Fancy a trip to the dark side? Then come along with Judge Paul Pritchard to where the dead go to die.
"Do it, Tommy. Do it for God!"
"I did it for you; I was trying to turn a bad memory into a good one."
Facts of the Case
A group of troubled children find themselves haunted by a talking dog named Labby, who takes each of them on an individual journey into the darkest recesses of humanity.
Tommy is informed by Labby that the fetus in his mother's womb is in fact the antichrist, and must be killed, while Ralph becomes entangled in a child porn ring in an ill-advised attempt to save an abused girl. Spanning time and different dimensions, the children encounter memory stealing junkies, psychotic war veterans, and an old lady who lives in a well.
Jimmy ScreamerClauz's Where the Dead Go to Die is like experiencing someone else's nightmare for 95 minutes. To call the film weird is a huge understatement, in the same way that calling it disturbing is overly stating the obvious. While there is no doubt that this is one of the most unique films in recent memory, there is plenty of room for debate regarding the movie's worth.
The first point that needs addressing is the film's presentation. When one thinks of a CGI-animated film, it's usually the likes of Toy Story 3 and Ice Age that spring to mind. Where the Dead Go to Die offers a vastly different approach to the medium. Initially, the computer-generated characters appear crude by modern standards. There's very little in the way of fine detail, and there are numerous technical flaws, which see characters merge unintentionally with background objects and one another. The relative lack of detail to character models is also jarring at first, and highly reminiscent of an old videogame cut scene. Bear with it, and Where the Dead Go to Die reveals itself to be ripe with rich and imaginative visuals that are as memorable as they are unsettling.
Make no mistake: the film that ScreamerClauz has assembled is one of the most troubling I have seen in some time, and the fact that it is an animated feature does little to diminish its power to shock. The opening 15 minutes alone feature scenes of a child sodomizing a demonic talking dog, the very same dog ripping the a fetus from the womb of a pregnant woman, and an amputee war veteran gouging the eyes out of a prostitute. Oh, and for those keeping score: Where The Dead Go To Die has the dubious honor of being the third film I've seen that has a dog eat a man's severed penis. Things don't let up, and actually manage to get darker as the film introduces disfigured children and a child porn ring.
While it is possible to shrug off some of the extreme imagery, due entirely to its excessiveness, the film's depiction of childhood is harder to shake off. It's less the physical abuse and more the mental abuse, usually at the hands of their parents, that lingers long after the closing credits have finished rolling. Where the Dead Go to Die is absolutely pitch black, and deals exclusively in the darkest reaches of humanity. There is very little explanation given relating to Labby, the sinister shadow people, or the numerous acts of child cruelty. The viewer is effectively thrown into the middle of a nightmare and forced to find his or her own meaning.
For such an obscure film, Where the Dead Go to Die gets an excellent DVD release. The 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer is sharp, with deep black levels and rich colors. The 5.1 soundtrack features dialogue that is frequently manipulated, but always understandable. Through a combination of the score and effects work, the soundtrack helps create an oppressive atmosphere, which adds massively to the film's tone.
The special features start with a selection of deleted scenes and images, which are accompanied by a director's commentary. "Recording Liquid Memories" is an odd little feature that offers very little information on the film itself, but does include a conversation on storing bodily clippings. "Kinect Motion Capture Madness" is an instructional video on how to use the Xbox Kinect sensor as a mo-cap device. Unfortunately the featurette ends abruptly, without offering any real tips. "Ice Cream Sunday" is a suitably odd live-action short that treads similarly dark ground to the main feature, and is equally disturbing as it deals with child abuse. Last but not least, director Jimmy ScreamerClauz delivers a commentary track that discusses the evolution of Where the Dead Go to Die, from Internet short to full-length feature film. The track has a heavy focus on the technical side of the production, but is far more interesting when ScreamerClauz talks about his inspiration for the film. It turns out Lassie is to blame for most of it, and it's meant to be a comedy.
Where the Dead Go to Die will appeal to a very small percentage of people, as its frequently distressing content and lack of a clear narrative will be off-putting at best and downright upsetting at worst for a great many.
There are boundaries being pushed, and topics being addressed here that don't easily lend themselves to any form of entertainment. It's difficult to find any meaning or message behind the disturbing content, making it hard to justify—even if the dreamlike presentation is admirable.
If weird is your thing, and you've the stomach for it, Where the Dead Go to Die offers a unique experience that I for one am unlikely to take again.
View at your own discretion, but don't say I didn't warn you.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: MVD Visual
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