Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The ABCs of Death

Just like Movie 43 (click here to read my review) I jumped at the opportunity to see an all new anthology horror film, and the premise of The ABCs of Death intrigued me. Gather a group of 26 different directors from varying countries, give each of them $5000, a letter of the alphabet and five minutes to tell a story about death that has to do with that letter.

Each story is unique in its own way. Some are hard core horror, some are black comedies, some are nothing but surreal visuals and some are just plain off the wall goofy. I’m not going to review each segment, but just comment on my favorite and least favorite segments from this highly uneven film.
Favorite Letter:
“D is for Dogfight” directed by Marcel Sarmiento
There really is no story to this one, but it is basically about an underground fighter who is pitted against a vicious dog in the ring. The production values are pretty good, the cinematography is tops (it’s shot completely in slow motion) and the visuals are stupendous. There are some of the most beautiful shots I’ve ever seen in this bit, as well as some of the most disturbing. For a 4 minute long short film it had me from the start and didn’t let me go, and the clever twist ending almost made me stand up and cheer.

Runners Up for Favorite Letter:
“V is for Vagitus” directed by Kaare Andrews
This visually arresting cyberpunk apocalypse short takes place in a future where breeding is outlawed unless you spend a decade serving as an officer in the Population Control Division of the police force. A female officer and her robot partner discover a family of illegal breeders with deadly psychic abilities. I cannot believe this cost $5000, because it looks like it cost a few million. The practical robot alone must have cost more than the entire budget. Whatever the case may be this is the best looking short of the bunch with lots of action, special effects, decent acting and gore galore.
“X is for XXL” directed by Xavier Gens
An obese woman is hounded mercilessly about her weight by everyone she encounters and takes matters into her own hands to change her appearance. This is a graphically violent short from the director of the video game adaptation of Hitman that really has something to say about how the media and bullying can make anyone feel ugly. It’s hard to watch, but it is clever and extremely effective.

“Q is for Quack” directed by Adam Wingard
This meta sketch features the writer and director playing themselves trying to come up with an unique idea for their bit about the letter “Q”. I won’t ruin it for you, but it’s a pretty hilarious short that is the most successful of the comedic entries here.
“A is for Apocalypse” directed by Nacho Vigalondo
The director of Timecrimes (one of my favorite mindfuck movies of all time) tells a simple story about a woman attempting to kill her husband and failing miserably at it. While it seems like the short is just full of just violence for the sake of violence the twist pops up at the end and gives the events a whole new meaning. It’s horrific and cruel, but the ending makes it worthwhile.

“U is for Unearthed” directed by Ben Wheatley
This is a fun little short that is told from the POV of a freshly exhumed vampire as it goes on a rampage through a forest. The first person perspective is a fresh touch and gives what would otherwise have been a pretty boring and formulaic story the much needed oomph it needed to make it stand out.
Runners Up for the Least Favorite Letter:
“K is for Klutz” directed by Anders Morgenthaler
This animated short is about a woman who has just taken a poo, and it comes to life to torment her. This sketch is supposed to be funny, but it’s just flat out stupid with a ridiculously dumb ending.

“O is for Orgasm” directed by Bruno Forzani and Hélène Cattet
This pretentious French short is supposed to show the pleasure and pain of the female orgasm (le petite mort), but instead it made me laugh due to excessive use of bubbles, overused colored filters and extreme close ups.
“B is for Bigfoot” directed by Adrián García Bogliano
This Spanish short begins promisingly with two horny babysitters telling their ward that if she doesn’t get to bed the Abominable Snowman will eat her. The story they weave is pretty entertaining and the acting is decent, but then it drops the ball by becoming a run of the mill slasher that has nothing to do with the plot.

“F is for Fart” directed by Noboru Iguchi
Yup, you read the title right - “F is for Fart”. This ridiculously stupid short is about a young Japanese student who has a crush on her teacher because her farts don’t offend her. When a deadly gas leak threatens her class things go into bizarre overdrive. I looked at the director’s resume and even though he made the oddly entertaining action horror film Machine Girl, he seems to have a preoccupation with female booties (Bad Butt and Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead). Whatever the case may be, this sketch isn’t even remotely watchable.
“Z is for Zetsumetsu” directed by Yoshihiro Nishimura
Yet another Japanese sketch that goes completely off the rails. There is no story, just a series of random confrontations with a Dr. Strangelove wannabe, a nude female Nazi with a 2x4 penis tipped with a blade that bleeds rice, another nude chick that makes stew and a number of freeballing dudes who get launched into space. It makes zero sense and is more like a crazed acid trip than anything else. I wouldn’t expect anything less from the director of Tokyo Gore Police.

Worst Letter:
“G is for Gravity” directed by Andrew Traucki
This is the shortest of all the bits, and when it ended I said aloud “That’s it?!” There is nothing to this one at all and it is supremely anticlimactic. Basically it’s a slap in the face. Shot in POV, just like “U is for Unearthed”, it tells the unsatisfying tale of a guy who goes surfing and commits suicide. That’s it. He just falls off his board and drowns. Way to waste $5000 douchebag.
Most Disturbing Letter:
“L is for Libido” directed by Timo Tjahjanto
This is the most unsettling short of the bunch. It has to do with heinous sex acts that a group of bound men are forced to watch and masturbate to under threat of death. I’m sure the whole point of this sketch was to push the boundaries of good taste, but it really got under my skin and made me feel dirty. Where’s that lava soap?

Movies of this type are never 100% successful. I’d say that The ABCs of Death features shorts that are 5% amazing, 20% good, 50% mediocre, 20% bad and 5% that are pure shit. However, it’s enjoyable just to be able to see such a wide range of styles, sensibilities and techniques on display regardless of their quality. I’m not sure I’d ever watch it in its entirety again, but just for the few shorts I enjoyed. Regardless, it’s an interesting experiment that I hope continues just for creativity’s sake.

2.5 out of 5

The other shorts I did not mention fell into the “Mediocre” category. They are: “E is for Exterminate”, “C is for Cycle”, “Y is for Youngbuck”, “T is for Toilet”, “H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion”, “I is for Ingrown”, “N is for Nupitals”, “P is for Pressure”, “W is for WTF?”, “R is for Removed”, “S is for Speed”, “M is for Miscarriage” and “J is for Jidai-geki”.


  1. Just so you know, in G is for gravity, the guy doesn't just die. He puts a brick in his bag, and then he swims out into the ocean to commit suicide. The brick was so he could stay under water long enough to die. And, before he kills himself, he keeps checking to find a place where the water is deep enough for him to drown himself.

    1. Ahh, I missed that detail. I went back and watched that segment again, and even though I stand corrected on what went down I still stand by my opinion.

      Thanks for pointing it out! I never would have known unless someone told me since I would never watch that segment again.