A24’s most recent installment gives us a taste of dark comedy with quite the morbid twist.
The Death of Dick Long is the most recent film from director Daniel Scheinert (director of Swiss Army Man), and explores the events that take place the day after three friends’ night of partying results in tragedy in small-town Alabama. In this film we see Zeke (played by Michael Abbot Jr.) and Earl (played by Andre Hyland) attempt to cover up their involvement in the controversial death of their friend Dick Long. Meanwhile, police officers (portrayed by Sarah Baker and Janelle Cochrane) try to uncover the mystery behind Dick’s unfortunate demise, with the help of medical examiner Dr. Richter (played by Roy Wood Jr.).
In many ways, as the title clearly alludes to, this is one of the more overtly morbid dark comedies of the year. The plot remains relatively simple, and where the film really shines is in its slow-brewed delivery of the secret behind Dick’s death, and how his incompetent friends make attempts at hiding their involvement. From inconsistent lies with family and police officers, to trying to dispose of a car in a four-foot stream, the protagonists inability to handle their dire situation provides a tense yet hilarious predicament for the audience to digest.
As always, A24 manages to put out a well crafted and directed film. From editing to acting the movie feels polished. Any complaints could probably fall under a sense of half-baked plot and occasional poor delivery due to the script. I would also argue that some reliance on pop culture references for humor, mistaking Anthony Kiedis for Harvey Keitel in one scene for example, feels slightly lazy and pandering. Though that does not mean the jokes always fail to land.
However while still a mostly comedic film, the scenes relying on drama and emotion are particularly poignant. Zeke’s family, for example, and his wife’s reaction to learning of the events that transpired probably give this movie more depth. Zeke’s daughter (played by Poppy Cunningham) also gives a great performance as she inadvertently gets her father into more and more trouble throughout the film by exposing his poorly conceived lies, despite her clear love and admiration for Zeke.
Without giving away too many spoilers, this picture has a fairly intriguing mystery following what transpired and led to Dick’s death. Anyone familiar with the disturbing video “Mr. Hands” will immediately recognize that that grotesque event was likely a major inspiration for the screenwriter of this film. Sadly, in many ways that may take away some of the shock value, yet the humor and drama portrayed in the film still certainly holds up.
Ultimately, there are enough positives, including good jokes, a tense and brutal plot, and an interesting take on humanity, that make this a film worth checking out at least once. The movie was released in the United States on September 27th, and continues to receive mostly positive reviews from critics.