The following feature film was created by 26 directors from around the world. Each director was given a letter of the alphabet and asked to choose a word.
They then created a short tale of death that related to their chosen word. They had complete artistic freedom regarding the content of their segments.
**Warning! Spoilers Below!** (It's kind of hard to review or summarize these shorts without giving certain aspects away, so if you haven't seen it yet, be warned!
It’s time to learn your ABCs…again! 26 short films. 30 different writer and directors. Think your stomach can handle it?
These shorts are deliberately designed to be shocking, offensive, provocative, and sometimes wickedly funny (if you have a dark, twisted sense of humor, that is).
A lot of the films in the first installment seemed to aim more for shock value than genuine entertainment. Some of the shorts were good, others seemed lazily thrown together or had zero effort behind them. So I guess they decided to raise the bar with this second installment.
The directors of these segments had a little more money to work with than their predecessors, as is the case with most sequels or second installments of a series. And it definitely showed in these segments. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed the first film on some level. But this installment definitely took it up a notch and there were more winners than duds.
I decided to do a short summary-slash-review of every single short and give each segment the attention they deserve. Okay, here we go:
A is for Amateur
Directed by E.L. Katz
Summary/Review: A hit-man is hired to do a meticulous cleanup job. In his mind, he’s got it all figured out. But this hit-man is no seasoned pro. He’s a squirrely amateur whose plan backfires. But even in death, he somehow manages to get the job done. The first half of this segment was all about style, finesse–the same way the hit-man operates in his mind. The second half was messy and disorganized. The way the hit-man functions in the real world. A very nice juxtaposition (I love squeezing that word in when I can). This segment was probably the best way to open the film and set the tone.
B is for Badger
Directed by Julian Barratt
Summary/Review: Peter Tolland, the pompous host of Tolland’s World (either some wildlife show or documentary) is doing an on-the-scene report about a nuclear power plant he believes is responsible for the death of the surrounding areas wildlife, specifically the badgers. But as it turns out, the badgers aren’t dead. And though the badgers are never seen on camera, Peter experiences firsthand what they’re are capable of. It’s implied that the badgers might’ve undergone some genetic mutation as a result of living near the power plant. The three actors did a fine job in this segment and Tolland’s character was instantly unlikable, which made his demise a little more enjoyable. Julian Barrett did a good job with this one, and for the record, I’d be on board with a horror-comedy about mutant badgers in the future. Sounds like good times to me. Way better than Sharknado.
C is for Capital Punishment
Directed by Julian Gilbey (A Lonely Place to Die)
Summary/Review: An angry mob takes matters into their own hands, forcing a young man into confessing to the murder of a local girl named Lucy Wilson. Turns out Lucy isn’t dead. She simply ran away with her boyfriend. When news breaks, the townspeople frantically try to reach the gang in time and stop them from executing an innocent man. There’s nothing humorous about this tale. But it does carry a strong message. A message about capital punishment, about mob justice, and about how an innocent person can be judged guilty before proven guilty. Very interesting subject matter for a film of this quality. The actors were all convincing in their roles and Julian Gilbey didn’t hold anything back. One of the best shorts of the entire film.
D is for Deloused
By Robert Morgan
Delouse: (Verb) Rid (a person or animal) of lice and other parasitic insects
Summary/Review: This short is a freakishly bizarre revenge tale or fantasy of some kind. Filmed as a stop-motion animated short, a giant insect helps an executed man get revenge on his killers by turning his arm into some kind of bladed weapon and having him feed their heads through a large hole in the insects backside that’s connected to a two-headed...I-don’t-know-what-to-call-it. I’m not really sure how else I can sum this one up. Props to Robert Morgan though for coming up with a segment that would make even David Lynch shake his head and go, “What the fuck did I just watch?” This one is weird, creepy, innovative, and will leave you scratching your head at the end.
E is for Equilibrium
Directed by Alejandro Brugues (Juan of the Dead)
Summary/Review: Two average men are shown living on an island like savages. A woman washes up on shore one day and attempts to civilize them, with deadly consequences. One of the two characters sports a shirt that says I’m With the Groom. It’s possible to assume the two men were on their way to a wedding when they got stranded on this island. Or maybe I’m just stretching with that theory. This short seemed to aim more for laughs than screams. Unfortunately, I wasn’t laughing very much until the final shot. I’m not too familiar with Alejandro Brugues, but I imagine he could do better than this.
F is for Falling
Directed by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado (Big Bad Wolves)
Summary/Review: A very engrossing short film. An Israeli woman gets caught in a tree by her parachute and is discovered by a hostile Palestinian boy. She convinces the boy to cut her free and take her to his village himself, so he can take the credit for capturing her. But a dark fate awaits both of them. There are no monsters, ghosts, zombies, or werewolves. Just a simple tale of fate and two lives that intertwine via an unfortunate series of events. I thoroughly enjoyed Arharon and Navot’s previous film, Big Bad Wolves. But that was after being let down by their first effort, Rabies. But with this short, they continue to improve as both filmmakers and storytellers.
