For his feature film directorial debut, Russian filmmaker Kirill Sokolov delivers up a blisteringly funny and relentlessly brutal pitch-black comedy in Why Don’t You Just Die! The basic setup of the film follows a young guy named Matvey (Aleksandr Kuznetsov), whose girlfriend shares a disturbing family secret with him, and he sets out to right the wrong by attempting to kill her father (Vitaliy Khaev). Things don’t necessarily go according to plan for the naïve Matvey, and from there, blood, chaos, and a string of surprising revelations come about.
Daily Dead recently had the opportunity to speak with Sokolov about the inspirations behind Why Don’t You Just Die!, and he discussed how he had to change up his approach early on for his first feature, the challenges of making his central locale continually interesting for viewers, and how his special effects team was able to achieve some mind-blowing practical gags in the film.
Why Don’t You Just Die! will be hitting Digital HD on Monday, April 20th, courtesy of Arrow Video.
Great to speak with you, Kirill. I'd love to hear a little bit about how this story came about. It starts off so simply, with this guy showing up to get revenge for his girlfriend, and what happens from there goes in so many interesting and very unique directions, and I really loved all the surprises along the way.
It's a revenge movie that is built from three different types of revenge stories, which are then all mixed together in one nonlinear story. When I started to write at first, the story was just about Matvey, who finds out that his love was abused in her childhood, and he came to take revenge on her father. Back when I wrote the script and I finished the first draft, I understood that I have a big problem because after 30 pages of the script, the main hero is just sitting on the sofa and doing nothing.
You can understand how that is a little bit [of a] problem for a movie, because he must push the story forward, and that's how I got this idea. What if we can show the same situation from three different points of view and just leave this character and take another one and make him the main character for the next 30 pages, and then do it again? That's how this nonlinear structure appeared. Of course, it was influenced by Pulp Fiction, which is built by the same type of storytelling structure.
What's interesting to me is that you have all these characters, but I feel like Matvey is the heart of everything. Even though he doesn't have a ton of dialogue, I think he does a lot with this role, and in some ways, he's the conduit for everything that unfolds here.
Yes, that's really true. He's like a Spaghetti Western character, where he comes from nowhere, he doesn't speak too much, but he provokes a lot of bad things, and then he leaves and he’s headed to nowhere. We talked a lot about it with Alexander. It was really funny to figure out how he had to behave without talking so people could understand everything that he’s thinking and feeling, and at the same time, also make it funny, too.
I think the way that you bring these characters together for a good part of the movie in this one room was really smart because it almost throws you, as the viewer, right in the middle of everything. And the back and forth between everyone really keeps the energy high from start to finish. When you were working with your cast, did you give them a lot of time to get that back and forth perfected, because the timing here is so impeccable with how everything plays out?
When I wrote the script, I knew that this was my feature debut and I wasn't going to find a lot of money, so from the beginning, I wrote the story with this idea that it will be mostly in one location with few actors, which is much cheaper to make. The problem was how to make the movie interesting when you show the same apartment, the same walls, for 90 minutes. But about the actors, we didn't rehearse too much. The dialogue definitely had this feeling of rhythm and tempo when we were going through it, which really helped us to understand which phrases needed extra emphasis.
In terms of your crew, I think your DP, your cinematographer, and your production designer really elevated this film so much because visually, it's really striking. I love the camera movements. I love the way that, again, you're contained in this one setting, but it's never dull because there's so much that captures your eye. I was wondering if you could talk about working with all of them, in terms of setting the visual tone for the film.
They are really cool guys. As I told you, we had this big problem: how can you do a 90-minute story based in one location and make it really interesting and not get people tired after 10 minutes of watching those same walls? And we got this idea to make the film into this kind of an apartment Western, and change up the visual style and the genre inside of the movie. For example, one scene was made just like the end of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. And then I knew that, okay, now I have to show the same room, but do it differently.
And because the situation changes and the heroes are lost, we made the difference up in the movements, where the camera flies around the characters and it feels like they lose the ground under their legs and that location looked differently because of that. We were always changing the point of view and the way we were telling the story.
With the color, we talked about this acid green to make it feel a little bit sick inside that apartment, where you can feel that this situation isn't normal. You just see this apartment and you understand that these people are not really okay and the things that they’re dealing with are bad.
Before we go, I’d love to hear more about the effects in this, as there is some pretty gnarly stuff in this movie. Can you talk about the importance of good practical effects for your movie, because the work is really impressive?
Thank you. Yes, mostly everything you see in the movie was made practically right there on the set. I really wanted to make this movie as bold as possible, so we did everything practically. Of course, it was difficult for actors. They had a lot of pain dealing with everything, and it was a little bit difficult for the stunt guys, too. But with good preparation, you can do mostly anything in-camera, and I really had great artists on this movie. In Russia, there aren’t too many artists who can make these kinds of difficult makeups, with silicone heads or two-meter blood content, so we had to invent these things from nothing. We just said, "Okay, we need to make a high amount of blood content. How can we do that?" And we would take these beer cans, put the pressure inside of them, and make the blood come spraying out. It taught me that in most cases, something can be invented from nothing.