Netflix Review: Resurrect Dead

In this day and age, there really are very few true mysteries out there.  With the click of a mouse, you can basically find the answer to any question you ask.  One of the things I love most about documentaries is when a passionate filmmaker chases a storyline that most people know nothing about in search of answers or some form of conclusion.  Resurrect Dead is one of the best examples of this that doesn’t involve a murder.  It is documentary about a true-life mystery that has gone on for decades.

This movie follows a few enthusiastic guys from Philly in their pursuit of someone who is creating hundreds of tiles that have popped up all over the country and parts of South America.  The tiles (shown below) are embedded in the streets and roadways have become somewhat of an urban legend.  The main character is named Justin Duerr, who discovers a tile on the streets of Philadelphia back in the mid 1980s and becomes obsessed with finding out its meaning and who is creating them.  He teams up with a few other like-minded individuals fascinated with the same phenomenon and they begin to film their quest to uncover the mystery.  It is pretty amazing to watch them put everything together with almost no information or leads outside of the tiles themselves.  You can tell it’s not just a weekend hobby for these guys.

You may be thinking, “alright, sounds kind of intriguing but who cares?”  Initially I thought that too.  But the way that director Jon Foy, a first-time director who is also a part of this quest, puts the film together makes it a very enjoyable watch.  The editing of the movie is interesting without being obtrusive and the pacing is perfect, never really breaking stride.  The movie is only about 85 minutes and the only part that drags is when they get sidetracked from the pursuit and discuss who Justin and the other pursuers are.  It did show at Sundance in 2011 and Foy won the prize for best director in a documentary.

The other interesting part is how Foy was able put together a coherent and interesting movie using very little actual footage.  This all has taken place over decades but they just started the doc in 2005 so there is very limited footage of anything of substance.  They made up for this using comic book-style storyboards that helped to convey what they could not film.  It sounds sloppy and amateur but it follows the style of the rest of the film and doesn’t seem out of place.

I won’t go into the theories behind the tiles or what they discover on their journey because that is part of the fun.  It is great to see how this group of guys take an urban mystery and try to solve it simply to satisfy their own curiosity.  The revelations uncovered are not world-changing but it is interesting to see why people do the things they do.  In a way it is similar to the excellent Exit Through the Gift Shop, which is also very good and worth seeing, but without all the baggage that came with that documentary.  I know documentaries aren’t for everyone but I would highly recommend this to anyone that is at least slightly intrigued.  It is currently streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

What did you think?  Anyone seen or heard of this movie?