Starring Joe Anderson, Gary Stretch, Candace Smith, John Schneider, Chester Rushing
Screened at FrightFest 2016
First-time feature director Sean Brosnan (forever to be referred to as “Son of Pierce”) brings us a slice of Southern Gothic-cum-sand-swept-revenge-actioner with the hard-hitting My Father Die.
As a boy, bayou-dweller Asher idolises his free-spirited older brother, Chester (Rushing) – the pair of them seeming every bit the quintessential ‘wild boys’ as they frolic in the swamps, engage in rough and tumble wrestles and discuss sexual techniques, Chester adorned all the while in a wolf’s pelt.
Said emphasis on sexuality – especially from the older brother – results in tragedy when the boys’ brutish father, Ivan (Stretch), discovers Chester mid-tryst with a local girl named Nana. Losing his temper, Ivan beats the boy to death while one of his friends restrains a devastated Asher.
Jumping forward in time, we once again meet Asher (Anderson) as a grown man – rendered deaf and mute due to the trauma he experienced on the day he watched his brother die. Learning that his father has been released early from prison, Asher wastes no time getting to business – slapping on his brother’s favoured pelt and a pair of sunglasses, he loads up a shotgun and goes in search of Ivan… determined to rid the world of him once and for all.
Of course, as we all know in tales of vengeance such as this, things tend not to go to plan, and the price of revenge is high… here made ever more weighty for Asher by the grown Nana (Smith) – now a struggling single mother and online cam girl – and her young son finding themselves dragged into the situation.
First off, My Father Die is one gorgeous-looking film. Whether it’s the greasy, sweaty dialogue scenes taking place in the overbearing heat, the brutal and bombastic action sequences or bullet-spewing car chases, Brosnan’s film is heavily textured, impeccably lit and thoroughly well presented.
It’s also thoroughly nasty in tone – a wonderfully menacing Gary Stretch spreading the shadow of his influence over every frame as the despicable Ivan – something that feels incongruous with the underlying sense of grandiosity and importance that the film desperately wants to offer you.
Make no mistake: This is an exploitation flick through and through – from the gory violence and vicious rape sequences through to a single shot of Ivan literally roaring as he revs his motorbike in fury. And whilst that’s certainly great – in fact, tonally and visually there are definite shades of Ted Kotcheff’s unsettling Australian classic Wake in Fright, crossed with De Niro’s wicked turn in Cape Fear – it also proves the film’s downfall as exploitation logic clashes with honest attempts at emotional dissection of family values.
Redundant plot elements such as a pair of cops following Ivan and Asher’s trail of destruction add little but extra minutes to the runtime, but for everything it does wrong, My Father Die makes up in other ways. Central performances are excellent throughout (Anderson approaches the difficulty of his deaf-mute role with aplomb, and as mentioned, Gary Stretch is a malevolent powerhouse) and the characters compelling enough to ensure the film is rarely less than engaging.
An experience you won’t forget in a hurry, My Father Die is a beautiful-looking slice of brutality and wanton destruction that holds itself together despite a few niggling mistakes and lapses in logic. Check it out.