★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
This horror comedy about two ghosts trying to work their way out of purgatory features humor that ranges from the broad to the uncomfortable, and is brought to cinematic life by a game cast.
Directed by Gabe Casdorph and Gabe Martinez
Quirky horror comedy He’s Dead and So Am I is an occasionally uncomfortable, but consistently entertaining film. The premise of wayward souls hoping to find their way through the Pearly Gates is a well-traversed one in cinema, but codirectors Gabe Casdorph and Gabe Martinez take their film to wholly unexpected places.
Lance (Casdorph) and Sandra (Melanie Stone) are friends who died together and became ghosts trapped in purgatory — which, because of where they died, happens to be a beautiful area of forest in Utah. Lance develops a crush on a frequent visitor to the area, a woman named Daphne (Aubrey Reynolds). She is an architect whose sister has gone missing. The ghostly duo hatches a scheme to try to help Daphne find her sister, which may turn out to be a good deed they think will finally land them a spot in Heaven. A denizen of Hell named Bartholomew (Alex Gunter) tries to tempt the pair into his stomping grounds by way of promises with a catch, though.
Characterization and performances are both strong points in He’s Dead and So Am I. Characters that tread the fine line between annoying and acceptable thankfully never step over that line into exasperating because of solid turns by the actors portraying them. Particularly, the foul-mouthed, impertinent Sandra borders on grating, but Stone plays her with enough awkward charm and sympathy to warrant rooting for her as a protagonist. Lance has an initially easier way about him thanks in large part toCasdorph’s charmingly oddball portrayal, though the character goes into some uneasy territory in the third act. Reynolds does a marvelous job as the film’s most sympathetic main character.
Casdorph and Martinez, working from a screenplay by the latter, push envelopes and boundaries with some of their dialogue, which will likely lead to divisive reactions from viewers. The directors and cast are all-in on their commitment to the provocation, though, so fans of edgy comedy should find plenty to enjoy here. Tonal shifts when the story heads down a darker path — mostly in the third act — are somewhat jarring.
Overall, He’s Dead and So Am I is one of the most challenging horror comedies of this year, and is the type of spirited independent effort that should find a great deal of success on its film festival run and beyond.
He’s Dead and So Am I screens as part of the virtual Chattanooga Film Festival, which runs online from June 24–29, 2021. For more information, visit https://www.chattfilmfest.org/.