When the credits roll and you see ‘written, directed, edited and composed by’, it conjures up a few thoughts, not always positive, as the line between auteur and megalomaniac is incredibly fine. Yet we needn’t fear too much here as it’s the work of Swedish director and screenwriter Antonio Tublén, probably best known for the admittedly very clever LFO, which combined world domination with a pretty special royal cumshot and demonstrated not only a perverse sense of humour but an ability to do much with little.
Death Do Us Part is his third film, where he uses the ridiculously over populated premise of a zombie apocalypse as his setting for a crumbling marriage. That’s two cinematic clichés in one, but what’s unique about Death Do Us Part is their use together.
Stress is rarely good for a relationship and it’s difficult to think of anything more stressful than being shut in your apartment while your neighbours are consuming each other. Tublén however is not particularly interested in the zombies. He probably figures that we’ve seen everything we need to see in The Walking Dead or Dawn of the Dead et al. Rather the zombies are simply a means to an end, to thrust this couple together in a high-pressure situation where they only have each other and are forced to work through their issues…with copious amounts of drugs. And the odd spot of exercise.
The success of Death Do Us Part, also sometimes known as Zoo, hinges exclusively on the two characters, Karen (Zoë Tapper) and John (Downton Abbey’s Ed Speleers), who after the death of their baby are living separate lives, inches from divorce. Both deliver pretty exceptional performances. You believe their mutual frustration, apathy, boredom, anger and fear, as they bounce up against each other in an impossible situation.
Midway it suddenly dawns on you that this is a one-room film, a claustrophobic pressure cooker, but it serves to focus our attention as opposed feeling like we are missing out on anything. There are enough twists and turns in the plot to apply pressure to the tenuous couple. In fact they, and the viewer are never really allowed too long to settle before something new and testing happens. Like LFO there’s a perverse kind of darkness to the humour, where even the odd spot of murder can not only be absurd, but also fetch a giggle or two.
Watching Death Do Us Part during lockdown for COVID-19 is similarly absurd, where your own world is similar to the size of Karen and John’s, where relationships are put under similar tests and the boredom anger and frustration you experience can only be tempered somewhat by a cupboard full on intoxicants. Tublén probably thought he was writing fiction. It turns out he was predicting the future. Actually, given the way Death Do Us Part ends lets hope not.