Review: Those Who Deserve To Die (2019)
Those Who Deserve To Die, the newest feature from writer/director Bret Wood (Psychopathia Sexualis, The Unwanted) opens with the brutal killing of an elderly couple. While that might not be so unusual, the fact that the masked killer is being directed by a young girl is. A young girl who writes a message in the victim’s blood on the wall. And that’s not even the film’s most disturbing moment.
Jonathan Wyndham (Joe Sykes, V/H/S) is a veteran of the Gulf War. The sole survivor of his unit he was left with a severe case of PTSD. But that may be the least of his issues. Jonathan still has a mission to complete. A mission of revenge for the death of his parents and younger sister Berenice (Alice Lewis) whose ghost now accompanies him. Just as he lost his family, so must the bloodlines of those responsible be wiped out.
Things become further complicated when he’s introduced to social worker Margaret Merrill (Rachel Frawley, Cemetery Tales: Tales from Morningview Cemetery). An attraction begins to form. This does not please Bernice, because Margaret’s mother is Justice Merrill (Lynn Lowry, The Crazies, Necropolis: Legion) of the state Supreme Court. And that means they both have to die.
Those Who Deserve To Die is an adaptation of Thomas De Quincey’s The Avenger filmed as a giallo. This is somewhat fitting as another of De Quincey’s works, Suspiria de Profundis, inspired giallo master Dario Argento to step away from the genre and film his supernatural masterpiece Suspiria.
This, however, isn’t a supernatural tale unless you count the ghost of Berenice. It’s never made clear though if she’s real, or an externalization of Jonathan’s guilt and anger. What it is, is a disturbing tale of vigilantism taken to the point of insanity. The opening murders are followed by the murder of a newborn, Bernice holding its hand as Jonathan beats it to death. This isn’t a typical slasher or giallo, much of the violence is aimed at children and senior citizens. We see much of it, frequently in graphic detail. But even what we don’t see is framed in ways that still make it disturbing.
The film does have issues with its pacing. By placing it’s most disturbing moments in the beginning, Wood risks having the rest of Those Who Deserve To Die seem weak by comparison. And to a degree, it does seem to tail off until the final moments when everything spirals into madness. Much of the middle of the film is held together by two performances. Lowry gives a wonderfully over the top performance as the corrupt judge. All public charm and private malice. On the other end of the scale is newcomer Lewis’s icy portrayal of Bernice. Whether a vengeful spirit or what Dexter would call a dark passenger it’s chilling watching her emotionlessly urge Jonathan on to further violence.
If you can take the disturbing violence and uneven pacing, Those Who Deserve To Die is certainly worth seeing. It’s the kind of brutal, nasty horror that’s becoming increasingly rare lately. It doesn’t always succeed at getting the points it tries to make across. I got what Wood meant about war having the same effects on a person as child abuse. But what he was trying to say at the end about society seemed muddled. They still add a grim subtext to an already grim plot, however.
Kino Lorber has released Those Who Deserve To Die on DVD/Blu Ray and streaming outlets. You can check the film’s website and Facebook page for more details. I somehow overlooked this when it played at last year’s Buried Alive Film Festival, don’t make the same mistake I did.