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ARTSPLOITATION

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Chris Bavota, Lee Paula Springer
Cast:
Heston Horwin, Jillian Harris, Matt Keyes
Writing Credits:
Chris Bavota, Lee Paula Springer

Synopsis:
After Becca receives a distressing call from her suicidal brother Richie, she rushes over to his apartment and finds him alive and well - surrounded by copies of his own dead body.

MPAA:
Rated NR.

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Audio:
English Dolby 5.1
English Dolby 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 83 min.
Price: $24.95
Release Date: 7/28/2020

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Writers/Directors Chris Bavota and Lee Paula Springer
• Video Diaries
• FX Featurette
• Previews


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RELATED REVIEWS


Dead Dicks [Blu-Ray] (2019)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 21, 2020)

With a title like Dead Dicks, this 2019 movie could enter any number of different genres. If you checked off “disturbing sci-fi black comedy”, congrats!

A troubled young man, Richie (Heston Horwin) wants to kill himself. When his concerned sister Becca (Jillian Harris) arrives at his apartment, she discovers that Richie succeeded – sort of.

While Richie did end his life, a new version of Richie appeared. His repeated attempts leave an apartment full of Richie corpses as he and Becca try to solve this perplexing mystery.

When it comes to movies, one would like a clever idea to come paired with solid execution as well. If a viewer can only choose one of those two, however, it becomes a dilemma to select which element feels more important.

I’d lean toward execution. A skilled filmmaker can deliver a quality product with cliché material, but even the best concept can’t overcome flawed talent behind and/or in front of the camera.

As a first attempt from directors Chris Bavota and Lee Paula Springer, Dicks gets credit for an interesting premise. Sure, it leans on the Groundhog Day template to a degree, but it develops in a variety of moderately interesting ways.

However, none of the story areas evolve quite as well as they should, partly because Dicks gets bogged down in unnecessary character melodrama. Sure, I understand why we need some background about Richie’s suicidal nature, but the film spends too much time with not especially compelling material in that vein.

This becomes a drawback because all we really care about relates to the mystery of the odd “vaginal opening” in Richie’s wall and why he reincarnates every time he dies. The elements related to the Becca/Richie relationship and history seem gratuitous too much of the time and the never add much.

Dicks also can’t find a consistent tone, as it bops from melodrama to parody to farce to black comedy to sci-fi fantasy with alacrity. Perhaps more experienced filmmakers could manage these, but Springer and Bavota lack the ability to transition smoothly from one impression to the other, so we end up with clumsy shifts that don’t connect.

Amateurish acting doesn’t help. Horwin offers a competent performance, but Harris seems broad and unnatural, as do the handful of supporting performers.

At its best, Dead Dicks offers some interesting fantasy plot devices, but the film feels like the low-budget directorial debut it is. Though there’s enough here to keep the viewer involved, the flaws make it an erratic ride.


The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio C-/ Bonus B-

Dead Dicks appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a pretty solid presentation.

Sharpness worked well most of the time. Though occasional shots felt a little tentative, the image usually came across with nice accuracy.

No signs of jagged edges or moiré effects appeared, and I saw no edge haloes. Source flaws also failed to materialize.

Colors leaned toward a fairly amber palette, with other hues involved as necessary – mainly a red/orange impression. While these failed to excel, they seemed appropriate for the project.

Blacks looked dark and deep, and shadows seemed largely smooth and concise. Though this never became a great image, it offered a good representation of the material.

On the other hand, the film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack fell short of expectations. That occurred partly due to the lack of a lossless option, as a circa 2020 Blu-ray shouldn’t come solely with lossy Dolby Digital audio.

The movie’s soundfield also failed to impress. Localization seemed blotchy at best, with elements that felt spread across the front in a blurry manner.

This meant dialogue manifested from an area around the front center, but speech seemed to float between the speakers in an odd way. Music showed passable stereo imaging at best, and effects felt like broad mono, without much in terms of accurate placement or movement.

If the mix used the surrounds to any degree, I didn’t detect it. This became a heavily forward-oriented track with only the most minor utilization of the back speakers at best.

Audio quality compensated for the iffy soundscape somewhat. Speech could feel a bit thick and muddy, but the lines remained easily intelligible despite lackluster recordings.

Music offered pretty good range, and effects seemed reasonably accurate and full. Given the bland speech, the lossy source and the lackluster soundfield, this mix merited a “C-“ but just barely, as I almost thought it entered “D” territory.

When we shift to extras, we open with an audio commentary from writers/directors Chris Bavota and Lee Paula Springer. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at the project’s path to the screen, story/characters, cast and performances, sets and production design, music, various effects, editing and related areas.

Though a somewhat dry chat, the commentary offers a pretty good array of insights. While I might like a little more about the challenges of super-low-budget filmmaking, we still find a mostly informative discussion.

Four Video Diaries fill a total of 17 minutes, 31 seconds and bring notes from Springer and Bavota. They tell us about the challenges of first-time feature filmmakers and production issues within the low-budget indie world.

I thought these might offer glimpses of the shoot, but instead, Springer and Bavota mainly just talk to the camera. We do get a few looks at auditions, the table read and similar elements, though.

Some of this repeats from the commentary but the “Diaries” still offer some useful information. The approach takes us through the production in chronological order, a choice that adds perspective.

An FX Featurette goes for two minutes and shows raw footage of the practical effects processes. Short and without commentary, we don’t get a lot from this reel.

Under Artsploitation Trailers, we find promos for Bloody Knuckles, The Dead Ones, Snowflake and Welcome to the Circle. No trailer for Dicks appears here.

At times, Dead Dicks provides an engaging mix of fantasy and dark comedy. However, the fairly amateurish execution of the project means it fails to live up to its potential. The Blu-ray brings fairly good picture along with mediocre audio and a few bonus materials. This becomes a watchable but inconsistent flick.

Viewer Film Ratings: 5 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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