In New Zealand comedy, Dead, Marbles (Thomas Sainsbury) can see ghosts, thanks to a purple solution made up of marijuana and neurological medication, which when injected, gives him approximately one hour of seeing them. He’s currently using this precious gift to help people who have lost friends and family, and opening scenes see Marbles acting as a ‘condweet’ (conduit) in order to give family members closure and to help the spirits move on. These opening scenes manage to be both funny and poignant in their representation of life, death and grief.
As Marbles is coming to the end of one of these hour-long sessions, he’s approached by recently deceased cop Tagg (Hayden J. Weal), still wearing his cop uniform, but missing his trousers, which reveal that he is actually wearing pink underwear! Tagg is desperate for Marbles to help find who murdered him, believing it to be the same person responsible for a spate of recent murders in the area. Marbles takes some convincing, but the promise of benefitting from Tagg’s life insurance payout soon changes his mind. The pair enlist the help of Tagg’s foster sister Yana (Tomai Ihaia), who wasn’t even aware that Tagg had died, and the trio set about trying to crack the case.
Director Hayden J Weal co-wrote the film with Sainsbury and they also star opposite each other as Marbles and Tagg. They have a natural chemistry, riffing off one another with ease, and without them, I really feel that Dead would have struggled a lot more than it does. The murder mystery plot, which dominates much of the middle section, isn’t particularly entertaining at times but is peppered with some interesting ideas which just about hold interest. We discover that ghosts who are unable to resolve their earthy problems degrade over time into shuffling zombies and there’s a plot involving Marbles’ mother and his deceased father, which helps to motivate and drive Marbles forward.
It’s a little messy in places, especially in the final scenes, which just felt unnecessarily complicated, but Dead boasts some great performances and a script which manages to pack a lot of heart and warmth.
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