By DEIRDRE CRIMMINS
Starring Aleksandr Kuznetsov, Vitaliy Khaev, & Evgeniya Kregzhde
Written & Directed by Kirill Sokolov
There is nothing quite like laughing your way through a film filled with blood and carnage. Though many filmmakers have tried to tightrope walk the line between death and comedy, the misses far outweigh the hits. Thanks to some inventive camera work and an almost overwhelming score WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE! has entered into the sacred pantheon of films that are as bloody as they are funny.
WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE! starts innocently enough. Marvei (Aleksandr Kuznetsov), is knocking on the door of his girlfriend’s father, and he is visibly nervous. When we see that he has come armed with a hammer, the butterflies in his stomach and instantly reframed with an ulterior motive. Father, Andrei (Vitaliy Khaev), is anything but warm or friendly, and begrudgingly lets Matvei in. Within moments, the two men explode into a fists and fighting that is both inelegant and ruthless. These two are no strangers to a good street fight, though this takes place all in the comfort of Andrei’s small apartment.
As the hours drag on, the physical violence gets worse and the injuries accumulate. Through fits and starts of flashbacks we learn why Matvei came to the apartment looking for vengeance, and why Andrei might even deserve it. Corrupt cops, child abuse, and even some sadomasochism gone wrong all make an appearance to drive forward the thin story.
It is understandable that the plot feels a bit like an afterthought because the point of this movie is not to tell a grand tale of the human condition or a family drama. The goal of WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE! is to put as much blood on the screen as possible, and in that regard it is wildly successful.
The brutality between these two men is focused and their hatred unflinching, and the crafty camerawork makes it all look like a live action cartoon. Matvei is tossed around the apartment and treated with such cruelty there is no possible way he can survive blow after blow, power tool after knife, and yet he does. He rises, and he goes back for more. Bleeding buckets, framed like Wile E. Coyote, he persists. As the camera bobs and weaves its way through these trials along with Matvei it becomes clear that this is no ordinary camerawork. We are watching the film take on its own visual language of bloodshed.
The score of WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE! also does a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to keeping the tone light. It goes from plucky to tense at the precisely right times. It relies on these musical cues to transform these two men into legends. With the steep camera angles and the booming music typically reserved for a six-shooter in a western, you need to remind yourself at times that Matvei is just a scummy Russian hooligan, and not a white hat triumphantly rising from the ashes of his burned prairie town. Playing around with the camera styles and scores of cinematic history help this movie feel like a much bigger cinematic experience than it actually is.
Decidedly not a horror film, WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE! has enough blood in it to make Herschell Gordon Lewis swoon. It is fun, fast, and a good reminder that so much can happen in one apartment with endless buckets of blood.