Movie review: ‘Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles’


In 1994, a young Philadelphia man named Justin Duerr began to notice the series of tile mosaics appliquéd to the pavement all over town. The tiles contained a message that seemed to draw a line from historian Arnold Toynbee to Stanley Kubrick’s “2001,” while expressing the notion that humans could be resurrected. And something about Jupiter.

Duerr began researching and investigating the origins of the strange tiles, meeting other curious folks who wanted to know who or what was behind these odd pieces and whether they were some sort of naive art project, the work of a troubled mind or a genuine message from the cosmos.

In “Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles” answers are revealed and yet there remains an air of curious enchantment about the entire project. What Duerr and Co. discover is a mix of the odd and the mundane, as the whodunit leads to a pretty logical but no less surprising place; the intrepid investigators come to consider, among other things, David Mamet and Larry King, shortwave radio and railroads.


Director Jon Foy, who won the documentary directing prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, also composed the film’s spooky score, and it is his sure touch that keeps “Resurrect Dead” on point as something mysterious, a little strange and a lot of fun.

“Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles.” No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes. At the Downtown Independent, Los Angeles.