A title like Dead Dicks is bound to turn heads for all of the wrong reasons. And while it sounds like something too racy to talk about, it’s actually a smartly written horror film that highlights the pitfalls of mental illness from duelling perspectives.

The film wastes no time setting up the story, introducing the brother-sister duo who tells this harrowing tale within the first few minutes. It opens with Becca (Jillian Harris) who’s at work when she receives a barrage of troubling voicemails from her suicidal brother Richie (Heston Horwin). Taking his history into account, she makes a mad dash over to his place to find loud music playing and Richie hanged in the closet. 

The kicker is, he’s not dead. In the midst of her despair over the discovery of his lifeless body, he appears behind her naked with a bowl of cereal in tow. Weirder still, there are two other self-slain Richie look-a-likes in the bathtub and kitchen. Richie is understandably freaked out by the night’s events and called her over to help him unpack this mystery. What happens next is a somewhat-gory adventure that leads them to a deeper understanding of their sibling bond and who they are as individuals. 

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Dead Dicks is a Canadian production directed by Chris Bavota and Lee Paula Springer that is clearly made on a shoestring budget, but the film is rich with captivating talent. And for all of its twists and turns, it’s a nuanced and, at times, humorous portrayal of how mental illness can feel like a trap for those suffering and their caregivers. 

It’s also peppered with many teachable moments, but the one that stands out the most is one that comes by way of its title. Although he goes by Richie in the film, Dick is a nickname commonly used for people named Richard—and all of a sudden the name starts to make sense.

It makes a good case for the age-old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” doesn’t it? There’s a lot of good that would have gone to waste judging Dead Dicks by name alone. 

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