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Create or Die (2024) Review

Sarah Massey’s documentary Create or Die is a movie about the making of a movie about the making of a movie. That movie is David Axe’s Acorn, which is about a B movie director who, after she’s diagnosed with inoperable cancer, decides to make a serious film, Die Standing Up, in the time she has left. Or as a serious a film as you can make with a man eating tree in it.

Unlike a lot of people who may see Create or Die, I have seen Acorn, in fact I’ve seen most of David Axe’s films. So it caught me a little off guard when the film’s introduction frames him in terms of a bad filmmaker, something he agrees with. “I am happy to make bad movies – one a year until I die.” And I don’t see his films, with the possible exception of House Monster, as bad. Rough around the edges and extremely low budget with all of the limitations that come with it, yes. But certainly watchable and entertaining, and not in an ironic “so bad it’s good” way.

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But Create or Die isn’t so much about the relative quality of the film. It’s about the creative process that went into making Acorn, and to a certain extent, the kinds of problems that plague all low budget filmmakers. And the kind of mindset it takes to overcome them.

Told through behind the scenes footage and interviews with Axe as well as other members of the film’s cast and crew, Massey documents the various obstacles they faced in bringing an ambitious film to life on a budget. From the weather to the loss of an important shooting location, unreliable crew members and more.

Much of what’s covered will be of interest to anyone who is interested in what goes into the making of an indie film. However, by focusing almost entirely on Acorn rather than the director’s entire output, Shed and Bae Wolf are briefly mentioned, it will be harder for those who haven’t seen Acorn to relate to Create or Die.

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This becomes more of a problem when Axe and his crew are talking about the struggles of the film’s characters to make their film, and how they related to it. I understand the relevance of the plot points mentioned and the lines they quoted, but anyone who hasn’t seen it will be lacking the context needed to understand why they feel so connected to these characters and bits of dialogue.

As a result, Create or Die feels more like something shot as a bonus feature for Acorn’s DVD release rather than a truly standalone film. And, thankfully, BayView Entertainment have included it there as well as making it available on Digital. Because this will play best to those who know the film and, most likely, were already big enough fans of the director to buy a hard copy of his film.

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Seen that way, Create or Die will be a much more rewarding film, that gives a respectful but even-handed picture of a filmmaker and his crew trying to rise above both their budget and his perceived need for improvement at his craft. And, they’ll be able to understand why so many of those involved in making it found it so relatable.

Overall, Create or Die is an interesting film, but one with limited appeal to those not already familiar with its subject. It can still be enjoyed as a look at microbudget filmmaking and the drive to be creative, but it won’t have the same effect. Considering I liked Acorn, I’d recommend getting the DVD and enjoying both.

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