G is for Grandad (P.S. I didn’t misspell granddad. That’s how it’s spelled at the end of the scene)
Directed by Jim Hosking
Summary/Review: A brash, disrespectful young man lives with his grandpa who has been sleeping under his grandson’s bed and is suffering from an extremely severe case of penis envy. A story that aims more for shock value than anything else. I wasn’t impressed and I wasn’t entertained.
H is for Head Games
Directed by Bill Plympton
Summary/Review: Umm…it’s basically a sketch of a man and woman’s kiss which turns into a bizarre, surreal power struggle that ends in their demise. Perhaps it was meant to be a subtle commentary on the proverbial battle of the sexes? Or perhaps I’m reading too far into it. Since he is an animator and graphic designer, I can only assume Bill Plympton sketched this entire piece himself. And he did one hell of a job. This segment is a mind-fuck, but a pleasant mind-fuck.
I is for Invincible
Directed by Erik Matti (On the Job)
Summary/Review: A group of adults are trying to kill their one hundred and twenty year old mother to finally get their inheritance. The mother’s immortality seems to stem from a green stone attached to her tongue. In order to truly destroy her, the stone must be removed and passed on to someone else. Disturbing, sinister, and with a tinge of dark humor, this was a rather inventive and enjoyable short.
J is for Jesus
Directed by Dennison Ramalho
Summary/Review: A private investigator exposes a man’s homosexuality to his father, who then has him kidnapped by some sadistic men who intend to free the demon inside of him. What is odd about this scenario is the main character only sees his tormentors as hideous, grotesque monsters when he looks at their faces. And soon the wounds of Christ appear on his hands and blood streams from his forehead…I’m not sure where I stand on this one. I’m not a particularly religious person, but those that are might feel a little offended by this. But if you’re watching a film like this, I don’t know what else you’d expect. I’m just going to leave it at that. This short wasn’t good, it wasn’t bad. It was just there.
K is for Knell
Directed by Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper (Vanishing Waves)
Summary/Review: A strange black (possibly alien) liquid appears in the sky as a young woman watches from her apartment window. She then witnesses the people in the adjacent apartment complex going crazy and killing one another. Soon, this madness spreads to her building and...Well, that’s just it. Nothing else really happens. Gnarly effects aside, this segment went nowhere. Strong setup, disappointing climax.
L is for Legacy
Directed by Lancelot Imasuen (To Rise Again)
Summary/Review: A ritual sacrifice goes horribly wrong and a local tribe pays the price. Not a whole lot else to it. The monster/demon/specter/whatever it was supposed to be, looked kind of cheesy. But I understand there were budget restrictions, so I can overlook that fact. The acting was decent and the story was fine, but it just failed to stand out above the rest.
M is for Masticate
Directed by Robert Boocheck (Horrific)
Summary/Review: A man high on bath salts chews another guy’s neck off and gets shot dead by police. An obvious reference to a horrific real life incident that occurred not too long ago. Just type bath salts into any search engine and you’ll see what I’m talking about. I did like the slow motion camerawork, but it’s not like the director came up with this story on his own and this segment just felt like it was in bad taste. I know what you’re thinking–this whole film is in bad taste. But this segment and a few other entries stand out above the rest in that category.
N is for Nexus
Directed by Larry Fessenden (The Last Winter)
Summary/Review: Three separate stories intersect on Halloween. An impatient woman traveling with a reckless cabdriver, a man on the way to meet his girlfriend for a costume party, and another man trick-or-treating with his son all cross paths in a very unfortunate way as fate takes an unexpected twist. Except in this case, the twist could be seen a mile away. I don’t want to give everything away, but you can probably piece the story together yourself with all the details I’ve given you. For those of you that are not familiar with Larry Fessenden, you might enjoy The Last Winter. I can honestly say I enjoyed that film more than this effort. That’s not saying this particular segment is bad. It ranks somewhere in the middle of all these segments as far as I’m concerned.
O is for Ochlocracy (Mob Rule)
Directed by Hajime Ohata
Summary/Review: A new wonder drug, “Z-cu”, brings zombies back to life. The zombies then put humans on trial for the murder of…well, zombies. A very unique short with an interesting twist. A very well executed segment that amuses and terrifies the audience at the same time. Every time the judge screeched “DEATH!” and banged his gavel, I howled with laughter.
P is for P-P-P-P Scary!
Directed by Todd Rohal (Nature Calls)
Summary/Review: Basically an homage to Three Stooges bits and black and white comedies. Three escaped convicts decked out in black and white striped jumpsuits encounter a man in a rocking chair holding what appears to be a baby. I’ll give Todd Rohal an A for effort, but an F for amusement.
