Finally, the horror anthology film tradition returns in great, bloody, form with THE ABCs OF DEATH. I’ve always been a big fan of horror anthologies (CREEPSHOW, the original TALES FROM THE CRYPT film, THE TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE, etc.) because they are, in restaurant speak (even though I don’t work in a restaurant, so don’t know why I’m doing it), going to the buffet line instead of ordering off the menu. The buffet has all sorts of different items, that you’re bound to find something you like, as opposed to ordering off the menu, where you can get something you want, but only that one thing. In a horror anthology film, you might be watching for one single short, but maybe one (or several) of the other stories strike your fancy by surprise. That was always my favorite part, finding something new and interesting in addition to the one thing I was looking for (Like CREEPSHOW, I watched for THE CRATE, but also really enjoyed the horror short with—of all people to put in a horror film—Leslie Neilson).
So let’s dig into THE ABCs of DEATH. 26 letters of the alphabet, 26 directors, 26 short films. What an intriguing experiment. Right off the bat I was mildly disappointed because I knew that out of 26 of them, there were sure to be some duds (I’m staring directly at you ‘G is for Gravity’). When I watched it the day it became available ondemand, I was actually a little surprised that there were so many good ones, and far less bad ones (again, you, ‘G is for Gravity) than I had anticipated.
On a first viewing, I recall being a little alarmed that Americans didn’t comprise more of the list…in a good way. I appreciated that it was a global effort, rather than just an American one.
What follows is a breakdown of each short, and a rating of one-to-five. Five being excellent, One being ‘G is for Gravity’, and a brief sharing of my feelings on it.
A is for Apocalypse: 3 I liked this one, macabre in its humor. Has a bit of a ‘twist’ to it, which would set the pace for several of these shorts.
B is for Bigfoot: 3 I’m always fond of films that put children in serious danger. Not that I’m against kids, it’s just such a filmmaking taboo that I like when someone comes along and crosses that line.
C is for Cycle: 4 Loved the narrative of this one and the careful, yet simplistic, composition of it.
D is for Dogfight: 4 Although I love when kids are put into real danger, I hate it when it happens to most animals, mostly dogs. Putting that aside, this is really well done, and the payoff towards the end is worth that shot of the dog getting punched in the face.
E is for Exterminate: 3 I, much like most sane people, hate spiders. So this urban legend about the man and the spider really creeped me out when it reached its climax. So gross, but well played.
F is for Fart: 2 Seriously, what the hell was that? This may be the first completely messed up horror vignette, but it surely won’t be the last. Also, visible farts. Gross.
G is for Gravity: 1 Got a gopro, surfboard, and some rocks? Than you can play THE ABCs OF DEATH home game. Just band the gopro to your head, weigh yourself, and the surfboard down with rocks, than go out and let the weight drown you into the ocean. This one is lazy and uninspired.
H is for Hydro-Electric-Diffusion: 3 The style it was shot in was very appealing to me. I found it very humorous, not particularly horror, but entertaining nonetheless.
I is for Ingrown: 3 Another odd one, love the location, and the words in the narration are well chosen, but it seems that the finished product was something less than the sum of its parts.
J is for Jidai Geki 5 One of the funniest vignettes in this anthology. The changing faces of the man that falls on his sword are both grotesque and hilarious, sometimes at the same time.
K is for Klutz: 2 This one is animated, and it involves poop that squeaks. Although funny, the actual death felt like an afterthought, that the writer/director just wanted to have animated poop in his short and branched out from there to make a short.
L is for Libido: 5 Trying not to give anything to big away about this, or any film, at first it is just plain disgusting and a little repulsive. But on a second or third viewing, you see that this is one of the only vignette’s that is able to tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end. The subject material is graphic, but it certainly belongs in this anthology.
M is for Miscarriage: 2 This is unfortunate, because I love Ti West (HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, THE INKEEPERS), the creator of this one, but it looks like it was filmed with a first generation camera phone (which was the idea, I get that, but it was really distracting). The subject, itself, is a bit extreme with the bluntness it is dealt with. But it does end with a good visual punch to the gut. At least there’s that.
N is for Nuptials: 5 Another very funny installment in this anthology. It plays like being a fly on the wall and just watching ‘a day in the life’, an important day, but a day nonetheless. It’s fairly clever, it’s an idea that is not totally original, I’m sure the idea has been batted around conference rooms before, but as far as I know, it’s the first time such a thing has made it to film, making it unique. I’m a fan.
O is for Orgasm: 2 It’s an art film. Bubbles and gloves are the things I remember most about this one. Edited intelligently, but when it comes down to it, I just didn’t really care about this one too much.
P is for Pressure: 5 My favorite of the anthology. It, like Libido, has a beginning, middle, and end. Unlike Libido, this film is layered, and its title speaks to more than just one representation of pressure. It lays out several meanings. My friend, who I was watching this with, also chose this as his favorite.
Q is for Quack: 2 It’s funny, it tears down the fourth wall, but it leaves you wanting more, not so much a longer piece, but a different ending. It really felt like the two guys painted themselves in a corner and took the shortcut out.
R is for Removed: 2 Another one for the WTF column. The visuals are great, the story is very hard to follow, and it’s even more difficult to make sense of it all.
S is for Speed: 1 What starts out as an action film, becomes an anti-drug PSA. Don’t get me wrong, I’m anti-drug, I just think that after the cool beginning of the short, the ending felt like a cop-out. I get why it is supposed to be a cool ending, I just personally felt like it was a waste of a letter.
T is for Toilet: 4 Toilet training with a toilet monster, a child in very real danger, and all told through Claymation? Sign me up!!!
U is for Unearthed: 5 A vampire movie told from the vampire’s POV. Interesting, haven’t seen it done before, nicely shot, and starts out with just the right amount of ‘What the hell is going on’ factor. The ending of this one is great too. See ‘G is for Gravity’, Gopros can be used for good, instead of the boring crapfest you used it for!
V is for Vagitus: 1 If Robocop worked for the government and was a baby killer. Nothing else to really say except that it looks really good on a small budget.
W is for WTF: 1 A series of randomly crazy images, worthless.
X is for XXL: 5 As a fat guy, I can relate to the protagonist of this short, and when nothing seems to work or help she goes a bit extreme with a carving knife in her tub. What she does is not unheard of in many people’s minds for when nothing else seems to help shed the weight.
Y is for Youngbuck: 2 Ummmmm…one of the first shots is of a janitor slurping up basketball boy sweat off of a bench, which seems way grosser than that scene towards the end of ‘L is for Libido’.
Z is for Zetsumetsu: 2 Some really funny images, but I can’t make heads or tails of 90% of it. But that 10% I feel I have a hold of. But that 90% is really messed up and will probably prove to be always elusive.
Have you seen THE ABCs OF DEATH? Am I just way off base on some of this? Which letter was your favorite? Just please don’t let it be ‘G’ : )