The Civil Dead


A recent term that has entered the lexicon is ‘ghosting’; it means to cease all communications suddenly, either in a new relationship, or even with an existing one.

This lo-fi, indie comedy takes this premise quite literally, when a man crosses paths with an old friend.

boom reviews The Civil Dead
Scene 1: a man is at his laptop, but feels a strange presence behind him...

Living in LA is Clay (Clay Tatum); he is a photographer of sorts, although not seemingly in demand, having had one unique book of his work published.

He is out one day with his camera, when a man enters the frame of his intended shot. It transpires that it’s actually an old friend of his, Whit (Whitmer Thomas), who he’s lost touch with over the years.

Whit is keen to get reacquainted, there and then, but Clay takes some persuading. Still, with his wife out of town working, he decides that there wouldn’t be any harm in it.

But Clay soon discovers that Whit is reticent to leave his side, and that Whit becomes a guest who proves dead difficult to get rid of.

boom reviews The Civil Dead
Wait, do you hear that? I think it's Genesis.

This is the type of directorial debut, by its star Tatum that is extremely rough around the edges, but still manages to have a certain charm. It has the look of a film that was shot on half a shoestring of a budget, having a student film quality about it.

It was also co-written by Clay, with his fellow co-star Thomas, so clearly it was a labour of love. So it’s only fitting that the film itself is about a friendship, one that has seen better days, and one that struggles to be rekindled, as both parties have moved on in very different directions, with Clay now a married man and Whit being, well, dead.

But the fact that he is no longer alive doesn’t play that great a part in proceedings, which plays into the film’s charms; perhaps much of this was due to the fact that there was no budget for special effects of any kind, which makes the focus more on their friendship more than anything else.

It follows that path of the initial awkwardness of losing touch, for whatever reasons, and the slow process of re-connecting once more. But with one party needing the friendship way more than the other, it puts the whole opportunity of a relationship in balance.

It’s certainly a dark, dry sense of humour that’s featured here, that’s also used a tad too sporadically, as there were opportunities to be had for more fun, considering the plot, which are quite frankly wasted.

The story is also a little reminiscent of the play The Nerd, which is bound to be nothing but coincidental, that had Rowan Atkinson playing the title character on the West End stage in the eighties, as a character who wormed himself into a family’s home who then did their best to get rid of him.

It’s good to see that US independent cinema isn’t itself dead, and that once in a while an independent voice or two can be heard over the overwhelming din of the likes of superhero flicks.

Not quite a classic, but perhaps it will make you scroll through your contacts list and think a little more about who your real friends are, and how many of them you are currently ghosting, or perhaps they’re just dead to you too.

we give this three out of five