I can absolutely see why people wouldn't like Where The Dead Go To Die. While I personally found it to be a terrifying exploration of untreated childhood trauma and guilt complexes illustrated through the visual style of a nightmare, (and probably the best anthology I've seen), I will admit that it may have gone too far in places for some and crossed certain boundaries. What I can't understand is people not embracing this. ScreamerClauz's imagination is still as vivid and expansive as ever, but his directing is much less leering or exploitative this time around. There are many instances where he opts not to
show any violence on screen at all, merely keeping its audio and having the audience piece things together by ourselves. When a visual auteur like ScreamerClauz, by now widely known for his love of various grotesqueries, won't show us acts of violence on screen, one can only imagine their depravity.
Admittedly, When Black Birds Fly isn't nearly as scary as Where The Dead Go To Die. Perhaps a piece of that is ScreamerClauz's noticeable restraint here, the film losing a fair amount of its predecessors viciousness and cruelty. It does, however, have far more juicy meat on its bones. While The Dead Go To Die takes place in a world of constant hostility, hardly giving the viewer a moment's rest from its Hell, the world of When Black Birds Fly is poisoned honey. Suffering is something that is completely ignored, passivity confused for pacifism. The film opens with Daryl saving a black bird, establishing the values of charity and compassion for the broken (in fact, the first 10 minutes of the film are oddly wholesome by ScreamerClauz's standards), yet Marius and Eden saving a presumably injured kitten is enough to topple the very foundations of Caine's Heaven. Good deeds are not valued for the sake of their goodness, but for how the rest of the world will perceive them. The Evil One wasn't cast out for being a monster, she was cast out because she was divisive. Because her banishment would be the most popular option in the eyes of Caine's people. She's probably the most feminist take we've seen on Lilith to date, not at all I was expecting coming into this film. Confusing femininity and sensitivity with weakness (both in the case of The Evil One and Lilith) was the critical mistake of both Caine and Jehovah.
Speaking of, it's very interesting how the film frames violence against women especially as something wholly ignored by patriarchy. Daryl is perfectly content calmly reading his newspaper as Norma violently conceives a demonic Hellspawn, claiming it to be her "punishment" for being seen naked. Having him show more concern for the well being of the horrific larvae she spawns may be an obvious jab at pro-life religious hypocrites, but it's hilarious nonetheless. Similarly, Caine never seems to bat an eye at the physical suffering and emotional isolation he caused The Evil One despite claiming to love her. Her suffering only becomes his concern when he theorizes she may not love him anymore. It's their ignorance to this suffering and pain that will ultimately become their damnation, as everything they fought so hard to build comes crashing down from their own lack of empathy.
I've heard criticisms at the animation and voice acting and I very much disagree with them. ScreamerClauz has a flawless talent with capturing the visual style of nightmares and the hideous animation does undeniably capture that aesthetic. It has almost no rules to be limited by, its raw expression of ideas and sensations and feelings is the most interesting thing to come out of the field of animation in years.
When Black Birds Fly is an extraordinary achievement that's just waiting to be recognized for the psychedelic and haunting masterpiece that it is. I'm enormously relieved that it's getting better reception than Where The Dead Go To Die and its cult fanbase will only grow over time.
When Black Birds Fly
Animation / Horror / Mystery / Sci-Fi
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2 hr 4 min