Day 3 of Toronto After Dark 2011 was a long one. At least, it was for those that made it. I didn’t actually show up until the third film of the day, Deadheads. Although I missed some great stuff earlier, I was in for a treat with this film.
Deadheads is what I will now refer to as a rom-zom. I can’t think of a better way to describe it because that’s exactly what it is, a romantic zombie comedy. Two guys, both living impaired we’ll call them, meet up and head out into the world in search of what everyone is really looking for, true love. Along the way they’re hunted down by agents from a secret corporation looking to catch the two zombie friends who can still think, talk, and act as if they were still alive, even if they aren’t anymore.
Those two zombies, Mike (Michael McKiddy) and Brent (Ross Kidder), are trying to find Mike’s long lost love Ellie (Natalie Victoria). She happens to be long lost because when Mike wakes up in some strange compartment that looks like it came from Aliens, he soon realizes that he’s a zombie and has been dead for 3 years. He runs into Brent and reluctantly sets off to find Ellie. Along their way they run into a slightly less intelligent zombie that Brent names Cheese (Markus Taylor) and a kind, old man, Cliff (Harry Burkey), who offers them a ride, even though it’s quite obvious they’re zombies.
Hot on their trail is McDinkle (Benjamin Webster) and Gillman (Greg Dow), two bumbling employees sent out to retrieve the two friends. Seems they may have been part of an experiment, probably to create some undead army recruits, although I can’t really remember if it was ever truly revealed. The story is much more about the journey to reunite Mike and Ellie. I never thought a zombie film could be full of so much heart, and I don’t mean the eating kind. By the end, I really connected with the characters and emotions ran from happy to sad. Things don’t always go as planned and it was almost heartbreaking to see some of the outcomes.
Thankfully the film was also hilarious. Early on Mike loses an arm. Of course he can just stick it back on again, which leads to plenty of awkward situations. It’s hard to hide the fact that you’re a zombie when a severed arm doesn’t slow you down. Everybody gets in on the jokes. Cheese is like their zombie pet, McDinkle is constantly trying to go around shooting everything, Brent is Mike’s cheerleader just because he can be, and Cliff is a hardass with a heart of gold and a filthy mouth. Each character has that certain something to get you invested in their story.
There were audible gasps from the crowd at certain moments, and of course, the usual cheers when the hero would succeed at something. The crowd was right into it and Brett and Drew Pierce have managed to balance more than one genre perfectly. A friend of mine has a soft spot for romantic comedies, and now he’ll be able to watch one that even I don’t mind sitting through.
Obviously the comparison to Shaun of the Dead will happen, but I’m thinking I may have enjoyed this one more than Shaun. It just works so well from start to finish, even if there are some huge jumps in logic throughout the film. The fact that nobody openly questions whether or not the two guys are actually zombies seemed strange. I’m sure I could think of a few reasons why it would happen in the film so I just accepted it. Better to sit back and enjoy what a great film Deadheads is instead of nitpicking over pointless little details like that. Now if they could only start a trend of rom-zom’s with this one.
In the shadows – Will