Zombie movies have been done to death. We’ve practically seen zombies do just about anything and put them in about every situation you’d think possible. That’s why when I heard about DeadHeads showing at the Austin Film Festival, I was surprised that someone had come up with an idea that hadn’t been touched on yet and made plans to see it opening night.
The Pierce Brothers have taken the prototypical zombie film and flipped it on its head. Do the zombies shamble around and eat people? Yes, but not Mike (Michael McKiddy) and Brent (Ross Kidder). They’re fully aware, walking talking zombies. Yes, they can’t die except trauma to the head, and yes they’re having trouble keeping track of their body parts which get ripped or fall off. But they have conversations, they bond and Mike really wants to get back to the one true love of his life, the stunningly beautiful Ellie (Natalie Victoria). So these two undead pals set off on a road trip to allow Mike to finally tell his high school sweetheart how he truly feels. So, it’s really a romantic, road trip comedy with a horror edge and some violence and gore.
While DeadHeads succeeds superficially as a new idea, it being a freshman full length movie shines through in the final product. That’s not a dig, really. There’s a lot to like here despite its lack of polish. First off are the wonderful practical effects. It’s sad to say that in today’s day and age, to see actual blood and body pieces being used are a refreshing thing, but that’s what the overabundance of CGI in horror movies have left us with. And DeadHeads doesn’t disappoint.
Much of the work here is very well done, including some great mad scientist scenes with half bodies coming back to life, certainly a shout out to Re-Animator. And these throwbacks to the classics are big and heavy in this comedy. Brent takes to conjuring up several pop culture references, clearly placing the world in ours and there’s even a sideline trip to a drive-in theater where they sit down to watch Evil Dead. And why wouldn’t they? The Pierce Brother’s father is Bart Pierce who did the photographic special effects on that very film. These comedic shout-outs are hit and miss, but the ones that do work certainly brought the laughs. I know from now on, if I ever get attacked by a werewolf I’ll get a chicken sandwich ready. Just see the movie and you’ll understand. McKiddy’s Mike plays a good straight man to the wacky antics of Kidder who has some of the more hilarious lines. Their zombie companion Cheese (Markus Taylor) looks and plays terrifically as a big, overgrown, man eating pet. The over the top performance from Benjamin Webster, as the psychotic McDinkle, who’s tasked to hunt our intrepid pair down, is a nice foil for our undead duo.
DeadHeads is an amusing, low budget movie that does a lot with what it’s been given. The jokes don’t always work, it runs a little long and sometimes the cast comes off a little stiff, but if anything it’s worth a visit because it is a breath of fresh air in a very crowded market.