Review: Live Forever (2020)

courtesy of Sitges Film Festival

Dying really is annoying. Especially if you’re the collateral damage of supernatural or a serial killer. How rude. And by the time the credits roll, you’re most likely forgotten already. Something of that kind must have gone through Swedish director Gustav Egerstedt’s head when he first conceived his short “Live Forever”. The final product is nothing less than an exhilarating, perky musical love letter to the victims of horror movies. The by the number by-goners, the red shirts of their genre. Shall they forever rest in peace.

Egerstedt derives the humor not purely from the catchy tune alone, he also knows how to visually play with the tropes. He sends a blonde woman through the woods, pursued by a masked ax murderer. A man is lying on the floor, devoured by a group of zombies. A woman in a scarcely lit chamber channels her best Linda Blair while being possessed by a demon. An Asian child ghost, white skin and dark circles around his eyes included, has killed a guy and is sitting next to him, happily shaking his head to the tune. A hooded woman with a handheld camera shooting found footage in the woods is being attacked by a creature. And an aged hippie is being mind-controlled by aliens.

Egerstedt doesn’t particularly try to impose his signature style on the footage. He wants it to look exactly like that one movie you saw a million times, with that weird make up on the monster and those hasty camera angles during the pursuit. Nevertheless, there is a richness to his pictures, his use of intense colors, and crunched blacks. A universal validity whether he’s quoting movies from the 70s, 80s, 90s, or 2000s. Once the deadly deed is in full action, Egerstedt inserts his own language, focusing on the character’s face and his melodic disregard for the situation. The ongoing murder reduces itself to background noise, more serving a case in point than as a gory attraction.

The main star of the short is, however, without doubt, the music. Somewhat inspired by 80s synth music and at first swelling with romantic chords, the lyrics soon talk business. “I was killed for no reason”, the first victim quickly laments, only to be joined by the other characters who are griping with a similar faith. But then again, whoever gets to be killed by a demonic child or by a pack of unhinged zombies? Pretty cool, right? So the tune soon changes to “We are all gonna die, so we might as well go in style.” And then, far from the beaten track of the horror genre, the reality of life sets in. “Why, nobody cares”. Yes, nobody really cares why these people have to go first. They serve a narrative purpose. The audience demands it. One might say, as cruel as it is, it serves a higher purpose.

A notion the singers may agree with. “We die in style and live forever”. And true, even early death can make you memorable to the audience. It certainly did for Egerstedt. “In loving memory of everyone who didn’t make it to the sequel”, the dedication says. And we should keep them in loving memory. And thank them for their (narrative) service. Time to join in on the tune.

The film was screened in the shorts competition program of SLASH Film Festival in Vienna.

Original Title: Live Forever
Country: Sweden
Language: English
Year: 2020
Runtime: 4 min
Written/ Directed by: Gustav Egerstedt
Producer: Christer Kildén
Cinematographer: Kenneth Ishii
Sound Designer: Olle Ljungman
Composer: Gustav Egerstedt, Olle Ljungman
Editor: Björn Clausen
Cast: Fille Angele, Tomio Araki, Victor Brott, Julia Dehnisch, Sarah Giercksky, Lilja Li Gille, Roger Glassel, Olle Lagerqvist, Xindian Yan, Laurence Zaccheus