Go Down Death
by M. Faust
If you’ve been following the more-or-less monthly film series offered by Little Red Booking at Squeaky Wheel, you will know that this is cinema not for the faint of heart. That tradition is not broken with their latest offering, Go Down Death, the debut of Brooklyn filmmaker Aaron Schimberg.
Taking its title from the African-American poet James Weldon Johnson (or possibly from the 1944 film by Spencer Williams), Go Down Death takes place in what appears to be the Civil War era, or maybe the First World War. Let’s just go with the filmaker’s synopsis:
“Go Down Death is a wry, sinister realization of a strange new universe, a cross-episodic melange of macabre folktales supposedly penned by the fictitious writer Jonathan Mallory Sinus. An abandoned warehouse in Brooklyn stands in for a decrepit village haunted by ghosts, superstition, and disease, while threatening to buckle under rumblings of the apocalypse. Soldiers are lost and found in endless woods; a child gravedigger is menaced by a shape-shifting physician, a syphilitic john bares all to a young prostitute, and a disfigured outcast yearns for the affections of a tone-deaf cabaret singer.”
Got that? Comparisons to David Lynch are obvious but not terribly accurate: Guy Maddin, with his recreations of old films, is closer to the mark, though Schimberg doesn’t seem to be consciously imitating any single director. (You could arguably call the film’s ending a life from Luis Bunuel’s Simon of the Desert, but of course “spot the reference” is a game that can go on all night.) Filming in black-and-white 16-millimeter helps give the setting a dream-like aura as well as covering up some production weaknesses in what is clearly a low-budget effort.
Go Down Death will be screened at Squeaky Wheel on Thursday, May 22 at 7pm. The screening will be followed by Q&A with filmmakers Aaron Schimberg and Vanessa McDonnell.
Watch the trailer for Go Down Death
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