January 31, 2008

DVD Review: Die and Let Live

Take Kevin Smith and Sam Raimi, put them both in a mixer and shake well, strain out the solid bits and pour. This serves as many as can take it. That is what Die and Let Live is like. It is a comedy horror film that features such things as a mad attempt to save pizza, dolphin encrusted friendship necklaces, some party dudes, a healthy dose of blood, and an appearance by Troma co-founder Lloyd Kaufman. What else do you need?

When you watch a low budget movie you cannot go in expecting a Hollywood style film. You have to recognize that those behind it are likely amateurs working on their first feature, or a bunch of friends that want to see if they can make a movie. The work is not going to be anywhere near the A-list, B-list, or even D-list. This being the case, it is really easy to watch something like Die and Let Live and just rip it to shreds. Honestly, it would not be that hard. The problem then is that you are not giving the movie, or those involved enough credit.

Making a movie is not an easy thing to do. This is a fact that is easy to forget in the face of all that Hollywood has to offer. We, as filmgoers, are spoiled by the slick looks of everything that arrives on the big screen. Low to no budget indie filmmaking is getting down in the trenches where the soldiers toil and sweat and bleed to see their creation brought to life. On the other hand, they could just be having a blast doing what they love, experimenting and seeing what they can do. What makes watching these kinds of movies so much fun is not slogging through the tons of crap that gets released, but discovering those that are fun, not necessarily good, but fun. Die and Let Live is one of those fun discoveries.

Zombie movies are a dime a dozen, you can't go anywhere without finding a low budget zombie movie for they are the playground of horror fans who want to make movies but have no money. To get an idea of all the zombie films out there, just check out the Zombie Movie Appreciation Thread at the Home Theater Forum. Knowing this little fact, you could look at this as just another zombie film and you wouldn't be wrong, but you would be missing out.

The movie opens with a scene reminiscent of Stephen King's The Stand. Substitute a pharmeceutical company for a military base and you have it. There is an outbreak of something that causes zombies, and someone gets out to spread the deadly infection. It is a scene of surprising seriousness and plays in stark contrast to what comes after.

The scene shifts to a couple of friends chatting in a coffee shop. The dialogue reminded me of watching a Kevin Smith movie. The center is on Benny and Smalls, a couple of buddies with nothing particular going on. However, Benny is pining for the recently broken up Stephanie, despite having Liz chasing after him. Anyway, in order for Benny to put the moves on he plans to throw a party in an attempt to get some alone time. This is where the trouble begins.

While the partygoers arrive and the party gets started, there is a zombie menace spreading outside. The two are on a collision course of comedic proportions. While the Kevin Smith sex-comedy marches on, the Sam Raimi zombie flick marches in creating this funny mash-up that works very well.

To tell more of the plot really wouldn't say much, based on what I have already told you I bet you already know how it is going to happen. There is nothing original about the execution. What makes it work is the energy that everyone involved injects into it. It is abundantly clear that everyone was having a lot of fun, and that can help a movie of modest aspirations. It certainly did the trick here.

Audio/Video. Both are quite good. They don't hide the low budget roots, but there is nothing to complain about. Colors are decent, dialogue is always clear, and It just looks good for a low budget affair.

  • Commentary. The track contains most of the main cast and the director. The track is fun, not always informative but it is entertaining.
  • Outtakes. Available with commentary. What is strange here is that unless you have the commentary on, there is no audio. I have to assume this is a problem with the disk. (13 minutes)
  • Deleted Scenes. Nothing terribly special, but deleted scenes are always a welcome addition. (3.33 minutes)
  • Behind the Scenes. A whole mess of set footage. (40 minutes)
  • Premiere. Footage from the theatrical premiere of the film in the filmmakers hometown on West Virginia (5 minutes)
  • Heretic Trailers. Trailers are included for: Cold Blood, I'll Bury You Tomorrow, London Voodoo, Last Exit, Red Cockroaches, and Shockheaded.

Bottomline. I like this movie. It is nothing original, but it is filled with an infectious, manic energy that is near impossible to ignore. It borrows from the best the genres have to offer and blend them in a way that makes this low budget outing flat out fun. It is also interesting to note that the majority of those involved were under the age of 20 when this was in production.



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