I have to give massive kudos to FrightFest this year for screening My Father, Die as the opening film of their 2016 schedule being that it was a challenging and disturbingly portrait of childhood abuse and the futility of revenge.
Opening on a black and white flash back to the moment in Asher’s life that transformed him for ever more we see his closeness to his older brother Chester (Stranger Things Chester Rushing) a defiant hero in his eyes who rebels against the iron clad authority of their father Ivan (Dead Man’s Shoes Gary Stretch).
Allowing his sibling to watch while he has sex with his trailer park sweetheart Nana, Chester is unaware that their father is on the rampage being that he too is sleeping with the underage girl. Smacking Asher so hard he loses his hearing we watch on hopelessly as Ivan beats his first born son to death with his bare hands forcing Asher to watch while it happens.
Moving forward many years and bringing colour into the drab adult existence of a much older Asher, played now by Hannibal’s Joe Anderson, we discover that Ivan is set for release from jail. Fully grown and fearful of what his psychotic dad might do Asher decides to kill him before he can harm anyone else embarking on a mission of revenge for his lost brother that will take him into his father wicked and warped world.
Part art house horror, part Freudian nightmare, part shocking family drama writer and director Sean Brosnan, son of Pierce, paints a depressing and harsh world in which the characters exist where men drink and fight and women are used and abused with little light to brighten the darkness all around them.
Joe Anderson is amazing as Asher turning in a powerhouse performance tinged with sensitivity and depth alongside Gary Stretch who as Ivan embodies brutality and hate brought to life. Whenever on screen Stretch exudes evil and menace making for a horrifying force of nature that Asher must stand up to in a David and Goliath battle to finally put his painful past to rest.
As an adult Nana Candace Smith appears as an oasis of optimism admits the cycle of violence revolving around her however with Asher’s appearance in her life she and her young son are plunged into peril leading to some of the most unwatchable scenes of the film displaying the real cost of vengeance.
Sadly perhaps losing some of its power in the final act as the increasing action and gun play push My Father, Die away from its stylised realism and into the realms of 70’s exploitation movie homage the ending thankfully does not detract too much from the majority of the film leaving the viewer shell shocked by the visceral barrage of imagery and savagery on display.
Featuring terrific and terrifying performances and some interesting and innovative direction My Father, Die is a hard film to watch but once you do I guarantee you will not forget it.