Pink Freud are finishing up band practice one night when one of them asks: “Y’all wanna get weird?” And then it does.
The amusingly titled The Death of Dick Long is as strange as you’d expect from Daniel Scheinert (one of the people responsible for farting corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) movie Swiss Army Man), but there’s nothing expected about it. The black comedy begins like an extended version of the Marvin sequence from Pulp Fiction (which is enjoyably referenced both in the dialogue and the character called Ezekiel) before folding in on itself to reveal unpalatable hidden depths.
Scheinert balances gallows humour with tension so uneasy it becomes the most uncomfortable watch since that one Will.i.am designed. It has a groggy, blue-collar atmosphere reminiscent of a Primus song, set in small-town Alabama where the local elementary school has a ‘no guns’ sign on the door. The tweeky performances from Michael Abbott Jr. and Andre Hyland mask layers of pain and alienation, a product of their environment with shades of the Alabama-based podcast S-Town.
There are more strong turns from Virginia Newcomb as Ezekiel’s horrified wife and Sarah Baker (Big Little Lies) as the naive small-town cop, a character we’ve seen before but succeeds in charming us nonetheless. Throw in an ironic, haunting (isn’t it always?) use of Nickelback’s How You Remind Me and The Death of Dick Long emerges as a sad, surprising and nuanced meditation on masculinity that makes you laugh and squirm as though being tickled by Les Claypool. Those damn blue collar tweekers, they’re the backbone of this town.
Thanks to Sundance Film Festival: London and presenting partner Adobe for this screening, which along with the majority of this year’s films was created using Adobe technology.