Diagnosis: Death (DVD)

The gang from HBO's cult hit Flight of the Conchords make the transition to features with their new black horror-comedy Diagnosis: Death.

Diagnosis: Death DVDThe plot sees school teacher Andre (Kan) diagnosed with terminal cancer and given a maximum of 12 weeks to live (..."or possibly six, but any longer than 12 and I'll give you a refund."), Andre’s only hope is to take part in experimental drug trial at a creepy medical facility run by an even creepier Nurse Bates (Tye) and an idiotic Dr. Cruise (McKenzie). There he meets and falls in love with fellow guinea pig and English student Juliet (Smith). As the drug trial gets underway the pair experience haunting visions that they think are a side effect of the medication, but as the visions get more horrific the duo realise that the visions may be something more. Unsure of where reality stops and the side effects begin, the only way Andre and Juliet can escape the nightmare is to discover the truth about the secret that haunts the hospital.

Diagnosis: Death is a horror comedy very much in the style of fellow New Zealander Peter Jackson's early work - think Bad Taste (1987) and Braindead (1992) and while it's billed as a spoof, there is a genuine murder mystery plot that wouldn't be out of place in a Japanese horror film such as The Ring. The film comes complete with hangings, drownings and impalings, for a comedy it doesn't skimp on the horror. The comedy aspect of the film comes from the deadpan delivery of the entire cast - in particular McKenzie as the doctor administering the drug trials and Darby, who in a feat of acting prowess manages to imbue his role as Andre's doctor with the exact same straight-faced delivery as his character Murray in Flight of the Conchords!

The film also features some of the strangest directorial choices I've seen in a long time, including a butt's eye view of a suppository being inserted and two skeletal spirits doing the nasty, both of which had this reviewer in stitches. But whilst the movie is sold as starring the trio from Flight of the Conchords - McKenzie, Clement and Darby - they only have supporting roles, in fact Clements is a mere cameo in the film's opening, but their association will allow the film to reach the larger audience which Diagnosis: Death deserves.

EXTRAS ** A behind-the-scenes featurette; deleted scenes; and an audio commentary.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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