Review: Deadbeat is Frighteners-like Fun Minus the Scares

deadbeatreview score 6Nearly a year ago, Netflix put out it’s first (of hopefully) many original horror titles with Hemlock Grove. While it was received with much polarity, Hulu is now gracing us with their own original genre title Deadbeat and it is a whole different animal.

Deadbeat is a multi-camera horror comedy from Cody Heller and Brett Konner, two of the main writers of the FX dark comedy Wilfred. The ten episode series tells the story of Kevin Pacalioglu (or Pac), played by Tyler Labine (Tucker and Dale vs Evil, Reaper), a stoner medium who is consistently behind on his rent and best friends with his drug dealer, conveniently named Roofie (Brandon T. Jackson). The central plot of the show focuses on Pacalioglu discovering that his long time crush and rumored celebrity medium Camomile White (played by Cat Deeley) is a fraud and the fallout from the discovery.

To start things off, “horror” is a strong word to use for the show because it’s never really scary at all, but it’s not trying to be. Yes, the entire show is about ghosts and talking to the dead but it’s a lot like if you took all of the scary portions out of The Frighteners. The routine is pretty standard affair: Pac takes up a case to earn a couple extra bucks, runs into some funny slapstick hijinks that screw up his plans but he ultimately helps the spirits move on into the afterlife and runs into Camomile somewhere along the way while dropping lines of raunchy dialogue.

The show is fun. It doesn’t take itself very seriously and that’s a good thing because it’s really just a pretty silly show. It borrows from numerous comedy genres, from the aforementioned slapstick to lowbrow humor to some smart wordplay, and luckily it has Labine as it’s leading man. Labine has tons of comedic chops and has showcased them for years now in other horror comedies and he doesn’t disappoint here. He turns Pac into a lovable goof off. He has a good heart and only wants to help people but also has a proclivity to drugs and is often a little simple, getting tricked out of his paychecks.

Most of the comedy is coming straight from Labine, whether it’s physical or spoken, but Jackson definitely has his moments as Roofie as well, doing his best when hitting on girls or being the self proclaimed stereotypical scared black guy. Deeley does well as the antagonist, using her diminutive assistant Sue (Lucy Devito) to help her with her scheming, and by the end of the series you end up hating her. Throughout the ten episodes we also get a number of solid guest stars, including Darrell Hammond as a dead gay Swedish mob boss and Ray Price as the mayor of New York.

Halfway through the series it really hits it’s stride. Pac has a stable job, a ghost partner he simply calls “blob” and his back and forth with Roofie is cohesive and on key. The ghost jobs all end up being mostly entertaining and even drawing from horror folklore such as Bloody Mary. The first four episodes seem a little disjointed, Heller and Konner are still trying to find the voice of the show, but the next six are smooth sailing that leads to a cute wrapped up ending. It only has a few low points ("The Hot God Contest" being the least enjoyable episode) but also a number of highs in “Raising the Dead” and “The Calamityville Horror.” One of the biggest setbacks seems to be that the humor is tamed down from what it wanted to be, ending up a little more PG-13 than the R it often dances with.

While Deadbeat has a few hurdles along the way, like some noticeably bad CGI and Pac being a little too dumb sometimes, it’s also just a really fun series. It’s easy to watch, has plenty of laugh out loud moments and ultimately ends up with more hits than misses. If you’re a fan of Reaper or Holliston, this is definitely up your alley. Fingers crossed we get to come back to Pac and friends.

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