Dead Boy Detectives review: frantic and ferociously bingeable spooky fun

Television: Neil Gaiman’s haunted odd couple are the Inbetweeners crossed with Clive Barker’s Hellraiser – and it’s wonderful

Dead Boy Detectives. Photograph: Ed Araquel/Netflix

It’s funny how the best “cinematic universes” are the ones you least expect to take off. After Marvel’s MCU conquered cinema, television and the deepest recesses of our brains, Hollywood geared up for an onslaught of shared storytelling worlds. Weirdly, the only one that worked was the Godzilla vs Kong “Monsterverse”. But then that was built on the rock-solid premise that giant monsters thumping the tar out of one another will never go out of fashion.

Now, here’s a surprise latecomer – the Sandman extended universe. That’s what Netflix has rolled out via the fun, fruity and ferociously bingeable Dead Boy Detectives (Netflix from Thursday), a supernatural romp connected to the streamer’s excellent 2022 adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comic series.

Gaiman didn’t create The Sandman, as such (he was very loosely based on a pre-existing character). However, he can – along with artist Matt Wagner – claim credit for the Dead Boy Detectives duo of Edwin (George Rexstrew) and Charles (Jayden Revri). They are teenagers who have declined to shuffle into the afterlife but have instead decided to remain on earth solving crimes.

If that sounds like Scooby Doo with extra jump-scares but fewer talking dogs, that’s what showrunner Steve Yockey has created. Or, to put it another way, he has given us The Inbetweeners crossed with Clive Barker’s Hellraiser – and it’s wonderful.


Edwin and Charles are a haunted odd couple brought together by demonic coincidence. Edwin is an Edwardian who died at university in Edinburgh in 1916. Charles is a cheeky chap from the 1980s, which is why he dresses like a Spandau Ballet cosplayer. Teaming up to solve paranormal crimes, they’ve become a two-man A-Team for people plagued by arcane horrors – while having occasional meetings with an amused Death (portrayed, as in Sandman, by Kirby Howell-Baptiste).

It’s a living, even if they’re dead. But underneath their cocky exteriors, the duo have their own traumas. Edwin spent 70 years as a prisoner of Satan owing to “administrative error”. Charles keeps a mournful and distant eye on his now elderly parents. Then they are landed with the case from hell – literally – when Crystal (Kassius Nelson) asks the pair to exorcise from her the demonic spirit of her ex-boyfriend. The mission leads them to America’s Pacific Northwest. Here they encounter Niko (Yuyu Kitamura), who can see ghosts (including the boys) owing to her own near-death experience.

It’s frantic, spooky fun, and the monsters – including a witch in Washington state and a jealous cat king – are surprisingly scary. Sandman fans will lap it up. But even those who resisted that show’s moochy charms will find lots to love about this uproarious teenage thriller from the great beyond.