Opening with a tense scene in which a young man, with a hammer secreted in his back pocket, visits the home of his girlfriend’s parents for the first time, Why Don’t You Just Die! hits the ground running and only pauses for breath when the end credits roll. This opener, a taut exchange between the young man and detective father, sets a darkly comic tone before exploding into outlandish hyper-violence that continues throughout the narrative: characters are flung through walls, TV sets are hurled across the room in glorious slow motion, and power tools are brandished with gory results. All the while the plot twists and turns, as several other characters are introduced with flashbacks establishing backstories and dubious motivations for being at the detective’s home.
The debut feature film from writer-director Kirill Sokolov takes a familiar scenario — characters gathered in one location, all of whom have motive for wanting to kill a specific person in their midst — but approaches it in a fresh and idiosyncratic way. Resembling a Grand Guignol sitcom, the film is shot through with unflinching tension, violence, and a truly gonzo, slapstick sense of humour, all the elements of which are perfectly balanced, ensuring none undermines the other. The structure and zippy pacing are enhanced by technical brilliance: the camera is rarely stationary as it whips around the apartment, capturing events from skewed angles, thrusting us right into the centre of the action and successfully sidestepping the potential limitations of a one-location story.
While the film is immensely stylish, the violence is blunt and exhibits a sense of realism in the desperate, clumsily thrown punches and thwarted retaliations of dazed, concussed and heavily bleeding characters. None of these characters are particularly sympathetic, yet thanks to finely tuned performances and a screenplay that imbues them with subtle richness, they become strangely likeable. There are even some surprisingly moving moments which evoke unexpected pathos.
Peppered with moments of pastiche, including some sharply executed nods to classic Spaghetti Westerns and the early works of Tarantino, Rodriguez, Raimi, Jeunet and Caro, Why Don’t You Just Die! has a zany, kinetic energy that will appeal to admirers of off-kilter, graphic and darkly comic cult cinema.
BLU-RAY & DIGITAL
20 Apr 2020