Genre-blending in films is nothing new, and in the era of horror comedies and superhero dramas, it is gaining momentum at lightning speed. Enter: The Civil Dead. Made on a meager budget of 30,000 dollars, it’s a pandemic pet project that accomplishes something many bigger-budget indies these days lack. It’s got heart, a good number of laughs, and tells the story of a conflict between two old friends that is… complicated. And that’s an understatement.
The film was written by Los Angeles-based comedian Clay Tatum, who commissioned the help of real-life bestie Whitmer Thomas to take on a co-starring role. The two play characters who share their real first names, and the film follows a simple yet expertly unnerving premise: One day, Clay is surprised to run into Whit – an old friend with whom he has lost touch. As the two are catching up, Whit makes a bizarre revelation: he is actually dead, and Clay is the only one who can see him. Yikes.
It’s a comedy through and through, but moments of drama pierce the film’s silly overlay and hint at something a bit darker. What would it be like to be dead and have only one person who can see you? Conversely, what if you were the only person who could see your dead friend? Talk about pressure. That ante is upped measurably when Clay – searching for an answer to his little problem – learns a girl who suffered his same fate wound up, shall we say, “unaliving” herself. Double yikes.
The Civil Dead takes a somewhat overdone ghostly trope and puts it in a sillier light. Still, the premise is unsettling enough to keep you feeling uneasy. Thomas and Tatum have undeniable chemistry which makes the flick that much more watchable. And the ending, which I won’t spoil, is one that will keep you pondering long after it’s over.
The Civil Dead is on VOD on February 17.