Friend who I’ve been annoyed with lately: what horror movie are you watching tonight?
Me: why don’t you just die
Friend: jeez you don’t have to be like that
First up, some content warnings: There is some discussion of family abuse/rape. There is also a suicide attempt. If it’s any consolation, as a depression-wrangler, the latter I found darkly side-splitting, but then lately I’ve had more “why don’t you stay alive, just in case?” days rather than the other type of days. If you use horribly uncomfortable humour to cope similarly, then you might be OK with this.
These aside, this dark comedy by newcomer Kirill Sokolov is less horror and more violent thriller/chamber piece, but I can see why it did the rounds genre festivals a few years back. It’s literally dripping with blood, so much so that characters struggle to stay afoot amid slippery slicks of the red stuff.
The plot of Why Don’t You Just Die! [Papa, sdokhni] is thus: twenty-something Matvei (Alexsandr Kuznetsov) knocks on his girlfriend’s father Andrei (Vitaliy Khaev)’s door, hammer in hand. After a failed attempt to convince the old man that he’s just holding it for a friend, the violence commences immediately, with the edits, sound effects and bursts of comedically-placed music falling into place like a deranged, Looney Tunes Grand Guignol, and from there it simply doesn’t let up. Drills, handcuffs, shotguns, knives and even a TV are deployed to increasingly gory, looking-through-your-fingers effect – but it remains blisteringly fun throughout.
Bar crucial, context-giving flashbacks, most of the action takes place in the apartment’s large living room, but through inventive camerawork and blocking akin to slasher ballroom dancing, the pace never dulls, giving the film the feel of something like a polished stage play but with a very wide splatter zone. Props must go to the SFX team for making sure I’ll never want raspberries or ketchup again.
What elevates the film even more, though, is the humour – so deadpan it crosses firmly into absurd, bolstered by tight, inscrutable performances and comically blurted, succinct dialogue. It’s rare, especially in the throes of pandemic/seasonal depression, that something can make me snort gently through one nostril let alone actually laugh aloud, but this insane Tom and Jerry romp did both. Key to this also is the film’s use of music – whether classical, quirky Russian pop or acerbic Russian ska – the cherry on the top of this bloody batshit cake. Not only would I love to see more from everyone involved, but I’d be in the front row with a poncho if this ever got adapted for the stage.