Life is not good for Dane “Marbles” Marbeck; it’s two years since his father died and his mother Janine has decided to sell the family farm, generously giving him forty-eight hours to find the cash to make a better offer knowing full well that he can’t do it, and his “best friend” is a drug dealer. Still, it could be worse: he could be dead.
Officer Jayson Tagg of the Aotearoa Police Service is dead and missing his trousers, seventh victim of the serial killer he had been trying to track down, the case unfinished business with a personal connection which he will need Marbles’ assistance to solve, because with the help of copious illicit self-medication Marbles can talk to the dead.
More accustomed to helping the dead pass over and the bereaved to find peace, Marbles is reluctant but Tagg is insistent; awkwardly visiting Tagg’s sister Yana to view the evidence, they draw connections between the victims, all good looking men of the same body type, and realise someone is targeting the Auckland gay bars, Tagg boldly taking Marbles on an uncomfortable undercover operation to hunt for leads.
Directed by Hayden J Weal who plays Tagg from a script co-written with Thomas Sainsbury who plays Marbles, Dead is as much a paranormal thriller as a knockabout buddy comedy, cleverly structured with clues, false leads and dead ends – and that’s before they run into Tagg’s reanimated body staggering through the woods.
Tagg needing to admit who he was in life before he can accept that he is dead, Marbles cannot accept that the one soul he was not able to say goodbye was his father, not helped by his mother’s apparent indifference, Jennifer Ward-Lealand’s frosty Janine a contrast to Tōmairangi Ihaia’s Yana who distracts herself from her own problems with a stubborn determination to help.
Built around the mismatched but believable friendship of Marbles and Tagg, despite the multiple murders and increasing number of ghouls shambling through the streets and undergrowth Dead is a sweet-natured film, both of them decent and kind men trying to do their best in this world and the next.