Toronto After Dark 2023: ‘Daniel’s Gotta Die’

Canadian filmmaker Jeremy LaLonde is becoming the go-to guy to find humour in despicable people.  After taking a brief break to make an experimental drama (Ashgrove), LaLonde finds himself easing back into his comedic element with Daniel’s Gotta Die, a dark comedy about an inheritance-hungry, ne’er-do-well family being reigned in by a goodnatured sibling.

Shortly after the passing of their father Edward (a hilarious extended cameo by Iggy Pop), perpetually naive Daniel (Joel David Moore) wants his wayward family to take a trip to their exotic beach house in memory of dad. Selfish siblings Mia, Jessica, and Victor (Mary Lynn Rajskub, Carly Chaikin, and Jason Jones) resist, but are coaxed into going after Edward’s testy assistant Lawrence (the late Bob Saget, in his final role and impressively going against type) informs them that the weekend vacation is a requirement to receive their individual inheritance.  Other details expose how Daniel is the pin holding this plan together, suggesting that maybe if Daniel “wasn’t around anymore”, the cash value of the inheritance will grow for the other family members.

Concluding Darius Films’ three-picture deal with the Cayman Islands (The Retirement Plan and The Baker are the previous films), Daniel’s Gotta Die is in the same spirit as LaLonde’s previous comedies The Go-Getters and James vs. His Future Self;  although, this time, the feisty nastiness driving the motivations gives the material more of an edge.  This could be because of how fearless Matthew Dressel’s screenplay is, a rare instance where newcomer inexperience benefits the writing because of how frequently Dressel swings for the fences.  Or, perhaps, the extra acidity is provided by the loaded cast who, assumably, have a twisted sense of humour as well.  The character archetypes are fairly thin on their own, with only their selfishness truly defining them, but they strike a special camaraderie when sharing the screen (any time Jones and Rajskub play off each other, for instance).

Unapologetic chemistry is needed to make this uncomfortable premise work, and Daniel’s Gotta Die has no shortage of its winning formula.  Despite a final act that feels a little too morbid, the production understands the importance of commitment, making Daniel’s Gotta Die a killer comedy.


Tragedy Girls screens at Toronto After Dark on Friday, October 20 at 7:00 pm at Scotiabank Theatre.

For more information on the festival, visit the official Toronto After Dark website.

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Toronto After Dark: @TADFilmFest
Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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