The ABCs Of Death

The ABCs Of Death


Reviewed by: Owen Van Spall

Promoted as a ”26-chapter anthology that showcases death in all its vicious wonder and brutal beauty”, ABC's of Death is a collection of one death-dealing horror mini film per letter of the alphabet rolled up into 123 minutes. A different director was assigned a letter. The directors were then given free reign in choosing a word based on that letter, and tying the film around that word.

Portmanteau concept horror films are nothing new and recent releases like V/H/S and its sequel have shown there is plenty of demand for this sub-genre, though throwing together a mix of directors always risks the resulting piece feeling uneven to viewers. So how does ABCs of Death fare, given this film is aiming for some kind of record in terms of different directors crammed into the same film? V/H/S is credited on IMDB with ten directors across six story arcs, ABC has a stonking 26 in comparison. That only leaves roughly four minutes for each director - very few minutes with which to make an impact. Each director has been set a Lars Von Trier-esque “obstruction”, so the challenge of limited time and narrow concept is supposed to be part of the appeal.

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To bring out the criticism that a compendium horror film risks being a mixed bag given 'too many cooks' syndrome seems almost trite , and yet...ABCs of death is, indeed, a mixed bag. With each director having only four minutes there is really little time for the viewer to get engrossed in the material, barring some kind of sharp shock, superb central twist, gag or sharp social commentary, and some of writers and directors struggle with the restrictions. In fact, some of the more fun shorts actually get a little meta and make this frustration the basis of the film - such as Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett's Q Is For Quack, in which out of desperation, the writing duo decide to annihilate a duck on screen in order to bypass writers' block and fulfill their obligations to the ABC's concept.

There are at least a variety of aesthetic choices on display. D Is For Dogfight from director Marcel Sarmiento is shot entirely in dreamy slo-mo like a music video, whereas toilet terror shorts T is for Toilet, from Lee Hardcastle, and K Is For Klutz from Anders Morgenthaler use hand-drawn animation and claymation respectively. Kaare Andrews' V Is For Vagitus is one of the more technically accomplished of the pack, with a high-tech CGI-assisted dystopian future setting redolent of Ghost In The Shell and Vexille.

Some shorts have a genuinely funny concept at the core that works just right for four minutes, N Is For Nuptials, from director Banjong Pisanthanakun, shows a cheating fiancee rumbled by the ultimate gift nightmare - a parrot pet that has a nasty habit of relating his sexual escapades to his bride to be.

The concept is perhaps best exploited by director Xavier Gens, whose X Is For XXL merges body horror (imagine the most extreme four-minute diet plan via the handy use of knives and electric saws) with contemporary discourse about the pressures on women to maintain a impossibly thin figure.

For those who want an absolute mind job, steer yourself towards the contributions from Japan's enfant terrible Noboru Iguchi F Is For Fart - inhaling her teacher's farts save a student from the apocalypse - and Yoshiro Nishimura's Z Is For Zetsumetsu - an absurd nuclear-tinged satire with a Dr Strangelove lookalike, rubbish effects and props, and Naziploitation/sexploitation trappings. Japan's contributions are definitely on the wackier side in this compilation and are virtually impossible to describe in this review.

The directors/writers by segment:

A Is For Apocalypse - Nacho Vigalondo
B Is For Bigfoot - Adrián García Bogliano
C Is For Cycle - Ernesto Díaz Espinoza
D Is For Dogfight - Marcel Sarmiento
E Is For Exterminate - Angela Bettis
F Is For Fart - Noboru Iguchi
G Is For Gravity - Andrew Traucki
H Is For Hyrdo-Electric Diffusion - Thomas Cappelen Mallin
I Is For Ingrown - Jorge Michel Grau
J Is For Jidai-geki - Yûdai Yamaguchi
K Is For Klutz - Anders Morgenthaler
L Is For Libido - Timo Tjahjanto
M Is For Miscarriage - Ti West
N Is For Nuptials - Banjong Pisanthanakun
O Is For Orgasm - Hélène Cattet, Bruno Forzani
P Is For Pressure - Simon Rumley
Q Is For Quack - Adam Wingard, Simon Barrett
R Is For Removed - Srdjan Spasojevic
S Is For Speed - Jake West
T Is For Toilet - Lee Hardcastle
U Is For Unearthed - Ben Wheatley
V Is For Vagitus - Kaare Andrews
W Is For WTF? - Jon Schnepp
X Is For XXL - Xavier Gens
Y Is For Youngbuck - Jason Eisener
Z Is For Zetsumetsu - Yoshihiro Nishimura

Reviewed on: 13 Mar 2013
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The ABCs Of Death packshot
An alphabet of short films focusing on different ways to die.
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Director: Nacho Vigalondo, Adrián García Bogliano, Ernesto Díaz Espinoza, Marcel Sarmiento, Angela Bettis, Noboru Iguchi, Andrew Traucki, Thomas Cappelen Mallin, Jorge Michel Grau, Yudai Yamaguchi, Anders Morgenthaler, Timo Tjahjanto, Ti West, Banjong Pisanthanakun, Bruno Forzani, Simon Rumley, Adam Wingard, Srdjan Spasojevic, Jake West, Lee Hardcastle, Ben Wheatley, Kaare Andrews, Jon Schnepp, Xavier Gens, Jason Eisener, Yoshihiro Nishimura

Writer: Kaare Andrews, Simon Barrett, Hélène Cattet, Bruno Forzani, Adrián García Bogliano, Lee Hardcastle, Noboru Iguchi, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Simon Rumley, Jon Schnepp, Srdjan Spasojevic, Nacho Vigalondo, Dimitrije Vojnov, Ti West, Yudai Yamaguchi

Starring: Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Iván González, Kyra Zagorsky, Arisa Nakamura, Tsuyoshi Kazuno, Martine Årnes Sørensen, Seminosuke Murasugi, Manon Beuchot, Lucy Clements

Year: 2012

Runtime: 123 minutes

Country: US, New Zealand

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