Thomas Sainsbury & Hayden J. Weal bring fun buddy cop energy to this story of two Kiwi guys who better themselves despite the hurdle of one being dead already. The co-stars who co-write (also, one of them directs) successfully mix a few tones together but heart and humor–or at least the promise of it right around the corner– thankfully remain present throughout. I laughed out loud at a few parts of Dead I actually still remember and had a good time from beginning to end with what felt like the extended pilot episode for an ongoing sitcom/drama series of ghostly shenanigans (meant mostly a compliment).
Dane “Marbles” Marbeck (Thomas Sainsbury) can see ghosts. He spends much of his time helping the recently dead pass on and getting baked, however most people–like his mom (Jennifer Ward-Lealand) or drug dealer/lone friend (Mayen Mehta)–only know him for the second part. To be fair, Marbles technically *needs* be high on his unique drug concoction in order to interact with those on the ghostly plane of existence so what can he do but light up? Recently killed police officer Jayson Tagg (Hayden J. Weal) regretfully finds himself in need of Marbles’ stoned services in order to put a stop to a series of murders he and sister, Yana (Tomai Ihaia), were investigating. Tagg refuses to let his own death get in the way of solving the case whether Marbles feels like helping or not…
I don’t want to spend the whole time singing the praises of the writers/stars/director Weal & Sainsbury who largely nail it, just know that I could. I cared about what was going on as well as the characters themselves and, most importantly, I was entertained by it. While several ghosts in various states of unpleasant death and the general subject matter of multiple murders might suggest a perhaps morbid air to things I don’t think Dead ever veers far from good-humored character-centric comedy. Plus, its got some good gay representation to appreciate even if I have a couple criticisms (me?!) that veer into spoiler territory. To be nice and vague, I’m both pleased to get some gays while also wishing they were perhaps more present on the proactive side of things.
My biggest issues would probably be the *many* sitcom-esque coincidences of characters bumping into each other, randomly showing up when the plot requires, and other quick & easy maneuvers required for everything to work (especially in the last third). I understand that mindset a little more when it’s a TV episode with 20ish minutes to pack everything in, though it’s used effectively here to gloss over minutia the movie doesn’t wish to linger on so kudos. I’m sure this all has something to do with Dead feeling like a great extra long pilot episode to me, but at the end of the day I’ll say I both like the movie and would watch more of this hypothetical show.
Of course I was briefly reminded of 1996’s The Frighteners early on with the New Zealand setting and general premise of a slacker guy chatting/palling around with ghosts, but beyond those similarities Dead doesn’t overlap very much. Also, as titles go I think they could have done better. Anyway, if you like ghostly comedies and want to hang out in New Zealand for a little bit then absolutely give this a chance. Oh, and there’s a couple little tags so stick around for the credits.
8 out of 10 Ghost Cops