My notes on Papa, sdokhni (Why Don’t You Just Die!)
It’d be just about possible to do an English language remake of writer-director Kirill Sokolov’s gruesome sit-com, but it has a very Russian feel. During one extended violent sequence, which is horrible, funny and melancholy at the same time, the witty soundtrack (which runs to Morricone riffs) includes a song about a ‘simple Russian girl’ rattles off lines about vodka in the blood and dancing with brown bears. Everyone seems sort of slumped in their shapeless Moscow tracksuits, and harbours enough dark secrets and sentimental foibles to characterise the whole nation. But it could just be a funny, nasty, twisted little story.
Matvei (Aleksandr Kuznetsov), a young thug with a hammer in his back pocket and a Tim Burton bat-symbol on his tracksuit, calls on veteran detective Andrei (Vitaly Khaev) with murderous intent … and it develops that he’s the film’s most sincere, well-intentioned character. Olya (Evgeniya Kregzhade), Andre’s struggling actress/bartender daughter, has told Matvei that she was abused as a child and needs closure, but the situation turns out to be a lot more complicated than that, and a knock-down/drag-out fight with various tools and firearms reveals a stash of almost certainly illicit cash concealed in the walls of the apartment and leaves an apparent corpse on the floor. Andrei’s timid wife Tasha (Elena Shevchenko) keeps making tea and looking away from the horrors, but his cop partner Yevgenich (Mikhail Gorevoy) comes over to help sort out the mess – though, of course, he winds up adding his own woes to everyone else’s.
The film is confined to the drab apartment except for flashbacks that fill in the stories of the three outsiders – Matvei, Evgeniy, Olya – and complicate their reasons for getting into the splattery fight. Yevgenich has persuaded Andrei to take a bribe from a wealthy family in order to get their hulking psychopath son off a charge of dismemberment murder, only for Andrei to withhold the cash – which Yevgenich needed for his sick (now deceased) wife. Naturally, he’s not best pleased to discover the money in his partner’s drywall, especially since he’s already taken revenge on the folks Andrei said cheated him. And several of the characters have an apparently supernatural ability to withstand extreme pain (power tools are involved) and seemingly fatal injuries. Blood is sloshed around by the bucketful, with shot-out veins erupting like firehoses and guts strewn on the linoleum – but it’s all done with a farcical exaggeration that makes this a grand guignol comedy treat rather than a torture porn bad scene.
And you’ll be humming that ‘I Am Just a Simple Russian Girl’ song all weekend.
Here’s the FrightFest listing.
And here’s a sweet live version of that song by the singer-songwriter Jenia Lubich.
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