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[Fantastic Fest Review]…The Death of Dick Long

After Swiss Army Man, there was only one way director Daniel Scheinert could go, and The Death of Dick Long film is the next logical step. Ok, ok, get it out of your system. Actually, that title lets you know what you’re walking into – word play from guys who probably can’t spell – and trust me, we’re just getting warmed up. This is an absurdly funny and honest character film.

When three friends’ late night outing goes horribly wrong, one of them ends up dead, and we the audience are left grasping for details. Similarly, the put upon Alabama sheriff’s department – who are not exactly the southern state’s finest – are even more in the dark. The beauty of film is that everyone is looking for an explanation, us included. But the backwoods brethren are not exactly criminals who comfortably sit one step ahead of the law.

In many cases, they’re running parallel to the law with both parties having little to no knowledge of each other. Minute by minute the tension mounts. The more details are revealed, the more bizarre this detective yarn becomes. Many at the festival are describing it as the redneck Fargo, but the director treats his characters with respect even though they are the walking personification of a ne’er-do-well.

Scheinert doesn’t have to go high concept to get a lot of mileage out of this story. This is admittedly low-brow, working man’s humor, but there’s a precious quality to the characters both trying to hide all the details and find an exit strategy before the police finally catch up.

It’s a very straightforward narrative that keeps the audience at a distance but still invites us along for the journey. Time after time, we are treated to bursts of hilarity and WTF moments that keep things quite thrilling. No one can really see more than an arm’s length ahead, and the little glimpses of life that we get into Alabama natives have a pitifully endearing quality. In short, it’s funny because it’s true. Point, Scheinert.

This is a slice of life some don’t know, and we hope they never know. Well, the characters anyway. Scheinert’s sophomore effort is a comedy of errors, scratch that, a tragedy of idiots stuck in quicksand, and we really have to praise Virginia Newcomb who tries to hold it together when she’s just as blindsided as the rest of us. She’s great, and plays off Michael Abbott Jr. and Andre Hyland very well. So chuckle at the title, enjoy the absurdity, and then laugh, laugh, laugh. This will not disappoint.