Death, or the threat of it, is ever-present in the six-part Western anthology.

The Coen brothers, Ethan and Joel, have never been shy about death.

In “Blood Simple," “Miller’s Crossing,” “Fargo” and many of their other films, death always seems just around the corner. Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh, the villain in “No Country for Old Men,” stalks the American Southwest like some kind of omnipotent Grim Reaper; instead of playing chess for the life of a man, as Death does in Ingmar Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal,” Chigurh flips a coin.

Death, or the threat of it, is ever-present in the Coens’ latest film, the six-part Western anthology “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.” Distributed by Netflix, it opened in a couple of theaters (none on the Cape) on Nov. 9 before it started streaming on Netflix a week later. (This relatively new approach could have a profound effect on the future of movie theaters and how we watch major feature films, a conversation for another time. For the purposes of this review, the point is that you can now see the film at home if you have access to Netflix – or you can travel to Waltham to see it on the big screen at Landmark Embassy Cinema.)

The six stories are unrelated other than in the broad sense (time period, genre, theme, etc.). They have different casts, different moods – though they all ultimately have the Coens’ rather grim outlook on life, death and humanity.

One is a broad spoof of singing cowboys (“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”); another is a tale of romance and survival on a wagon train (“The Girl Who Got Rattled”). One features Tom Waits as a prospector panning and digging for gold (“All Gold Canyon”); another involves a strange ride in a stagecoach to a mysterious destination (“The Mortal Remains”). One stars James Franco as a bank robber (“Near Algodones”); another focuses on a young man with no arms or legs who recites Shakespeare, the Bible and the Gettysburg Address as the featured attraction of a traveling show (“Meal Ticket”).

As you might expect with an anthology, some parts stand out from the others. The best of the bunch is “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” with Tim Blake Nelson flat-out hilarious as a cheerful gunslinger who belts out songs between killing rivals. “The Girl Who Got Rattled” is the most moving – as in heartbreaking – with Zoe Kazan superb as a timid young woman trying to find a new life out West. “The Mortal Remains” and “Meal Ticket” are the most chilling, almost like Poe stories, though in much different ways.

One of the benefits of “Ballad” screening on Netflix is that you’ll probably want to watch it more than once (or twice). The segments are introduced as if separate short stories in a book, and there’s a literary richness to these tales. This is one of the most unusual films of the year, and one of the best.