This is how not to make Blue Ruin. Both Blue Ruin and My Father, Die are southern revenge films with raw violence, but My Father Die lacks the style to give it any substance. My Father, Die is the director’s first feature, but that cannot be an excuse. American Beauty was a first feature. Reservoir Dogs was a first feature. But we need only hold it to the standards of the original The Evil Dead or Night of the Living Dead to prove we don’t need to cut first films any slack.
As a child, Asher was deafened by his father Ivan (Gary Stretch) while caught jerking off watching his brother Chester have sex with Ivan’s mistress. Ivan kills Chester (the wrong kid died?) When Ivan is released from prison years early, grown up Asher (Joe Anderson) plans to kill him.
The comparison to Blue Ruin is especially apt because both depict incompetent protagonists who make mistakes, but My Father, Die is ugly, abrasive and repulsive like a poser talking tough. It’s got a clanking metallic score including sound effects of a siren and bomb dropping. The editing is nonsense as they didn’t even get the right shots in a gunfight. And oh yeah, there’s lots of rape in this movie.
Ivan may be a rapist but it’s gratuitous to show him raping. I get it. Bad guys rape and murder people because it’s real, man. They do, but showing it with no sensitivity isn’t helping. It’s not just Ivan either. A completely random dude is having consensual sex until the woman says it hurts and begs him to stop and he keeps going, oblivious to her cries and protests. Asher isn’t exactly noble himself. He kidnaps Ivan’s consensual hookup from another scene and ties her up in the backseat, still topless. He had time to put her pants back on but not a shirt.
I might’ve just forgotten about My Father, Die were it not gratuitous rape exploitation. The misguided artistic decisions are experimental, but failed experiments. The childhood scenes are filmed in black and white, and Asher’s younger self (Gabe White) continues to narrate the film. It returns to black and white in the climax so you know it’s about returning to his childhood. Get it??? We’re also treated to a webcam patron masturbating while cutting himself, and random cutaways to religious paintings.
Some choices are just bizarre, like an aerobics video in the background that has, in addition to workout models in leotards, a mustached dude fully clothed walking around, perhaps giving instructions but it looks like he’s barking orders at them. What is that even supposed to be? It looks like a Tim and Eric sketch of a workout video but in a movie that otherwise takes itself very, very seriously. The film’s narration also includes a commentary on the Vietnam War turning Ivan into a killer.
Basic action sequences are incomprehensible too, and budget/shooting days are no excuse given the number of incredible microbudget action movies coming out of film festivals. A car chase down a straight road fails to convey geography as it randomly cuts back and forth between vehicles, with drivers and passengers firing at each other with no aim. The aforementioned gunfight is also set to loud heavy metal music, which isn’t itself a no no but here it’s just in line with the loud, screaming aesthetic of the whole film.
As much as I held up examples of directors who got it right on their first film, there are plenty of directors who learned from their mistakes. It’s entirely possible My Father, Die will be a learning experience. Or maybe everything I just described sounds awesome to you. I don’t know you personally. If you loved The Greasy Strangler and Officer Downe, you might like My Father, Die too.