This Is Your Death (2017) [REVIEW] [SXSW ’17]

Remember when Armageddon and Deep Impact came out in the same year and it was tough to remember which was which? Or what about when Dante’s Peak came out the same year as Volcano? The coincidental releases of widely-released movies leading to confusion can also happen with independent movies at film festivals, if you can believe it. For example, at SXSW, there were two different neo-noir films that starred Robert Forrester, with one being named “Small Crimes” and the other being named “Small Town Crime.” HOW THE HELL DID THIS HAPPEN?! Another example would be This Is Your Death and Game of Death, which both took place in not-too-distant futures that featured people competing to kill themselves for the entertainment of others. Sadly, I am stupid and saw This Is Your Death after confusing a photo I saw for Game of Death and was excited to watch this movie. Double sadly, this film was a bizarre melodrama featuring normally skilled actors struggling to polish the turd of a movie.

Oh, right, James Franco is also in this movie for one scene!

When a woman is rejected on a Bachelor-type of show, she shoots her suitor and then turns the gun on herself. The show’s host, Adam (Josh Duhamel), has a career crisis about how awful society is that audiences seemed to enjoy the carnage. The network’s executive, Ilana (Famke Janssen), wants to exploit future suicides for ratings. Adam disagrees with having any part of it, until he goes for a job and sees a girl ribbon dancing for ten minutes, which causes him to think, “Wait, maybe that IS a good idea!” Adam “flips the script” on Ilana during the show’s first episode, encouraging audiences to pledge money to the people who kill themselves on-air. The show becomes incredibly popular and Adam totally thinks suicide is awesome, while Mason (Giancarlo Esposito) struggles to support his family and considers participating in the show. I don’t want to spoil too much, but I’ll say that weeks later, I can still barely unravel the nonsense of this movie and its attempt to provide commentary on reality TV consumption.

Man oh man, I sure hope both guns work!

Yup, you read that right, there’s a scene where a character completely changes his outlook on whether or not suicides should be broadcast because he watches a girl dancing with a ribbon. Were this film to have starred slightly less talented actors, it would for sure be a complete turd, but something about these performances selling the cheesy dialogue kept me just entertained enough to question why the hell anyone would sign on for this. There were moments here and there where I thought the film was going to go in some interesting directions with its message of consuming human misery as entertainment, and then the film would completely veer away from where I wanted it to go. THERE’S JUST SO MUCH NONSENSE. One “contestant” kills themselves by jumping into a giant pool full of acid. THIS SOUNDS LIKE THE ABSOLUTELY MOST PAINFUL DEATH IMAGINABLE. Why on earth would anyone do this?! Also, another character, who was a dancer diagnosed with ALS, does an elaborate ballet routine then culminates with him shooting himself in the head with two different guns. Yup, he puts two guns to his head, and pulls the triggers. Is that not weird enough for you? What about a character whose arc is that they’re seemingly depressed while their brother pays for their entire lifestyle, but is so ashamed of their brother, they decide to get hard into drugs and becomes suicidal just to teach their brother a lesson? Or maybe a scene where a man calls his family, who he hears bicker when they answer the phone because the kids are too excited, listens to his family for three full minutes, only for the family to hang up before ever saying, “Hello?” THAT’S NOT HOW PEOPLE USE PHONES. Goddammit, this was nonsense.

Poor Mason, I sure hope your family learns how to use the phone someday.

Conceptually, I’m on board with this movie. If you told me the concept, I’d say, “That sound like Running Man: Origins.” In that regard, the film totally works! I could see a society where this type of game show would exist and eventually lead to a dystopia where people are encouraged to kill one another for pure entertainment value, but those are some pretty intense ideas. Running Man was far enough in the future and had a silly enough premise that it could lean into the absurdity in a way that it was humorous, but tonally, This Is Your Death felt like EDtv. I couldn’t tell if I was laughing because of how hokey some sequences were or if the scenes were intentional mocking a film you’d see on Lifetime. Here’s hoping that This Is Your Death becomes a new cult classic, not like other sci-fi dystopic movies, but like The Room, in which you can’t believe any human would ever act the way they did in this movie. Oh yeah, and did I mention that most of the plot and character choices were set in motion thanks to ribbon dancing?

Wolfman Moon Scale

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