A quote from celebrated Irish writer Flann O’Brien is the last thing one would expect to precede a violent, gory Russian horror movie and yet that’s exactly how Why Don’t You Just Die! (original title: Papa, sdokhni) begins. It’s a strange choice, but fitting for a movie that, although confined to the one location for the most part, takes in about a ton of different elements over the course of its breezy 95 minutes. This one kind of defies categorization, but apparently Kill Bill was an influence. Go figure.
Our (anti?)hero is Matvey (the dreamy Aleksandr Kuznetsov, who looks like a young, Russian Daniel Craig) whom we meet nervously traveling up in an elevator to a dingy, yet spacious apartment. This is where his girlfriend’s parents live and, as Matvey twitches at the door, he informs them that she’s on her way but she told him to go ahead and meet them anyway. Mom is hospitable, but Dad, a ruthless police officer, is less inviting. He suspects Matvey is lying and, yeah, he definitely is ’cause he’s been sent to kill him.
That’s pretty much all the setup we get before Why Don’t You Just Die! erupts into crunchy, bloody, messily spectacular violence. Every blow is keenly felt and, if the movie does nothing else, it gives you that feeling of “how did they do that!?” over and over and over again. The prologue feels long, but only because the movie takes its time building the tension as the two men size each other up before finally coming to blows. What’s intriguing is that it’s never fully clear where each man’s loyalties lie, or how they’re justifying their actions, if at all.
The non-linear narrative flits between places and times to fill in gaps in the story, whether it’s Matvey’s fledgling relationship with a woman who may be dodgier than she appears, or her father’s indiscretions as a member of the force. The film is almost staged like a play, with various characters moving in and out of the apartment, but its scope takes in the whole city and it never feels limited by the single location. If anything, confining the action in this way turns the tension up considerably.
The violence is almost exclusively male on male, too, which makes it much easier to stomach. The mother character is treated horribly, however, but she gets her revenge in a sense on the daughter and husband who didn’t show enough appreciation towards her. These characters are all morally repugnant, but to varying degrees. As the title suggests, nobody dies quickly here, with one character quite literally having his guts held in by a friend at one point. An argument is again made for the power drill as an underused tool in horror, too, in the most horrible way.
In spite of how grim and messily violent Why Don’t You Just Die! is, it’s also darkly funny in parts too, in particular a conversation over how sad it would be to reach the age of 25 and not own your own hammer and a session of angrily eating blood-covered salami. All of the swearing is bleeped out, which is funny too and could arguably be seen as a comment on how nowadays words are considered much more horrifying than violent sequences in the likes of Game of Thrones, or even the Tarantino movies that were supposedly an influence.
A bombastic score saves Why Don’t You Just Die! from being too rough, ensuring the action moves quickly rather than lingering on injuries, torture cinema
style. It’s a tense watch, right down to spaghetti being eaten even more intimidatingly than Barry Keoghan did it in The Killing of a Sacred Deer, which is really saying something. But it’s a lot of fun too, never straying into full-on nihilism or, god forbid, alluding to the current goings on with President Cheeto and his Russian BFF.
Movies about horrible people usually go one of two ways (it’s fun watching these characters getting their comeuppance or it isn’t because the mood is overwhelmingly pessimistic), but with the lovely Matvey at the helm, Why Don’t You Just Die! never loses its inherent humanity. We never lose sight of him, never stop rooting for his survival even when things seem really dire. The title might refer, fleetingly, to Matvey but it earns that all-important exclamation point by ensuring we know he never truly deserves to perish.
WICKED RATING: 7/10
Director(s): Kirill Sokolov
Writer(s): Kirill Sokolov
Stars: Aleksandr Kuznetsov, Vitaliy Khaev, Evgeniya Kregzhde, Michael Gor, Elena Shevchenko
Release date: TBC
Studio/Production Company: White Mirror Film Company
Run Time: 95 minutes