The ABCs of Death
Directed by: Kaare Andrews, Angela Bettis, Hélène Cattet, Ernesto Díaz Espinoza, Jason Eisener, Bruno Forzani, Adrián García Bogliano, Xavier Gens, Lee Hardcastle, Noboru Iguchi, Thomas Cappelen Malling, Jorge Michel Grau, Anders Morgenthaler, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Banjong Pisanthanakun, Simon Rumley, Marcel Sarmiento, Jon Schnepp, Srdjan Spasojevic, Timo Tjahjanto, Andrew Traucki, Nacho Vigalondo, Jake West, Ti West, Ben Wheatley, Adam Wingard, Yudai Yamaguchi
The ABCs of Death is at times revolting, inventive, funny and fascinating. It’s also a wildly uneven anthology collection from some of the most well-known horror directors working today. The film was announced a few years ago and rolled out at the TIFF and Fantastic Fest film festivals in 2012.
The premise is intriguing. A letter of the alphabet was assigned to 26 different directors with one stipulation: they must create a short starting with that letter and pertaining to death. Then let them have it, no holds barred. The result is one of the most bizarre and disturbing movies I have yet to see.
Some of the Asian cinema makes Hausu look like Mary Poppins, and a few segments are as ghastly as A Serbian Film. It’s truly some messed up stuff, but there’s no shortage of creativity on display, even if it doesn’t always work. I watched the film in two sittings. I had a tremendously hard time getting into the first half for a few reasons. The shorts come fast and furious, and since they are all random, there is no continuity. This makes it initially feel very choppy, but eventually I got used to it. I was also disappointed by how many directors resorted to poop/toilet tales. Do we really need a tale about death by fart in a horror anthology?
However, by the second half of the movie I was used to the tempo and went along for the ride. “L is Libido” is a standout in the disturbing category, while “Q is for Quack” made me laugh so hard I spit my water out. Yes, I purposely didn’t tell you who directed those. Part of the fun was trying to guess who directed each snippet while I watched it. Some had the fingerprints of their respective directors all over them (Simon Rumley, Srdjan Spasojevic) but most were a surprise for me.
To hype the experience, a message precludes the movie warning that no children or animals were harmed, but pregnant women, claustrophobics and people of a nervous disposition ought not partake of the film. This would have been a great midnight festival showing, it’s the type of film that feeds off the audience, but watching it at home brings to light some of the glaring problems, mainly the lack of consistency.
While a lot of the shorts manage to tell a satisfying story in a very short amount of time, many of them frustrated me because they end so abruptly and left me wanting more. It is interesting to note which directors managed to pull off the experiment with aplomb and zeal, but many seemed to just throw something on screen for the mere purpose of shocking or titillating the audience. I prefer more meat to the story.
As an overall experiment, I would give ABCs a marginal pass, but it’s not for everyone. I’m glad I saw it, but I don’t want to see it again. – Shannon
The ABCs of Death is now available on iTunes and VOD, and is scheduled for a theatrical release on March 8.