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Why Do So Many Rock Stars Die At 27? Argentine Film Explores One (Insane) Theory

<em>27: El Club De Los Malditos</em> takes place in an alternate universe populated with persuasive look- and sound-alikes of famous musicians. (Left to right: Andres Bagg, William Prociuk, Sofía Gala Castiglione, Mariu Fernández, El Polaco, Vicky Maurette and Sadrak Jeremy)
<em>27: El Club De Los Malditos</em> takes place in an alternate universe populated with persuasive look- and sound-alikes of famous musicians. (Left to right: Andres Bagg, William Prociuk, Sofía Gala Castiglione, Mariu Fernández, El Polaco, Vicky Maurette and Sadrak Jeremy)

January is not generally known for its prestige movie premieres. Audiences are usually still catching up on Oscar nominees, which means critics have to look further afield for interesting films. This year, I happened on a comedy that won't be opening in the U.S. for a while — but it struck a chord.

It's a comic detective-fantasy called 27: El Club De Los Malditos, or 27: The Club Of The Damned, and the film starts by explaining its title. "Much has been written," say words typed in Spanish, "of the accidental deaths of famous musicians at the age of 27." (The names cited are familiar but discreetly distant from the real world: "Janiz" Joplin, "Ami" Winehouse, Jim of the "Doorz.") "... But what if they weren't accidents?"

A moment later, a singer who's belting "yeah"s and expletives breaks a beer bottle over his own head and crashes through a window onto a car several stories below. He's also 27. Coincidence?

To figure that out, a hard-drinking detective (his beverage of choice is Tang crystals in rubbing alcohol) and a blue-haired music fan team up with an older guy whose mane of long gray hair looks familiar to the fan.

"I can't believe it," she says. "You're a little older, but you're just like him."

"I'm not just like him," the gray-haired man replies. "I am him."

"Jim? ... Jim Morrison"

Apparently the lead singer of the Doors didn't die — at least not in the film's alternate universe, which is, I should note, populated with persuasive sound- and look-alikes, all of whom fall victim to ... well, I shouldn't spoil surprises. But let me note that the film has disgruntled aging musicians who dress like Bond villains, a detective with decent comic timing and, happily, a cryogenic lab that keeps dead rock stars on ice.

I don't want to overstate the case for 27: The Club Of The Damned. It's more goofy than brilliant, and with my limited understanding of Spanish, it possibly gained something from not being subtitled. Even in Argentina, where it was made, it barely premiered in the top 10, just above the sixth week of Daddy's Home 2. But in a season when Hollywood mostly releases warmed-over sequels and third-tier horror flicks, 27 is remarkable in one sense: It's original, based on a real-world mystery that's sparked plenty of questions. Why do so many rock stars die at 27? And how has it not occurred to someone in Hollywood to make a movie about that?

Janis Joplin would've turned 75 on Jan. 19. Her story's there for the taking, and it's kind of cool that somebody thought to take it.

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