Venla is fed up. Fed up with harassment, fed up with sexism, and especially fed up with unsolicited dick pics. After a particularly frustrating evening of mansplaining (and other horrors), Venla stumbles upon a pair of glasses that reveal a horrifying truth. She can now see that the men around her are horrific dick monsters. What’s worse, the monsters know they have been discovered!
Night of the Living Dicks is written and directed by Ilja Rautsi (Helsinki Mansplaining Massacre).
Night of the Living Dicks is a testament to the efficacy of the short film format. With a modest, 20-minute runtime Night of the Living Dicks delivers on fascinating narrative, biting commentary, and a distinct horror style. The short evokes the drive-in horrors of yesteryear, adding a dash of Night of the Creeps and a sprinkling of The Twilight Zone to its all-too-familiar contemporary dilemma. This juxtaposition of the retro and the modern isn’t just for style, it’s all substance – while the concept of dick pics and online sexual harassment experienced by women is a recent phenomenon, monstrous misogyny is a story as old as human history.
Horror’s history has been steeped in gender discussion and confrontation. The genre in equal measure affirms the morals and gender anxieties of a given moment, but also dares to shock and push the envelope on representation. Night of the Living Dicks carries on that proud tradition, holding nothing back while also maintaining a sense of humor.
It’s a bit on the nose, but dick monsters are about as clear an embodiment of toxic masculinity as one could think up. Something that the short does that reveals its deeper insight is continuously expand the audiences understanding of what makes for a dick monster. It would be easy – maybe even a little offensive – to allege that any man and every man is a dick monster. Night of the Living Dead, in brief but intentional scenes, poses the question of whether being a dick monster is in the very nature of man? Or is it something that is brought on by culture and affirmed by the expectations men have on each other? Is the dick monster a condition that can be overcome? The packaging of the discussion (again, that’s literal walking dicks) is blatant, but unpacking the monster is done delicately. Excellent writing and instincts from Rautsi.
Don’t worry, Night of the Living Dicks is an equal opportunity takedown of gender roles. On its face, one may think that the short is a direct story of women enduring harassment from the worst of men. That is only part of the story. What lies at the heart of Night of the Living Dicks is a beautiful celebration of the non-binary. The film isn’t just about toxic gender performance; it’s about existing outside of those limitations. It’s about how queer people move through the world enduring the harassments associated with how they present (a female presenting person being accosted by men), but also enduring stigma from a gender they cannot identify with (as it turns out, women have their own monstrous form.)
Night of the Living Dicks marries old-school aesthetics to a progressive perspective. Every second of the short is heaped with humor, horror, intention, and intellect. A more robust piece than its short-film status would indicate. I can give this one a hearty recommendation.
[Night of the Living Dicks held its Montreal Premiere at the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival.]
Movie Score: 3.5/5