Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles (2011)

My kid was sick today, which is just horrible. But the coughing, the sleepless nights, and the inconsolable crying are far from the worst part. While heartbreaking (and gross), your kid will get over the physical symptoms in a few days and a cold is nothing compared to the awful shit she’ll get into as she perfects the ability to harm herself. No, the worst part of having a sick kid is hiding it from daycare. For those that don’t have kids (Smart!) lemme ‘splain: if you can’t afford a hot Scandinavian au pair, you send your kid to daycare where she gets to spend nine hours rolling around on the floor right where ten parents just wiped the sidewalk filth off their shoes. This is a privilege you will pay many, many thousands of dollars for so you can go to work all day, before coming come to spend two precious hours reminding your offspring you still exist.

But when your kid is sick, all bets are off. No daycare for you. Either mommy or daddy has to stay home with the little snot factory, who will scream and fuss all day long, requiring constant attention and providing precisely zero playful smiles or snapshot-worthy adorableness in exchange. So you hide your child’s secret shame. “What? She puked all day and wouldn’t eat or nap? That IS weird. She must be teething.” That will only cover you so long. Eventually the kid will spray radioactive phlegm on a playmate, the thermometer will come out (and go in) and two tenths of a degree will  consign your kid to fucking LOCKDOWN. That’s when you get the call demanding that you immediately enforce strict quarantine protocol until the danger has passed.

It’s not that I love going to work or hate spending time with my daughter. But the whole point of daycare is so I can do my job, not get fired, and bring home money, which I can then blow on daycare. The kicker is, even when you stay home and care for your child yourself you still pay. I think they infect kids on purpose to lighten their workload. “Oop, little Timmy’s had perfect attendance for two whole months. Time to squeeze a dropper of Ebola in his applesauce!”

Folks, be responsible. Don’t have kids unless you can afford to hire 22-year-old Inga to watch them and do hotpants pilates in the living room. It’s better for everyone.

On your marks, get set…

The story: What the fuck is this movie about? I had NO IDEA when I started watching it. I just knew it was about a series of strange plaques found in the U.S. and parts of South America. But the name sounded pretty Halloweeny, right? Surely the tiles have some occult significance, like immigrant Druids used them to navigate the Mississippi or something? Not so much. But it’s still a neat little puzzle. Conspiracy documentaries are always fun.

This one follows a guy named Justin who, some time in the mid-90s, discovered a weird tile pressed into the blacktop of a Philadelphia intersection. The tile bore a strange message about a movie, a planet and raising the dead. Spanning more than a decade, Resurrect Dead chronicles Justin’s obsession with the markers as he and his fellow amateur detectives trace the origins of the mysterious objects. Cool, huh?

Wrap it up kid, we do weather on the 8’s.

Biggest letdown: When we first meet Justin, his hair is cropped close, revealing what is unmistakably a hideous scalp tattoo. Justin has a bit of the junkie look to him – bug eyes, slouching, undernourished build, pale skin covered in ink – so from the outset we aren’t sure if the movie is about the curious signs themselves, or the mental instability of the people chasing them. It doesn’t help when we see highlights from his troubled childhood, which serve little purpose in the narrative, and his unreasonable surprise when a potential suspect won’t come to the door. Think the prison tats all over your neck might have something to do with that?

No no, I’m taking you seriously…to the hospital.

Later on though, we realize that apart from being quite intelligent, Justin is a successful artist, making his obsession instantly more wholesome than it would be if he were living in his car. It’s a conscious decision so maybe I’m just missing the point. After all, Justin is one of the film’s creators so he certainly had a say in how would be introduced. Maybe the idea is, “Gotcha! You thought this quest was only for deranged losers but you were too quick to judge!” Much as I love being chided for drawing natural conclusions from the evidence presented, I might have  preferred seeing the central character introduced in a better light.


Why you should watch: If the object of the search doesn’t sound that interesting, consider just how bizarre the motivation behind this campaign would have to be. The tiles have been sighted for over 30 years. THIRTY. YEARS. Can you think of any person or company or government entity that could commit that much time and effort to something, see it gain international validation and fame, and then refrain from taking credit? Above all else this movie is about unraveling that mystery. It’s a treasure hunt that three committed guys embark on with no guarantee of success. Whatever the outcome, the audience is riding shotgun on an adventure as it unfolds. In my book that’s two hours well spent.

Don’t let the Amish beard fool you. This man knows something.

Memorable Moment: Justin and his partners are not the first to try to track down “the Tiler”. At least two documentary crews gave up the search before our intrepid threesome ever came on the scene. Yet Justin and company persevere, exhausting one thin lead after another. They follow a faint trail of vague recollections and unlikely referrals, each less likely to bear fruit than the last. Though I would never dream of spoiling the conclusion, it’s not revealing too much to say they get a massive break just when all hope seems lost. It’s a true eureka moment, captured live on film. When I realized what I’d just heard and what it meant to story, it literally sent waves of chills up my back.

Choice quote: “It’s not an art project put together by some art students or something. It’s something that’s insane. It’s something that’s real.”

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3 Responses to “Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles (2011)”

  1. […] Resurrect Dead: The Mystey of the Toynbee Tiles – And the award for longest title goes to… […]

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