Horror films don’t have to be all doom and gloom. In fact, a contender for the goriest film ever made, Braindead, also happens to be hilarious. There is plenty of room for black comedy in the genre. Yes, laughing at the blood and guts and death in a comedy horror is morbid, but no less so than watching a serious take on horror. All horror fans are a little bit diseased in that way.
Deadtectives is a comedy horror flick from 2018. It saw some play in a few film festivals, but otherwise has gone straight to streaming services. Written by Tony West and David Clayton Rogers, with West also directing, Deadtectives follows an eponymous ghost hunting television show that has to make a splash for the season finale, otherwise it faces cancellation. The show is hosted by brothers Sam and Lloyd (Chris Geere and David Newman), alongside psychic Javier (José María de Tavira). Sam’s wife, Kate (Tina Ivlev), serves as producer. The show is fake. All the shenanigans they film are the result of special effects, and the psychic is about as clairvoyant as a sock. Only Lloyd believes in ghosts, while the others treat him as something of an overenthusiastic dork.
After they are read the riot act by the network, they are saddled with another producer, Abril (Martha Higareda), and a special effects man, Bob (Mark Riley). Then, the entire crew is off to Mexico to shoot an episode at a haunted mansion. Viewers will be able to see where this is going.
Not long after they begin filming at the mansion, the ghostly activities commence. At first, the crew thinks that all the spooky stuff is Bob’s doing, but then they find his corpse. Soon after, Javier meets his end and it’s clear the mansion is not only haunted for real, but is home to a real nasty spirit.
There have been a few films with a similar plot released in recent years, most notably Grave Encounters. This is not the dark and serious affairs those films were. There’s a certain amount of blood and gore to this, but the focus is on the absurdity of the situation, similar to Shaun of the Dead. Everything is well-lit and not frightening, as well. The only time this film makes an effort to frighten the audience is during the occasional jump scare. This film, by intention, lacks all of the anticipatory dread of other ghost flicks.
The humor is hit and miss. It’s not a joke-a-second comedy or a spoof. It’s silly. Early on, the cheekiness of the humor was off-putting, as it seemed to be trying too hard to be funny. When the film settles down into its main plot, the swiftness of the pace works better with the kind of comedy used by West and Rogers.
I’m far from the best person to judge comedy on its merits. My self-taught expertise is in shitty movies and horror. It’s not shitty, so the best way for me to approach this film is from the standpoint of horror. My number one takeaway is that I’m glad the filmmakers chose not to make this a found footage flick. Most of the ‘ghost hunters find real ghosts’ flicks are found footage. It’s a tired method of filmmaking, and doesn’t survive scrutiny all that well.
And, while this is not the type of horror film meant to frighten, that doesn’t mean the horror is easily dismissed. There’s a decent story here, in between all the jokes and tomfoolery.
The cast wasn’t the best, and the humorous sidekick character (Lloyd) is even more played than found footage, but they did their jobs.
Deadtectives is about as lighthearted as a film featuring disembowelment can get. It brings forth some chuckles, and manages to scratch the horror movie itch. When horror gets too dark, stepping just a touch into the light can be a good thing.