Making a laugh-filled comedy with heart is next to impossible, and making a truly disturbing horror film can be a herculean feat, but making a horror-comedy that does both? Well now, that is a near miracle. I am pleased to tell you, Tony West (The Soup) has done just that with his new film Deadtectives. It seamlessly mixes real heart with gut-busting laughs and spine-tingling scares. Deadtectives made the festival circuit last year, but it has found a wide audience home through the streaming service Shudder.
Sam, played by Chris Geere (Pokemon: Detective Pikachu), is the head ghost hunter in a reality TV series known as The Deadtectives. Like any good ghost hunting show, they’ve never found any concrete evidence of the paranormal. The team of ghost hunters have no knowledge of the paranormal, nor have they ever actually seen a ghost and their audience is running out of patience. The show is running low on viewers, ideas and sponsors. It seems possessed cupcake stands and spooky cinematography just aren’t bringing people in like they used to.
“[Deadtectives] mixes real heart with gut-busting laughs and spine-tingling scares.”
The team is brought before a very unhappy exec for a make-or-break pitch to save the show. Luckily, their idea to shoot in a haunted Mexico City mansion pleases the exec. They get one last shot to get something remarkable. There’s one condition, though. They have to bring along a dreaded hawk of a producer named Abril, played by Martha Higareda (Altered Carbon). Abril knows Mexico City, speaks Spanish and, most importantly to the exec, will not tolerate anything less than the highest quality production. If anyone can whip this crew into shape, it’s Abril.
This means it is time to either make the best show of their careers or they are going down “en fuego”. Once they get to this wonderfully creepy mansion, the team realizes the truth to the saying ‘be careful what you wish for.’ It seems obvious, but what is the ultimate goal of a ghost hunter? Well, finding proof of the paranormal, right? That’s right. Finding ghosts is the goal. If, however, the ghost hunter in question doesn’t believe in the paranormal and wouldn’t have the slightest clue what to do if he met a ghost, things don’t go very well.
No matter what Sam believes, the ghosts in this mansion are real and they are nothing like Casper. The Deadtectives are now faced with truly horrifying ghosts and, called on their bluff, have no idea what to do. A seamless mixture of comedy and terror ensues. The production team faces not one type of ghost, but several and they all seem to be hovering just shy of the afterlife for different reasons. They are victims of murders, suicide, Mayan curses, you name it. Sure, the team tries to capture as much footage as they can, but the greater challenge is escaping the mansion with their lives. This is where the movie switches from an Edgar Wright style comedy, with jokes delivered at lightning speed, to a gritty, gory ghost movie. The time for laughs is over.
This movie succeeds on all fronts. The jokes are actually funny and will have you laughing out loud. The comedy writing is superb and the jokes and gags are plentiful. Having our heroes be hapless poseurs works perfectly. When they decide to ‘suit up’ to face the ghouls, they use the most 80’s, neon gear imaginable. Does it help? No, but they sure look cool. In fact, the retro style of the production design, in general, works well and fits with the current climate of pop culture.
“A seamless mixture of comedy and terror…”
The scares are also genuinely good. There is more than one effective jump scare and there is spooky ambiance galore in that mansion. Truly, the design work of the mansion especially is textured and grounded. The real horror comes in the fantastic character and effects by Antonio Garfias (Apocalypto, Fast & Furious). The special effects are all practical effects and I loved every second the ghosts were on screen. They are gory and ghoulish and just wonderful.
The filmmakers use their limited resources very effectively. There are so many amazing uses of transitions and camera angles. It is a study in limited budget filmmaking. In the end, we get a movie that is stylish, unique and trim. There is not a second of this flick I would cut. Every step in the plot matters and each turn is engaging. The characters are fleshed out and realistic. They will drive you crazy, crack you up and make you pull for them every step of the way.
Tony West delivers one of the best horror-comedies in years, and thanks to Shudder, you will finally get your chance to see it. If you are a fan of movies like Beetlejuice, you are going to love it! Let us know what you thought of Deadtectives on Twitter, in the Nightmare on Film Street Subreddit, and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club!