During a black and white prologue which evokes Mark Twain and Night of the Hunter, as two boys drift down the Mississippi in a boat – the older wearing a wolfskin head-dress the younger narrator will inherit – there’s a flash cut classical painting of Kronos the Titan devouring one of his children. And the end credits dedicate the film to Irish dramatist J.M. Synge, repaying the script’s debt to The Playboy of the Western World – though productions of that tend to feature fewer gore killings. This suggests the mix of hardboiled rural crime and artistic aspiration in Sean Brosnan’s first feature. Sometimes billed as Seàn Brosnan, the writer-director is the son of Pierce Brosnan (who produces here, but doesn’t unbalance things by playing the monster father – though he could easily manage it) and has had a bunch of genre credits as an actor, including Johannes Roberts’ evil clown webisodial When Evil Calls and Dominic Burns’ unusual British low-budget alien invasion movie U.F.O. Not free of the occasional first film archness, with a Southern gothic overheatedness that may be a treacle layer too much, My Father Die is a compelling, weird little picture about skewed family values.
Young Asher (Gabe White) idolises his brother Chester (Chester Rushing), who is murdered when their tattooed, maniacal biker father Ivan (Gary Stretch) catches Chester having sex with his mistress – who is the same age as the boy – and batters him to death. Ivan also fetches Asher a clout around the head which renders him a deaf-mute, but doesn’t stop his inner monologue. Years later, Asher (Joe Anderson) is told that Ivan is getting out of prison and coming home – almost certainly to wreak more havoc. Asher sets out on a mission to confront his father, which involves shooting off the feet of Ivan’s bike buddy Tank (Kevin Gage) and looking out the grown-up girlfriend, Nana (Candace Smith), who now does sex webchats from her tiny room. Raspy British hardman player Stretch, perhaps cast on the strength of his showing in a similar human scum role in Dead Man’s Shoes, is credibly American here – and in his flashback scenes channels William Smith in his 1970s biker movie period. Anderson – another Brit,who who has racked up interesting indie fringe horror credits in The Ruins Abattoir, The Crazies, The Grey, Horns and Hannibal (as Mason Verger) – has to look wounded and soulful, and carry off parading around in that tatty wolfskin as he hits the pre-emptive revenge trail.
There’s business with sheriffs and cops (John Schneider is one) and motels and garages, plus a lot of Mississippi atmos, but – as perhaps signalled by the fact that none of the principles come from this place – this isn’t an exercise in the current spate of cowboy noir (Cold in July, Hell or High Water) but a primal, guignolesque mythic struggle between characters who are too big for the real world (Kronos recurs as an image). Of course, the film builds up to a bloody embrace which commingles love and hate.