Vincenzo Natali is one of those guys who made a genre classic with his first feature, something that can be both a curse and a blessing to a filmmaker. Think of how many directors come out of the gate with something that defines them, only to end up trapped by it later in their careers. Natali certainly didn't disappear after “Cube,” but he did deal with the sort of independent financing nightmares and development paralysis that has sidelined so many talented guys. I am a big fan of “Splice,” a movie he made more recently, and I also think his segment in “The ABCs Of Death 2” is a lot of fun.
To help spotlight that anthology film, we asked Vincenzo to share with us his favorite movie death of all time. I think it's a great way to get to know a filmmaker. If you really want a bead on who they are, don't talk to them about their own movies. Talk to them about the movies that they love. When you do that, you learn so much about their sensibilities.
The fine folks over at Drafthouse Films did this with a number of the “ABCs” directors this time around, and you can find their guest blogs all over the Internet. I really liked Larry Fessenden's, and I know that when I worked with Fessenden on our film “Skin and Bones,” he was one of those guys you could talk to about film for hours. He genuinely adores the genre and all of its potential. Rodney Ascher, who directed “Room 237,” made a great pick for his favorite death scene, and I love that he used this to highlight something people probably aren't already familiar with. Todd Rohal's choice was… well, it was exactly what I would expect from Todd Rohal. And Nerdist got one of the hippest of the bunch, with “The Mighty Boosh” legend Julian Barratt picking a scene from “Theater Of Blood” that has always made me cackle.
Here's a video super-cut of all of the deaths picked by the directors that is pretty dazzling overall, although I think it's safe to say this may be considered NSFW. Come to think of it, “NSFW” might be a great alternative title for “The ABCs of Death 2″…
Crazy, right? Now here's Vincenzo to tell you in his own words just how much he loves “Robocop.”
Death by ED
My favorite film death is contained in the first few minutes of the original “Robocop.” The hapless victim, Mr. Kinney, is an OCP executive who is brutally killed by the “future of law enforcement”, the Ed 209 urban pacification droid, in a corporate demo gone horribly, horribly wrong.
I first saw “Robocop” at a sneak preview screening in Toronto. No one in the theater had any concept of what they were in for, which made the hyper-violent and hyper-satirical tone all the more impactful. In the wake of a long summer of Spielbergian feel-good films, “Robocop” was a cathartic experience. The audience LOVED Paul Verhoeven's futuristic theater of cruelty. And this opening sequence was the perfect entree.
I took it to be the unofficial film version of “Judge Dredd.” And like that seminal 2000 AD comic book, its power and humor came from projecting the madness of the present day into a slightly skewed fascistic future. We can't help but laugh as poor Mr. Kinney is blasted into hamburger meat, not just because his death plays like the perfect punchline to a very sick joke, but also because of the savagery with which Verhoeven attacks Reagan Era corporate America.
The ED 209 is emblematic of bald faced corporate greed. It's designed ostensibly to police the mean streets of Detroit, but its real purpose is to become a high-profit piece of military hardware. That sounds like a perfectly believable scenario and I have little doubt that somewhere within the military industrial complex there really is a program like this that is actively in the works. In fact, looking at the clip today, it is even more relevant to our current situation than it was in 1987.
In the aftermath of Wall Street's collapse and in the shadow of its indomitable ED-like destructive power, poor Mr. Kinney's demise reads a little like a precursor to our own.
Here's hoping Vincenzo keeps fighting the good fight and making personal genre films for decades to come. I like this guy a lot, and I'd love to see lots more from him.
“The ABCs of Death 2” is available now on VOD.