DEAD (2020) Reviews of stoner comedy horror

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‘A murder mystery with ghosts’

Dead is a 2020 New Zealand comedy horror feature film about a stoner who can see ghosts and a recently dead cop searching for a serial killer.

Directed by Hayden J. Weal (Chronesthesia aka Love and Time Travel) from a screenplay co-written with Thomas Sainsbury (Wellington Paranormal; Alien Addiction; Guns Akimbo), both of whom star, the Augusto production also features Tomai Ihaia, Jennifer Ward-Lealand, Michael Hurst and Cameron Rhodes.


Marbles (Thomas Sainsbury), a hapless stoner, who can see ghosts and Tagg (Hayden J. Weal), a recently dead wannabe super-cop, both need to find a serial killer.

Can a critical ghost cop and a directionless stoner get over their prejudices and work together to save lives – and deaths?


“It’s not that Dead is unfunny – it’s just not consistently funny enough. The jokes don’t always land, and sometimes they’re on-the-nose, like Marbles and Tagg talking about possession as a way to be inside each other. That’s where Dead really feels like a lost opportunity, and occasionally veers into the uncomfortable.” Austin Chronicle

“There are never enough clues to call it a proper murder mystery, but everything does come together in a satisfying way. Not to mention when Dead’s mood shifts to this darker place, there isn’t a joke insight to break the mood or tension. Nothing in Dead is especially new, but it does take this familiar trail with an acrobatic deftness that doesn’t make it feel fresh, but does make for a smooth, comfortable journey.” Blood Brothers

“It’s a fun little movie which may have a little trouble getting traction outside of New Zealand […] but folks who dig this sort of thing could do worse than check it out. Weal, Sainsbury, and company have their eye on the supernatural-mystery-comedy ball and seldom stumble.” eFilm Critic

“A gentle comedy with some beautifully crafted dialogue, Dead is one of those films you’ll find yourself hunting down every few months when you’re feeling low, knowing that it will bring a smile to your face. It’s messy in places and the final scenes are unnecessarily complicated, but it has a lot of personality and a lot of heart.” Eye for Film

“It relies on a lot of light-hearted humour and does it’s best to charm the viewer, a feat it manages for most of the runtime. Things do get a little too silly towards the end, but Weal just about manages to keep the wheels from falling off.” The Hollywood News

“Not a lot of movies simultaneously get right into things and immediately establish a fun, laid-back feel the way that Dead does, especially among the sort of supernatural comedies that most desperately want to pull that off. That confidence lets it dive into its goofy premise quickly enough to have time to explore and expand as well as fit in a bunch of gags despite running just 90 minutes.” Jay’s Movie Blog

“Like Extra Ordinary, it’s mostly patter comedy – the living and dead double act has a nice Randall and Hopkirk vibe – but springs a few serious horror moments, with an afterlife-cycle for ghosts that finds them degrading from reasonably coherent to shambling zombie if they don’t solve their earthly problems and move on.” The Kim Newman Web Site

“Shot for the same amount of money that The Rock spends on a manicure, this teeny-weeny ghosts and ghouls story uses all the tricks of the filmmaker’s trade to make this heart-warming and very entertaining film look and feel great. It’s helped by a tight simple premise, great performances and a cracking script.” Newshub

“for the most part, this is an affectionate portrait of a nice guy who has not always been treated nicely by others, trying to bury the bad things from his past and to live a life without regrets. The plotting ambles about like someone who has smoked a little bit too much pot, and the humour is hit and miss,  but even after some of its gags die, Dead is good-natured enough to keep coming back to life.” Projected Figures

“Despite the supernatural element, it can’t really be classed as a horror-comedy, and there’s plenty of heart to the characters, even the drug dealer! There are more moments that make you smile rather than laugh out loud, but when everything fits together as well as this does, that’s not an issue. Highly recommended.” Starburst


The U.S. premiere of Dead was at the Dancing Spider Film Festival on August 22nd 2020, followed by the Horrible Imaginings Virtual Film Festival on September 4th 2020.

Dead was released in virtual cinemas on September 25th and released on VOD platforms by 1091 Media on October 6th 2020.

Cast and characters:

Hayden J. Weal … Tagg – Guns Akimbo (Daniel Radcliffe’s stand-in)
Thomas Sainsbury … Marbles – Wellington Paranormal; Alien Addiction; Guns Akimbo
Tomai Ihaia … Yana
Jennifer Ward-Lealand … Janine
Michael Hurst … Ross
Cameron Rhodes … Lloyd – Deathgasm; Housebound
Jess Sayer … Henna
Kayne Peters … Xavier

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