[Exclusive Interview] Kirill Sokolov Brings Home Gore and Humor in WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE!

Rarely do we find comedy in carnage, but debut feature director Kirill Sokolov marries the two cinema components with guts and glory in his debut feature, Why Don’t You Just Die!. While Sokolov portrays his bold influencers through film, he is surprising audiences with a unique brand of Russian dark comedy in an action-packed tale of love, revenge, and rebellion.

Acting as the film’s writer, director, and editor, Sokolov proves not only will he not go down without a fight, but he can stand proudly in bloody triumph over combative genre collaboration. There is no illusion when it comes to every punch, kick, hit, or application of his craft as he shares his experience turning Why Don’t You Just Die! into unrealistic reality. He wants to take you on a roller coaster ride of emotion and, if you’re brave enough, you can easily sit back and enjoy.

 

When you’re trying to make a pizza you put all ingredients you like into it, so I just tried to do the same.”

 

Jessica Rose For Nightmare On Film Street: I really loved Why Don’t You Just Die!. It was not something I was expecting and it just blew me away. I thought it was fantastic.

Kirill Sokolov: Thank you. Thank you very much.

NOFS: Do you mind telling me a little bit about how you got started this story in particular? It’s really original. I couldn’t think of anything that was done like that before, with meeting the parents and this whole other dark story behind it. I really liked that.

KS: It’s just a typical Russian story, huh? I started to write scripts from my first short movies. Why Don’t You Just Die! was not my first feature script, but the first one which finally was made into a movie. It has this mix of irony and really bad things in it. I was very influenced, at one time, by Irish literature. Martin McDonagh, that influence in particular. You can still feel it.

NOFS: You can definitely tell. It has all these different emotions, it has humor, horror, sadness, and action all combined into it. Was that difficult for you to control, the proportion of emotions?

KS: I don’t know. Somebody told me that there were too many different things in one movie, but I try just to put everything I like in it. I like all this stuff and I watch these movies. When you’re trying to make a pizza you put all ingredients you like into it, so I just tried to do the same. I hope it can still have its own taste.

NOFS: Absolutely. That’s a good way to put it. Who wants a plain pizza with nothing on it? Nobody.

KS: Definitely. Definitely.

 



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NOFS: I thought you did that really well. Combining humor with horror aspects and gore, is somewhat difficult to do. I thought that you balanced the humor really well. It had quirks to it. Is there anything special that goes into crafting comedy like that?

KS: It’s kind of interesting because I really tried to make a mix of the genres that appear to stay true. I really wanted to make the audience be very surprised because when you watch a movie and you go for a comedy or action movie, for example, you are really prepared. You know what you are going to see and deep down inside, you are not surprised no matter what kind of story you are watching. In this case, I really tried to change genre so that while you are watching the movie you get kind of confused, in a good way, because you just laugh, then you immediately feel the shame that you laughed, then you are scared, then you are laughing again. All the time you have this mix of feelings, kind of like a roller coaster for the audience. I thought a lot about how to make it and how to jump from one kind of tone and emotional level to another and how to change genre style.

NOFS: I thought it was a perfect mix. And I’m really picky when it comes to combining genres. I’m not really an action kind of a person, but I love the choreography, it was just unbelievable. The sequences in it were really gripping. What was the process like of combining all of those different elements, getting all those fight sequences in there? It didn’t look like there was any CGI or anything digital added to it.

KS: Everything was made practical on the set and that was probably because we didn’t have enough money for CGI. On the set there were some wires and all this stuff, but not a big amount of that. I made the storyboard, but then we sat and talked a lot about it. Then we called the stunt guys and talked a lot about it and then we made it.

We tried to make it as clear as possible because nobody likes the action in movies when you can’t understand what is going on. It’s kind of an illusion of activity. We really tried to make it visually very powerful so that the audience feels each punch and see the pain in it. Of course, there are some action gags in it, but it was done in a very old school way.

 

“…nobody likes the action in movies when you can’t understand what is going on […] the audience feels each punch and see the pain in it.”

 

NOFS: It’s interesting that you say that because I think what’s attractive about it is actually seeing each punch, each kick. All of that you’re actually seeing. There’s no tricks behind it that are obvious like we see in a lot of movies nowadays. It was brilliantly done. When you say you incorporated all the things that you like to see in a movie, what is it that you do like to see? Were there any like specific movies or artists, or directors that you channeled into this?

KS: I’m a really big fan, for example, of Martin Scorsese and, like I said, Martin McDonagh. I like South Korean movies like those from Park Chan-wook. They all mix genres very much and that’s how they make the movies. They’re distorted in an unpredictable way. Sometimes they mix three different movies into one movie and you’re very surprised during the whole story. Of course, I was influenced by Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, and Guy Ritchie. Why Don’t You Just Die! is kind of very postmodernic. You can find references inside of this movie to other themes. For example you can say “The hammer is a thanks to Old Boy“, or “These are scenes like Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns”, and so on. I think that people who are big fans of movies and watch a lot, they will get much more pleasure during Why Don’t You Just Die! because they could find all these small roots which lead to other movies.

