real and morbid place. Yet, occasionally there are moments that provide a laugh and a breather from the weight of the content.
With a very small cast of 6 total characters, this low budget picture relies almost solely on the interpersonal dynamics through dialogue to push the narrative. It’s generally well-acted, though it does have moments wherein the quality of performances seems to wax and wane a bit.
About halfway through the picture, I thought I had derived a message from the film, but as I continued to watch the second half I began to uncomfortably realize just how wrong I was. What seemed to be soon was no more, and I was left with a sense of dread and discomfort at what I’d just witnessed.
With a shocking climax and an ending that seems very open to interpretation, I found I was left with more questions than answers. What was the ultimate message they wanted to convey? What was the exact point they were driving home with this film?
Nearly 72 hours after viewing I am still trying to nail down that answer. Maybe that was the ultimate goal the directors were aiming for? Perhaps the actual point was only to force the audience to ask tough questions and to make us all think more deeply about each other, as well as ourselves?