It premiered in Russia in 2018, it screened at various festivals in Europe and United States, and now it’s finally out on VOD and Blu-Ray: Why Don’t You Just Die? is the feature-length debut by writer and director Kirill Sokorov.
Why Don’t You Just Die? is a comedy/crime/horror movie that, during its festival stint, received positive reactions due to its mixture of elements that can be found in Quentin Tarantino, Stuart Gordon and early Peter Jackson.
Continue reading and check my final grade below…
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Why Don’t You Just Die? – A story of violence, revenge and Russian society
Andrei Gennadievitch (Vitaliy Khaev) lives with his wife Tasha (Elena Shevchenko) in a small apartment in Moscow. One day he receives an unexpected visit: the young Matvey (Aleksandr Kuznetsov), friend of his daughter Olya (Evgeniya Kregzhde), rings the doorbell. He hides a hammer behind his back and is determined to kill Andrei, because the policeman is not only corrupt, he also sexually abused Olya as a child, and she asked him to commit this murder. To spur his criminal nature on, she also told Matvey that her father was hiding a lot of money in his apartment. First he and Andrei sit nervously at the dining table for a few minutes, but it doesn’t take long for the violence to escalate. The murder order turns out to be more difficult than expected for Matvey, but Andrei also realises that the young man is not as easy to kill as he thought. Therefore, a proper bloodbath ensues in the small apartment.
Why Don’t You Just Die? combines Tarantino-esque violence, played for comedy and accompanied by music you wouldn’t expect to hear under these circumstances, with off-putting gore, and spices things up with a good amount of social critique on post-communist Russian society. In fact, this film isn’t just a stylish and exhilarating viewing experience, but also a satirical look into disturbed Russian families and corrupted Eastern European society.
An energetic deconstruction of rotten society
Sokorov’s directorial debut is an impressive exercise in balancing entertainment and dour social commentary: through the actions and reactions of its main characters, Why Don’t You Just Die? manages to deconstruct Russian society by showing the long-lasting consequences of police brutality, corruption and the dictatorship’s abuse on the average person. This is depicted in a way that’s easy to pick up on, without ever becoming too obvious or pandering.
Such a depressing and heavy theme is, however, perfectly counterbalanced by the dark humour present in the movie and, mostly, by the energetic execution. Why Don’t You Just Die? benefits from ambitious and free-flowing camera work that shows graphic violence to the audience without unnecessary cuts and other editing tricks. Sokorov’s commitment to making this film a “smart splatter movie” is truly commendable and nearly unprecedented in a debut feature.
Keeping the story fresh: plot twists and non-linear storytelling
The story is well-told and clear throughout, despite the non-linear storytelling through which we learn about Matvey’s agency and motivations. It keeps the viewer interested, while waiting for the next unexpected plot twist and subsequent surprising turn of event. In this respect, a remarkable aspect of Why Don’t You Just Die? is that the protagonists don’t die easily (otherwise the movie would be called Did You Die Already?, am I right?), proving to be more resilient than we assumed at first sight. And a seemingly clear-cut victim can as easily prove not-so-innocent, even becoming a determined killer later.
By the same token, however, some of the instances in which characters survive are taken a bit too far, lessening the realism and the impact of the social commentary within the story. The movie clearly aims at being exaggerated and, to a certain extent, cartoonish, but the lengths some characters go to in some moments make the stakes feel lower.
Another gimmicky aspect of Why Don’t You Just Die? is the music, which can do a lot of the heavy lifting when not used to disconcerting effects. Yet, some of the acting isn’t great – though this could be more of a cultural thing.
Overall, though, Why Don’t You Just Die? is a phenomenal debut feature, a great horror comedy with plenty of gore, violence, comedic bits and topped by a lot of interesting elements and subtexts to think about.
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