Chasing down a mystery as the centerpiece of a documentary is tricky. On the one hand, the thrill of the chase should make for a compelling story. On the other hand, solving the mystery may turn out to be a let down if the end result is far less mysterious than it originally seemed. Resurrect Dead finds itself in this quandary.
Kicking off with an intriguing question – who was responsible for all the strange plaques made of tiles with the even stranger message “TOYNBEE IDEA IN Kubrick’s 2001 RESURRECT DEAD ON PLANET JUPITER” pasted on streets all across the east coast and parts of South America and what does it mean? – Ressurect Dead races off with a relatively stylish approach to a bizarre puzzle. Director Jon Foy follows a small cast of characters obsessed with solving the Toynbee tiles mystery. Unfortunately for Foy, his cast of characters is filled with only one who holds much interest outside of the task at hand. Not a death knell, but when the film leads in numerous dead ends on its way to answering the question of the who and why behind the seemingly other worldly tiles, the story needs a strong character or two to hold the wandering narrative together. Its no small task and Foy does about as good of a job as one could, given how long he chased this story and the conclusion that was reached.
Justin Duerr is the ring leader. He is front in center as the curious amateur detective trying to crack the case. His own back story holds a fair amount of interest and even parallels that of the main suspect in many ways. Foy may have missed an opportunity to draw even stronger connections between his wild-eyed sherlock holmes and the suspected tiler.
By the time the mystery is solved, or at least as solved as it’s likely to ever be solved, there is a letdown. The big payoff isn’t there and the journey of exploring the major suspects turns up only a few interesting moments. What starts off as a fast paced thrill ride ends more like a tame carousel. Still, the dedication to chasing the story to its end is admirable. And the first third of the movie is as engaging as any mystery, fiction or non-fiction. Sometimes the premise of a documentary is far more intriguing than its end reveals. There is only so much a director can do to remedy that and Jon Foy does his best to put it all together in an entertaining and informative package.