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Film / Darby and the Dead

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Some enemies never die…

Darby and the Dead is a 2022 teen Horror Comedy film directed by Silas Howard (Transparent). It stars Riele Downs, Auli'i Cravalho, Asher Angel, Chosen Jacobs, Derek Luke, Tony Danza, and Wayne Knight.

Downs plays Darby Harper, a disaffected teen with the ability to see ghosts. When she isn’t suffering through high school, she’s helping the dead with their unfinished business so they can move on to the afterlife. Soon her two worlds collide when the most popular girl in her school (Cravalho) dies in a freak accident and her ghost approaches her with her unfinished business: her next birthday party. The film was released on Hulu December 2, 2022.

Previews: Trailer

Darby and the Dead includes examples of:

  • Accidental Suicide: Capri accidentally kills herself by falling into a pool of water in the girls' school locker room while holding a plugged-in curling iron, getting electrocuted.
  • Alpha Bitch: Capri. She's the most popular girl in school, she bullies Darby when alive, and uses her newfound ghost abilities to coerce her into aiding her when dead.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Capri clearly isn't white, but her ethnicity doesn't get stated either. She's played by Auli'i Cravalho, who's of Native Hawaiian, Puerto Rican, Chinese and Irish ancestry.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Darby talks directly with the audience to deliver both exposition and snark throughout the film. It's lampshaded at one point when Alex notices this and asks who she's talking to.
  • Cruel Cheerleader: Capri. She's a cheerleader and steals Darby’s clothes during gym just for the hell of it. Later, upon dying she also coerces Darby into helping with her plans.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Piper is the sarcastic girl in Capri's posse, often responding to other people in a deadpan tone with a snarky remark (for instance answering "still trans" after Taylor asks if she's got a tampon).
  • Girl Posse: Bree, Piper and Taylor were Capri's friends (though it turns out they didn't care too much about her), following her around everywhere while she was alive.
  • High-Voltage Death: Capri died from a curling iron based accidental electrocution in the girls' locker room at her school.
  • I See Dead People: Darby has this ability, gaining it after she nearly drowned as a girl (while her mother died in the same incident). Since then she's devoted each Friday to speaking with the dead and then helping with their unfinished business so they can pass on. The film's plot is sparked when Capri, a former friend who now bullies her, dies then coerces Darby into helping her in another way. It turns out Alex can also see them, after gaining it when he was in a car accident where his friend had died.
  • Mistaken for Insane: Chris suffered this after he began seeing dead people. He'd been diagnosed with psychosis and having hallucinations, spending a bit of time in a psych ward as a result.
  • No Periods, Period: Averted as a plot point. Capri steals a tampon Taylor keeps in her bag, so Darby can befriend her by giving her one when she gets her period. It also reveals that Piper is trans when Taylor asks if she has one, and gets reminded about this snarkily.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Capri's full name is Capricorn, but she didn't go by that and only gets called it a couple times in the film (even her memorial marker simply says "Capri" with her surname-perhaps it's embarrassing).
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: The ghosts of this movie can only be seen by certain individuals, need to finish their unfinished business to move on, and have telekinetic abilities.
  • Phoneaholic Teenager: Piper is almost always seen on her phone when she's not practicing or otherwise engaged.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Capri starts out as a shallow, self-absorbed girl who upon dying coerces medium Darby into helping with her big send off. She grows nicer over its course however, apologizing for her past behavior and befriending Darby again.
  • Unfinished Business: Darby helps ghosts with their unfinished business so they can move on to the afterlife. Capri, who recently died, wants her to make sure her Sweet 17 birthday party goes on in the wake of her death.
  • You Look Like You've Seen a Ghost: Capri says to Darby, "You look like you've just seen a ghost." This is juxtaposed with a glass shattering, Darby reacting in fright, and Capri— established to be a ghost— raising an eyebrow.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Darby and Capri had been friends as girls years before the events of the film. However, after Darby's mom died they drifted apart, to the point that Capri bullies her after she's grown into the most popular girl at their school.