It's not easy to make a film about unlikable characters who do unspeakable things. It's even harder to do the same thing wrapped up in a subversive comedy like "The Death of Dick Long," which screened at Fantastic Fest 2019.
Daniel Scheinert, one of the co-directors of 2016 film "Swiss Army Man," flies wildly solo in this unbelievable film that takes place in rural Alabama.
Zeke (Michael Abbott Jr.) and Earl (Andre Hyland) are best friends in a small town where there isn't too much to do except get in trouble. They've grown up a bit (Zeke is married now and has a young daughter), but mostly they pass the evenings by drinking too much at their frequent band practices where, along with their pal Dick, they unironically rock out to covers of Creed, Nickelback and Staind songs.
» More Fantastic Fest: We talked to Taika Waititi and Stephen Merchant about hate, Hilter and ‘Jojo Rabbit’
You can imagine that this has gone on for years, if not for as long as the guys have known each other. One night at band practice, things get out way out of hand. We aren't privy to everything that happens, but we do see plenty of alcohol and a big box of fireworks before the screen fades to black.
Before you know it, Zeke and Earl are in full panic mode. Dick is seriously injured and unresponsive. They have no idea what to do, but they know they're going to be in deep trouble if he doesn't see a doctor. Their bright idea is to throw Dick into the back of Zeke's car and drive him to the local emergency room, where they will then sneak him close to the doors of the building and disappear into the night. That way, their friend gets taken care of but they can avoid being questioned. Sadly, by the time Dick is found and taken into the hospital, it's too late to save him. (This much isn't a spoiler since the name of the movie kind of gives it away).
It probably isn't a surprise that Zeke and Earl are not especially good liars. Once the police get involved, the men make every bad decision you could possibly make. Earl decides he's going to skip town, and their choices quickly ramp up from dumb to dumber. Once Zeke's wife, Lydia (Virginia Newcomb), trips him up in his lies, she becomes desperate to know the truth.
» More Fantastic Fest: Doc explores gay history of ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street 2’
Two of the film's best performances come from Janelle Cochrane as Sheriff Spenser and Sarah Baker as Officer Dudley. As law enforcement in a rural area, they clearly do not have to deal with potential homicides on the regular (if ever). The two women get some of the movie's most hysterical moments and, along with the audience, struggle to understand how these likely criminals could be quite so dumb.
As the investigation goes on, shocking secrets are revealed. The reality of Dick's death might actually push the movie over into territory that some viewers will find distasteful. Billy Chew's outrageous screenplay reinforces some awful Southern stereotypes, but it also manages to be so damn funny that it inadvertently creates sympathy for characters who probably don't deserve it.
"The Death Of Dick Long" is laugh-out-loud funny and, at times, jaw-droppingly offensive. Simply put, it's a guaranteed future cult classic.
"The Death of Dick Long" opens Friday in Austin at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar and is on VOD the same day.