Q is for Questionnaire
Directed Rodney Ascher (Room 237 documentary)
Summary/Review: A man makes a huge mistake when he stops to take a free I.Q. test. The interviewer realizes that the man is the perfect candidate for a little experiment her company seems to be working on. This segment more resembled an old ‘Twilight Zone’ episode than an ABCs of Death short. That doesn’t mean this segment was atrocious. I happen to dig the old ‘Twilight Zone’ series. But like a few other shorts in this film, it simply fails to reach its full potential or stand out above the rest. I do think that the actor who played the interviewee did a solid job, and the interviewer gave a fine performance of her own. She talked so fast that I think she’d probably fare well in a Tarantino flick.
R is for Roulette
Directed by Marvin Kren
Summary/Review: A black and white segment featuring a husband, wife, and one other male acquaintance playing Russian roulette in a cellar. The husband, knowing he’s going to die, turns the gun on his wife instead. But the shot attracts something unseen, but something seemingly far worse than the “festivities” taking place in the cellar. Again, another segment that had solid acting, directing, and pacing, but just failed to out above all the other craziness. And I mean, come on. Russian Roulette? The concept works, but not in a film like this.
S is for Split
Directed by Juan Martinez Moreno (Games of Werewolves)
Summary/Review: A home invasion story with a bit of an unexpected twist. A very tense, nerve-racking scene. Superbly directed and produced, this short and the effort put in really helps it stick out from your standard home invasion scenario. In case you were wondering, it's called split because the director used split screens for the entire segment.
T is for Torture Porn
Directed by Jen and Sylvia Soska (American Mary)
Summary/Review: A woman, auditioning to work for some pornography studio, is degraded and humiliated by the casting directors. She exacts revenge by killing them with tentacles that come out of her vagina?! Alrighty then… I was a little disappointed with this. I think the Soska sisters are capable of so much more than this pointless drivel. The effects were decent and the camerawork was fine. I just don’t think they put as much effort into this as they could have.
U is for Utopia
Directed by Vincenzo Natali (Splice, Cube)
Summary/Review: In some futuristic, corporate utopia, anyone considered subnormal or imperfect is eliminated via the use of a large robotic incendiary device. Good setting, mood, and atmosphere, but overall this segment offered nothing we haven’t seen before. The robot was a pretty impressive piece of machinery. The segment earns an extra half a star just for pulling it off with the small budget they were provided.
V is for Vacation
Directed by Jerome Sable (Stage Fright)
Summary/Review: Some dude (Curt) and his douchebag friend (Dylan) go on vacation to drink, get fucked up on drugs, and hook up with prostitutes. Dylan decides to blow Curt’s cover when he’s outside on the phone with his girlfriend. He takes the phone and shows her the room, the drugs, the alcohol, and the mother and daughter they picked up the night before. According to the “charming” Dylan, you can get a mother-daughter discount. Apparently the mother is a seasoned prostitute who does a little trick involving a screwdriver. And boy, does she ever… The two male actors did a good job with their roles and the character of Dylan was instantly offensive and unlikable, which eases the tension of his demise. The two women didn’t really have much to say or do in this one until the end. A decent effort that ultimately gets lost in the shuffle.
W is for Wish
Directed by Steven Kostanski (Father’s Day)
Summary: Two children wish themselves into their favorite game and experience eye-popping terror. They witness battle, get captured, and brought to the villain’s lair–a place that’s so horrific it would land any kid in therapy for the next fifteen years. This segment sported very impressive effects on such a minuscule budget. Kudos to Steven Kostanski for pulling it off. He clearly wanted this piece to leave its mark and it certainly did. This one is definitely worth checking out.
X is for Xylophone
Directed by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo (Inside)
Rating: No Stars
Summary/Review: A babysitter reads a newspaper and listens to an old record while the little girl she is caring for plays with a xylophone until it drives the woman insane. Or maybe she was insane to begin with. Who knows? The parents come home to discover one hell of a nasty surprise. This segment was not poorly directed, just poorly conceived. Arguably the most tasteless segment in the film, and that’s clearly saying something right there. This one left me feeling shocked and disgusted. If that was their goal, congratulations. You succeeded.
Y is for Youth
Directed by Soichi Umezawa
Summary: A girl has the power to manifest horrors and inflict punishment on others by typing her thoughts into text messages. Or is it all in her head and is she really punishing herself? Maybe that’s what all the cuts on her arm represent. An absurd, surreal segment that blends fantasy with reality. My favorite part was the giant cheeseburger attacking the mother. This is Soichi Umezawa’s first endeavor as a writer-director. Before this, he worked as a makeup artist on more than sixty film and television projects. Impressive work from a first-timer. It certainly doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. And that’s not just because it’s second to last.
Z is for Zygote
Directed by Chris Nash
Summary/Review: A pregnant woman is abandoned by her husband, who leaves behind a jar of roots that are supposed to help stave off birth. Cut to thirteen years later, hubby still hasn’t returned and she’s carrying a full-grown child inside her belly. Gross, odd, absurd, and illogical are all good words to sum this segment up. And for a series like ABCs of Death, this was probably one of the best ways to wrap things up.
Well, that’s the end of today’s lesson. Class dismissed.