Films which mix horror and comedy are notoriously difficult to get right. The balance is tricky, and often a film will simply end up as a laugh-free mess rather than a carefully integrated mix of the two genres. Dead Heads manages to get more right than it does wrong, and the result is a surprisingly entertaining little film that’s filled with a large amount of warmth and good humour.
Mike wakes up in some kind of medical facility. When he escapes he encounters the undead hordes rampaging across the land and reluctantly teams up with another guy called Brent. It soon becomes apparent that Mike and Brent are also zombies, but for some reason they can talk and have also retained a level of self-awareness the other zombies have lost.
After a wonderfully affectionate scene that tips its hat to Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and a nicely staged encounter in a redneck bar, the two decide to go cross-country – accompanied by a pet zombie called Cheese – in search of Mike’s girlfriend. In a nice touch, their plan comes about simply because they can’t think of what else to do. Soon government officials, men in hazmat suits, and the girlfriend’s shady father are in pursuit, and what follows is a comedy-horror road trip that just about gets the balance right.
The plus points here are decent production values, good effects work (all done in-camera; no cheap CGI), committed performances by everyone involved, and some genuinely funny and sparkling dialogue. The two male leads – McKiddy and Kidder – have real chemistry, and their friendship forms the heart of the film. Two hazmat-suited henchmen provide belly laughs, there’s a running joke about Mike constantly having his arm torn off, and one character exists as a direct homage to Ben from Night of the Living Dead – this kind of affection and self-awareness can so easily spoil a film, but here it acts to unite the whole and demonstrate that the filmmakers have a lot of love for what they are doing.
Dead Heads is a difficult film to dislike: the whole thing is done with such knowing charm that it pulls you willingly along for the ride. Yes, it’s flawed and silly and runs out of steam in the end, but the good points outweigh the bad and the leads are both funny and likeable enough to ensure that an audience invests in their story.
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