05th Oct2019

Grimmfest 2019: ‘Every Time I Die’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Drew Fonteiro, Marc Menchaca, Melissa Macedo, Michelle Macedo, Tyler Dash White | Written by Gal Katzir, Robi Michael | Directed by Robi Michael

every-time-die-poster

The debut feature of co-writer/director Robi Michael takes an old formula – a hero who has amnesia and is trapped in a situation that’s spiralling out of control – and spins a whole new genre film from it. One that uses the tropes of horror and sci-fi to tell a remarkably poignant and human story about love, loss and family…

Every Time I Die tells the story of Sam (Drew Fonteiro), a paramedic show suffers from blackouts, headaches and nightmares – mostly about the death of his sister years ago. Sam is somthing of a unhapy individual, seemingly coasting through life pinning over Mia (Melissa Macedo), a woman with whom he had an illicit affair, and ignoring his obvious medical issues. Trying to cheer Sam up, his paramedic partner Jay (Marc Menchaca) invites Sam to spend the weekend with him at his lakeside holiday home, his wife Penny (Michelle Macedo), who is Mia’s twin sister; and Mia and her husband Tyler (Tyler Dash White), a soldier who – it turns out – might be suffering from a bit of PTSD. Though to be fair it’s never made clear whether it really is PTSD or just a soldier who likes killing a little too much now – either way war=bad!

Given the fact this IS a horror film though, things, it’s safe to say, do not go smoothly. During one of his blackouts it turns out Sam revealed to everyone at lodge that he and Mia had an affair. And Tyler being a “macho” soldier type doesn’t take the news well. In fact he kills Sam. And that’s where this films real story ACTUALLY begins.

It’s commendable that Robi Michael decided to front-load Every Time I Die with over thirty minutes of character development that feels les like a horror film than kitchen-sink drama. But it’s thanks to all that character development, and small reveals about Sam’s life early-on, that we actually connect with Sam, that we connect with Jay – so that when the proverbial sh*t hits the fan, we also care what happens to those involved.

There’s also some clever use of first-person perspective within the film. In fact we open with a scene from Sam’s POV: in bed with Mia trying to persuade her to stay with him for breakfast instead of running off back to her husband. That first-person persepctive is called back to later on in the film when Sam wakes up in the body of Jay. At first we see who we THINK it’s Mia but it is revealed – to us AND to Sam himself, that it’s actually her twin sister Penny. It’s at this point writer/director Robi Michael unveils the real story of Every Time I Die (though to be fair the title gives it away somewhat)… This is actually a dark, I’d even go as far as saying bleak, body-swap movie.

A strangely slow-paced but brutal horror, Every Time I Die is a fantastic spin on an old trope, however it does much to push itself past familiarity and into new territory. That it sacrifices some plotting and characters to get there can be overlooked somewhat too, though the revelation of the films finale is less of a revelation than the film thinks – the signposting is, ultimately, heavy-handed. Yet for all that the film makes up for all its foibles with its remarkably poignant story; a story that is rather apt in todays “woke” environment.

***½  3.5/5

Every Time I Die screened on October 4th 2019 as part of this years Grimmfest.

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