• Dead Dicks (Artsploitation Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Artsploitation Films
    Released on: July 28th, 2020.
    Director: Chris Bavota, Lee Paula Springer
    Cast: Heston Horwin, Jillian Harris, Matt Keyes, Leyda Aleyli, Dave Campbell
    Year: 2019
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    Dead Dicks – Movie Review:

    Montreal-based co-writers/co-directors Chris Bavota and Lee Paula Springer show, with their feature film debut Dead Dicks, from 2019, what can be done with a lot of creativity and a little bit of money. This isn’t an effect-heavy picture and, well, the title might be misleading in certain ways, but the picture does a great job out of deftly exploiting all that it can out of its minimalist locations and small but dedicated cast.

    The story? Becca (Jillian Harris) has just been accepted to graduate school after having worked as a caregiver for a little while, struggling to make ends meet. The biggest issue, however, is having to move out of town for school and leaving her bi-polar brother, Richie (Heston Horwin), who we see try to suffocate himself with a plastic bag in the opening scene.

    Becca gets a message from Richie shortly after she's notified of her acceptance, and despite the odd hour of the evening she decides to go pay him a visit. When she arrives, the music is blasting and the neighbor, Matt (Matt Keyes), is less than pleased. Regardless, she makes her way into her brother's apartment only to find a corpse in the closet, a corpse that looks an awful lot like her brother, who is not dead at all. Richie tries to explain to his sister what's happening, and after he gives her a strange, practical demonstration, she starts to see things from his point of view. However, as the night moves closer to the day, things get weirder and weirder for both of them – and it just might have something to do with the rather interesting looking ‘hole’ in the wall…

    We’ll leave it at that because there are a few interesting twists here that we don’t want to spoil. Briskly paced at eighty-three-minutes (with almost five of those minutes made up of the closing credits), Dead Dicks doesn’t waste any time, and it’s all the better for it. Bavota and Springer do a great job of keeping the audience guessing, taking the film into some dark territory at times to be sure, but also layering the film with plenty of effective instances of legitimately dark, but effective, comedy. The movie is nicely shot and very competently put together, without looking overly stylized, and the production values are strong across the board for a movie that was clearly made with a budget that can accurately and charitably be described as modest. It’s all up there on the screen, with a quality score from Julien Verschooris helping to add to the mood and the tension in all the ways that a good score should.

    That said, as clever and creative as the film is, much of the credit is due the three leads. Heston Horwin delivers a bold and brazen performance, playing his character well and with a lot of energy without overdoing it (something that would have been very easy to do here and which could have potentially sank the film). Jillian Harris is just as good, completely believable in her part and quite sympathetic in a lot of ways. She creates the most relatable character in the film and does a great job of it. Matt Keyes doesn’t have quite as much to do as the other two but makes the most of his time in the movie, playing the irritated neighbor with some appreciable authenticity (if you’ve ever lived near an irritable neighbor, you’ll get it).

    Dead Dicks – Blu-ray Review:

    Artsploitation Films brings Dead Dicks to Blu-ray taking up just under 18GBs of space on a 25GB disc featuring an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen. Shot digitally, there’s nary a blemish to be seen and the image is spotless. There are some minor compression artifacts noticeable in the darker sequences but otherwise, no complaints at all. Colors look good, nice and natural, and we get solid, inky blacks and nice, realistic looking skin tones. Detail is very strong throughout and there’s a nice amount of depth to the picture. All in all, this looks quite good.

    There isn’t a lossless audio option included here but you do get your choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, in the film’s native English. Optional subtitles are provided, also in English. While, obviously, lossless would have been preferable the 5.1 mix here is of good quality. Dialogue stays clean and clear, there are no problems with even a trace of hiss or distortion and everything sounds quite good.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary with co-writers/co-directors Chris Bavota and Lee Paula Springer that opens with discussion of shooting the film in a burrough of Montreal over ten days, not including setup and strike time. From there, they cover who did what on set, definitely paying tribute to pretty much everyone who pitched in on the picture as the commentary plays out, and then giving us plenty of stories about what it was like on set, details of the opening suicide attempt, how they cast the film, the disturbing qualities of a severed penis tip, a tribute to Cronenber hidden in the film, how and why so much art came to adorn the walls in teh film, how Heston Horwin prepared for his nude scene, securing locations for the shoot, how they got along with the cast and crew, the details involved in creating the 'hole' on the wall in the film, editing tricks employed to make the locations work for some key scenes and quite a bit more.

    As to the featurettes, the disc includes four video diaries with Bavota and Springer that run 5:37, 5:55, 3:28 and 2:31. These diaries cover what it's like making their first independent film, the locations and equipment needed to pull this off, how things can and do fall into place despite people getting overwhelmed, casting the film, trying to make the most of down time, the importance of storyboarding, the toils of having to deal with paperwork, shooting without permits, reviewing the rushes, having to learn as you go, effects work, reviewing the rushes and lots more.

    The disc also contains a two-minute 'FX Featurette' that shows off some of the casts that were made for the movie as well as how those casts were created, which is quite interesting to see.

    Also on hand are trailers for Bloody Knuckles, The Dead Ones, Snowflake and Welcome To The Circle as well as menus and chapter selection.

    Dead Dicks – The Final Word Review:

    The Dead Dicks is a quirky and unique mix of horror, comedy and character development shot with just the right amount of style and set to a really solid score. The acting is really good across the board and the filmmakers are savvy enough to ensure that the film’s low budget never gets in the way of the storytelling. Artsploitation Films’ Blu-ray release looks really nice, sounds just fine and contains some decent extra features as well. Recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Dead Dicks Blu-ray screen caps!