NOFS: There was a good bit of influence in it, but it also stayed really original and really fresh and different. It’s hard to find that in movies, especially if you’re channeling other artists. Sometimes it’s so obvious, but not in Why Don’t You Just Die!.

KS: In this case, I worried about it too much. I really worried about it, but I hope that didn’t happen. My Russian culture probably helped me because we tried to integrate Russian mentality and Russian culture and characters into it. That helped to make it recognizable, but still it’s fresh and unique because it all went through Russian culture.

 

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NOFS: Do you find that comedy, like Russian comedy or Russian dark comedy, is different than comedies found elsewhere in the world?

KS: It is different. We don’t we don’t have comedies in Russia. That was a big problem with releasing Why Don’t You Just Die! with comedy in Russia. We didn’t know how to promote this movie, because there are no examples of its kind in Russia. It was very confusing.

NOFS: It’s a unique movie on its own, even here in the States. I think that’s a good job done as well as because you’ve kept that bridge and also made it fresh.. You’re creating your own kind of genre on its own. Were there any limitations on how much gore you wanted to show? I didn’t think I’d be able to handle it at first, but I found myself really enjoying it. I didn’t feel like I had to look away. I didn’t feel like it was over-the-top or overdone. Can you speak to how you handled the presentation of carnage?

KS: All the violence in this movie, it’s another type of torture porn, because it’s all very cartoonish. We made it especially very unrealistic with these huge fountains of blood. The people in this movie are just like bags of blood. If you take all the extra violence from this movie, the story by itself is not funny at all. It has a very dark and depressive context and social and political commentary. We really wanted to make a fun movie, so we edited all this funny stuff to create a little bit more distance between the audience and what is happening inside of the movie. We did not make it to be realistic, but more genre. We made it more extra, extra, extra just to make it more easy going for the audience. I think that without all this stuff, it would be much more sad and dark and people would be really sad after watching it.

NOFS: Sure, when it is so dark and depressing, people don’t pay attention to the themes as much. When you do add in some quirky comedy and action, people pay attention to it more. You’re able to focus on the themes because it’s a lot easier to digest. I respect that. I think it’s a great way to have that come across in your film. 

KS: It was a surprise because when we did it, we really didn’t want to make it a really gory movie. One of the newspapers in Russia said Why Don’t You Just Die! was the bloodiest Russian movie ever made. Me and the art department, the DOB, we were really surprised about that because we didn’t really think that we made something horribly bloody or violent or anything like that.

 

 

NOFS: I thought it was very tasteful. We like violence and we like gore in our movies. It’s one thing when you have to look away, but it’s another thing when you’re able to sit there and actually enjoy it. That’s what you get with Why Don’t You Just Die!. You’re able to actually watch it. It’s there, it’s got the gore, but I think that it was very watchable. What did you enjoy the most about making this?

KS: I like the process. I wrote the story by myself. At first you are writing the script and it’s an absolutely different kind of work, which doesn’t look like anything else. Then you prepare the movie and you talk to all the departments and you make a storyboard and you are kind of flying through your fantasy and then you just shoot it and you work as a director. It’s cool stuff because then you have all other problems, you have actors, you have all these other departments. Then I edited this movie by myself too, so it’s a different kind of work again.

[Federico] Fellini told me that a movie is separated into three kinds of work: when you finish the script, when you finish shooting, and when you finish the edit. All these works are very different, so you don’t get tired of it for a long period of time, even if you do everything by yourself.

NOFS: That’s a huge undertaking. I would never even think that it was all done by you just watching it. It looks like it was a giant production. It’s funny that you mentioned there wasn’t enough money for CGI because you would never notice it. It played out so well and it had such a quality to it.

KS: Thank you.

 

All the violence in this movie, it’s another type of torture porn, because it’s all very cartoonish.”

 

NOFS: Do you have anything in the works? Anything that you’re working on?

KS: We had to stop shooting that was scheduled in the beginning of May, but with those stops we probably have to move it to sometime this summer. I hope it will be a fun movie. It’ll be an adventure movie. Everything’s done outdoors. It’s a chase movie about three women, three generations of women from one family, who struggle with each other. In some way, it continues the theme of dysfunctional families, but in a more light and optimistic way. It’s led by a huge chase, including stolen cars, corrupted cops, shooting, wild animals, and all of that stuff, which could make it a fun ride.

NOFS: Oh, just knowing your work, that sounds like a lot of fun. I really have been happy to recommend Why Don’t You Just Die! to everyone that I think will enjoy it, especially now that everybody’s inside and have time to watch more movies. It’s like a perfect little escape to get some action and adrenaline going.

KS: You know, when you are in this movie, you understand that you have to be careful with your family, especially when you have to stay together for a long time… in one apartment.

 

Kirill Sokolov’s Why Don’t You Just Die! is currently available for digital download and VOD. Have you seen Why Don’t You Just Die!? What do you think of Kirill Sokolov’s take on this Russian dark comedy?  Let us know your thoughts over on Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!

 

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