The trailer does not lie. Why Don’t You Just Die! (Papa, sdokhni in the original Russian) is a camp melodrama awash with blood, gruesomeness, novel ways of hurting people and comic-book cruelty. It’s as if all the horrible things that ever happened to Wile E Coyote were bundled together and then brought to the screen by a Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez in one of their Grindhouse jaunts.
The opening shot: a young man with a fantastically broken nose (Aleksandr Kuznetsov, and that’s his real nose) is waiting outside an apartment with a hammer behind his back. The door after much knocking opens. It is a bullet-headed man (Vitaliy Khaev). Andrey, the young man’s girlfriend’s father, looks like a man who eats children for breakfast. Matvey (Kuznetsov) goes in, and the two of them eye each other, each waiting for the moment when the violence will commence.
It comes soon enough. And before the opening credits have even rolled we’ve seen plenty of gratuitous blood-letting, wanton violence and creative destruction – personal fave was Matvey being poleaxed by a big old CRT television, which Andrey has thrown into Matvey’s face while it was still switched on.
After the credits, the power tools come out, limbs are broken and there’s murder most lurid. As for plot, that stays in the background while the violence is afoot, but reasserts itself when it abates – something about Matvey’s girlfriend Olya (Evgeniya Kreghzhde) insisting that her father, the bullet-headed corrupt cop Andrey, raped her when she was 12. There’s one other principal character, a fellow cop called Evgenich (Mikhail Gorevoy), who turns up just when things look like quietening down, plus Elena Shevchenko as Andrey’s wife, Tasha, who makes one cup of coffee, one cup of tea but otherwise pretty much stands there with her mouth open for the entire film attempting to scream.
Around halfway through it looks like the bloodletting has stopped, but it’s only pausing for breath and things soon get going all over again in time for a sensationally gorey finale. Everyone is either bleeding, soaked in blood or dead.
In Grindhouse style, director Kirill Sokolov and his talented DP Dmitriy Ulyukaev bathe everything in gorgeous gel colours – bright reds, greens, oranges, to emphasise the visuals with exaggerated comic-book compositions. Soundtrack composers Vadim QP and Sergey Solovyov also display a talent for gorgeous pastiche. Their reference points include Saint Saëns though they’re mostly in the business of crafting the finest Ennio Morricone deepfakes – mariachi trumpets, choirs, bells, twanging guitar, the full fistful.
This is director Sokolov’s feature debut, after a handful of shorts, and if there is one criticism you could make of Why Don’t You Just Die! it’s that it’s not the most drama-laden of films, it’s a thought experiment. That said, apart from the gore, it does compensate with some moments of laugh-out-loud physical comedy – at one point I laughed harder than I think I have all year (and I’m writing this at the end of December). There are even (for a film like this) some almost subtle bits of visual play, like the cutaway from the insanely bloody crime scene that sets off round two of the film to a kebab shop where doner meat is being sliced from off the pole.
There are probably digital effects in the mix but the whole thing looks like it’s been done physically – god knows what sort of technicians you hire in to get arterial spray this good, but Sokolov and his production team have found them.
And all done with only five main players and on three/four room-sized sets. Way to go, Kirill.
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© Steve Morrissey 2021