Band Called Death, A: Theatrical / Streaming

Sep 19, 2013

You’ll laugh, cry, cheer, and bop along in your seat. This emotional rollercoasterdocuments the rise, fall, and rediscovery of a band of musical brothers. Bobby, David, and Dannis Hackney formed Death in the early ‘70s and after facing roadblocks due to the confrontational name eventually moved onto other musical projects. Discovered by record collectors thirty years later, the band’s music finally saw an album release (For the Whole World to See) to add to the discography of a self-financed 7”.

Even before the band members began to tell their story, the death of guitarist and main driving force David loomed large over this tale. This provided plenty of emotional drama and the filmmakers took full advantage of it, even going beyond the triumphant stage appearance where other films would normally end to add further tragedy to the mix and more gravitas to the resurgence of the band.

The main focus of the film seemed to lean towards the issues of spirituality and family rather than the music, which was appropriate given that the brothers were the sons of a preacher. Overall, the mix of these themes was well balanced even though the presentation was a little heavy handed at times with excessive repetition of similar comments from the Hackneys to drum the point in. Praise for the band by various celebrities (Tobey Maguire alongside Alice Cooper? Really?) was an odd inclusion which seemed to be trying too hard to validate the band’s talent for a mainstream audience.

In addition to the interviews and present day performances, we see fly-on-the-wall scenes of family events and sequences where the brothers were taken back to the familiar territory to recount their tales. Personal photos used around the interviews were given the drifting foreground treatment that’s so popular in documentaries nowadays.

The soundtrack to this film was not like other films covering a single band where the featured act’s tunes would provide the bulk of the background noise. An original score that was not of the punk variety was effective in the scenes where rockin’ would be obnoxious.

This documentary is not just a portrait of an overlooked band but a wonderful study in family togetherness, fate, and single-minded determination. –Colin Flaherty (Drafthouse Films,