Deadheads (2011)

Deadheads is neither dead funny or dead in the water. It’s whatever the lukewarm equivalent of dead is. Dead okay? It hits some marks and severely miss-hits others, and overall comes across as a decent-enough comedy horror.

Mike and Brent are dead. The zombie apocalypse has arrived and they’re victims of this shambling plague, turned into rotting, undead monsters. Strangely, though, they’re not Colin-clones – they’re coherent. They can speak. They can laugh. They can love.

Despite his death, Mike (Michael McKidd) has a mission: to travel across American and get back to the love of his life. He teams up with jackass slacker Brent (Ross Kidder) and a friendly – to them, anyway – zombie, who they name Cheese (Markus Taylor), all the time unaware that Mike is being hunted by a secretive government agency… with a link to his past!

It is a reasonable premise with potential for both comedy and intrigue, but tragically Deadheads never really finds its pace. Like the shambling masses of undead, Deadheads bumbles along from place to place, not really developing anything character-wise, and I think it’s this lack of direction that makes it hard to love.

Part slacker movie, part road movie, part zombie movie, part bromance – Deadheads never really has full focus on any of this. The zombie element is never developed or explained, the buddies don’t have enough conflict and the slacking stops the moment they decide to travel to find Mike’s old girlfriend.

It is perhaps the awkward comedy that stops this being a classic. Occasionally it’s very smart, sometimes slapstick genius and at others it’s Scary Movie awful. The fact Brent apparently joined the ranks of the undead during a failed autoerotic asphyxiation attempt speaks volumes…

The stand-out performance comes from the dialogue-less Cheese, which perhaps also says a lot about the level of comedy on display. Visually it’s very good, but the comedic lines often fall flat and fail to amuse, featuring some truly extreme characters (I’m looking at Benjamin Webster’s insane military moron “Mcdinkle” here). Markus Taylor is oddly lovable as undead lug Cheese and he’s – bizarrely – one of the more sympathetic characters!

You can tell that Deadheads creators Brett and Drew Pierce want people to say their film is “a future cult classic”, and although it does angle for that crowd, it’s a little too safe to cater for that marketplace. It might reference everything from The Goonies to Star Wars (surprise!) but this doesn’t make it cult, it makes it geeky. I have seen a lot of that recently – horror films begging to obtain cult status – but only time will tell if Deadheads manages that feat. My gut says no.

Deadheads is enjoyable and funny. It never reaches the heights of Shaun of the Dead but blows other zombie-comedies out of the water on sheer originality, surpassing the likes of Last of the Living and Boy Eats Girl with ease. Not hilarious, not genius, not terrible – basically, Deadheads is dead okay.

Rating: ★★★★★½☆☆☆☆

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