Directors/Screenplay – The Pierce Brothers, Producers – Andy Drummond, Brett Pierce, Drew Pierce & Kevin Van Hagen, Photography – Robert Toth, Music – Devin Burrows, Special Effects/Makeup Effects – Dead Pretzel FX, Special Effects Supervisor – Patrick Helpin, Production Design – Seven Milosavleski. Production Company – FroBro Films.
Michael McKiddy (Mike Kellerman), Ross Kidder (Brent Guthrie), Thomas Galasso (Thomas Jeremiah), Markus Taylor (Cheese), Ben Webster (McDinkle), Greg Dow (Gillman), Harry Burkey (Cliff), Natalie Victoria (Ellie Masterson), Eden Malyn (Emily), Leonard Kelly-Young (Charles Masterson)
Mike Kellerman comes around and makes the realisation that he is now a zombie. He encounters Brent Guthrie, another zombie who also has the capacity to think and speak (thanks to their having been injected with an experimental serum). Realising that three years is missing from his life, Mike wants to get back to his girlfriend Ellie and propose to her as he was planning to do before he was killed. Brent persuades him that being a zombie should not be an impediment to this and so they set out on a cross-country pilgrimage to Michigan to find Ellie. However, on their trail is the zombie hunter Thomas who has been given orders to capture them.
The zombie film has become legion throughout the latter half of the 2000s and into the 2010s. What started as a prolific output of homages and copies of the George Romero basics soon gave way to a great army of zombie movie parodies following the success of Shaun of the Dead (2004). These consisted either of films that spoofed the basics or else conducted gonzo collusions between zombies and the most unlikely of combinations as witness the likes of Zombie Beach Party (2003), Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead (2006), Attack Girls’ Swim Team vs. the Undead (2007), Z: A Zombie Musical (2007), Ninjas vs Zombies (2008), Zombie Strippers! (2008), Attack of the Vegan Zombies! (2009), George’s Intervention (2009), Zombies of Mass Destruction (2009), Romeo and Juliet vs the Living Dead (2009), Stag Night of the Dead (2009), Big Tits Zombie (2010), Santa Claus vs. the Zombies (2010), Bong of the Dead (2011), Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies (2012), Cockneys vs Zombies (2012), Pro Wrestlers vs Zombies (2014), Zombeavers (2014), MILFs vs Zombies (2015), Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015), Attack of the Lederhosen Zombies (2016), Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016) and Fat Ass Zombies (2020), among others. (For an overview of the genre see Zombie Films).
Deadheads comes from The Pierce Brothers, Brett and Drew. The Pierce Brothers are the sons of Bart Pierce who worked as photographic effects supervisor on the original The Evil Dead (1981). (This is something that makes Deadheads literally a second generation zombie film). Brett had previously co-directed the horror comedy Dead/Undead (2002), while both brothers came together to co-direct one of the segments of the anthology Secrets of Fenville (2003). The Pierce Brothers subsequently went on to direct a further horror film with the surprisingly good The Wretched (2019).
Deadheads opens in with an appealing sense of humour. Here the zombies are the central characters and are alive and in full command of their wits, regular guys but for the fact that they are also rotting and with a taste for human flesh. (There is a scene with a scientist halfway through the film that serves to give some justification to this set-up). It is, if you like, a zombie bromance film.
The film essentially gets its interplay out of the two central characters played by Michael McKiddy and Ross Kidder and the motormouth performances they give. These vary between the amusing and the annoyingly hip, although what you cannot deny is that McKiddy and Kidder’s playing off one another and their seemingly improvisational deliveries give the film a vital energy that largely carries it. Others performances – most notably those by Ben Webster and Eden Malyn – hit a pitch of loud and shrill one-note caricature and stay there.
There is a goofy stupidity to the humour at times – Ross Kidder’s dick falling off in his hand as he goes to pee just as a cop comes up; Michael McKiddy being dragged along behind a van on Markus Taylor’s unravelling intestines. The film strides a line between the often amiable and amusing and falling into strident lowbrow farce, although mostly comes out on the side of engagingly.
The Pierce Brothers make a point of directly quoting and spoofing a number of other classic zombie films. We get scenes from The Evil Dead showing at a drive-in theatre. There is the character of the African-American zombie hunter (Thomas Galasso) who has several scenes modelled after Duane Jones in Night of the Living Dead (1968) – where he enters a redneck bar to barricade them in and organise a defence against the onslaught outside and emerges in the morning to be greeted by soldiers with the line “We got another one alive over here.” The scene with the scientist at the lab seems intended to make association with Dr Liberty in Day of the Dead (1985). Deadheads also boats some reasonably accomplished splatter and makeup effects.