Brilliant or Baffling?

The Art of Dying is no Scream

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Opens Friday.
This 2001 Spanish production, directed by lvaro Fernández Armero, is so derivative of numerous other sources it's almost novel; it's either a brilliant fusion or a heap of baffling confusion, but the end result's not entirely unsatisfying. At first, it plays like little more than a I Know What You Did Last Summer and Scream rip: Six friends kill another, creepy artist Nacho (Gustavo Salmerón, sporting an ass-crack mohawk and matching chin stubble), bury the body and lie to the cops, only to wind up dead themselves, one corpse slowly piling atop the other after each receives a mysterious phone call. But Nacho keeps appearing, either as avenging angel or guilt-conjured specter; only one person can "see" him--Iván, played by Abre Los Ojos' Fele Martínez, a jittery dude--but the entirety of the group suffers the consequences he may or may not be doling out, as hinted at in his death-obsessed paintings. The Abre Los Ojos (or Vanilla Sky, its English-language remake) connection is palpable: Armero, taking cues from Alejandro Amenebár, toys with the notion of life after death (or life during death), and it's like a Nightmare on Elm Street played for existential kicks. But like Abre Los Ojos, this is so moody and murky it's not fun at all, and it's hard to take such silliness so seriously; it's no Scream, not even a hoot. Still, worth seeing a second time, if you can make it through the first viewing.
 
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