Buried out in the back garden, a dead dad (Dick Bailey) is summoned back into the house by sleeping, dreaming Mum (Liz Bailey). His naked, immobile corpse is reintegrated into the family, until finally his son Tom (Bailey Tom Bailey) decides to bring things to a head.
The latest short film from writer/director/editor Bailey Tom Bailey (The History of Nipples, 2019), Dead Dad was made during lockdown with Bailey’s own family, and focusses on a clan similarly confined and quarantined under Covid conditions. The narrow 4:3 aspect ratio – and the mere two-and-a-half-minute duration – manage to accommodate all manner of surreal absurdities and heart-wrenching anxieties in this housebound setting.
As dead as the title suggests, the paternal cadaver still maintains a peculiar presence in the house. By day he (or it – the status is transitional) slumps around in the crowded living room like a piece of well-loved furniture, conjuring the spirit of Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974), Weekend at Bernie’s (1989) and Swiss Army Man (2016); while by night, supine, he climbs the stairs to Mum’s bedroom, in Svankmajer-esque stop motion.
Tight (in every way) and funny, Dead Dad comes with a great, grotesque punchline, but the short also captures a self-isolating nation’s fears – of contagion, of mortality, of loss and of separation – as we all find ourselves prisoners of our own corporeal vulnerabilities. This is body horror, as a family is left to negotiate its decaying relationship with the remains of their late patriarch – and it is made all the more confronting by our knowledge that Bailey is staging this plague-induced angst with his own kin, in a tragicomedy that is too close for comfort.
© Anton Bitel