The ABC’s Of Death (2012) DVD Review

ABC-001

THE ABCs OF DEATH (2012)
Dir. Various                 126 mins
Monster Pictures
UK Release: 22nd July 2013

What do you get when you give 26 directors / directing teams $5,000 each, a letter of the alphabet, total creative control, and ask them to go away and make a short horror film? It’s my opinion you get a culturally diverse, strikingly artistic, boundary pushing feast for the eyes. Here’s what they came up with coupled with a brief opinion on each.

•        A is for Apocalypse (directed and written by Nacho Vigalondo

In a hospital room, a woman begins to violently attack a patient with knife, soon followed by a dousing of hot chip fat. We soon discover that she’s been gradually poisoning him for the last year and he should be dead by now. Great make-up and a pending apocalypse make for a solid introduction. (7)

•        B is for Bigfoot (directed and written by Adrian Garcia Bogliano)

An uncle is looking after his little niece but frantically trying to get her to sleep so he can make out with his girlfriend. In order to keep her in her bedroom, he decides to tell her the legend of the abominable snowman. It’s a move that they may well regret as someone is about to come knocking. (6)

•        C is for Cycle (directed and written by Ernesto Diaz Espinoza)

Bruce and Alice hear a sound on the middle of the night. The next morning he looks for Alice but she’s gone, then before he knows it he awakes in the garden during the night. It’s an ambiguous and creepy short with an excellent score that raises the tension immeasurably. (7)

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•        D is for Dogfight (directed and written by Marcel Sarmiento)

Here, we’re immersed into the underground world of men fighting dogs in a grimy den surrounded by a jeering crowd baying for blood. It’s a sick watch for any animal lover, but while it shocks and disgusts, it also impresses with its absence of dialogue and penetrating score. (8)

•        E is for Exterminate (directed and written by Angela Bettis)

Angela Bettis and bugs? Something seems familiar! I’m referring of course to the great Masters Of Horror episode directed by Lucky McKee. This is very different indeed as we watch man vs spider – several days in the life of a man doing battle with a lone yet pesky spider in his apartment. (6)

•        F is for Fart (directed and written by Noboru Iguchi)

Flatulence, the staple diet of any Zucker or Wayans comedy… but horror? We’re introduced to a escaping and perhaps deadly black gas. Does it signal the end of civilisation? As the lead character asks, “could it be a fart from the ass of God?”. If so, she’d rather die from the gas of the object of her obsession, her high school teacher, to which she seeks to do. Totally insane, and very funny. (6)

•        G is for Gravity (directed and written by Andrew Traucki)

At the beach, we’re viewing a surfer travelling from his car to the sea from his point of view with surfboard in hand. Once in the sea though he gets into trouble…. as do we, as this may well be the first short which sadly lacks the ingenuity and wit of the first six. (3)

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•        H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion (directed and written by Thomas Malling)

In a surreal world populated by human / animal hybrids, a dog-like British pilot is sat in a club ogling a fox who is seductively stripping before him. But wait! This canny fox is a Nazi ! A perfect antidote to get this anthology back on track. (7)

•        I is for Ingrown (directed and written by Jorge Michel Grau)

A man is pensively sat on a toilet seat, needle in hand, bloodshot eyes with a woman tied up and held prisoner in a bath. Stabbed with the needle she continues to provide the narration to the film, telling of why she is there, albeit in a rather poetic manner. A subtle yet worthy piece. (7)

•        J is for Jidai-geki (Samurai Movie) (directed and written by Yûdai Yamaguchi)

Here we find two samurai, one older and one younger, the younger one unable to maintain any seriousness attempts to stifle a laugh while his face contorts into unimaginable shapes through  a face-off with his mature opponent. (6)

•        K is for Klutz (directed and written by Anders Morgenthaler)

Time for some animation now with a woman deep in the throes of defecation, after which she discovers that the thing she has just emitted may not be quite ready to begin its journey to the sewer. Juvenile but hilarious. (8)

ABC-005

•        L is for Libido (Directed and written by Timo Tjahjanto)

Stage 1.Two men are fixed to two chairs with leather straps while a woman disrobes in front of them. Forced to masturbate, the last one to ejaculate is the loser while the winner goes on to face another opponent. Fast forward to stage 12 and in rolls a disabled woman who begins to pleasure herself with her artificial leg…. It’s sordid stuff, yet bleakly compelling especially with the addition of some gore. (7)

•        M is for Miscarriage (directed and written by Ti West)

Yay… Ti West. In another toilet located beginning, a woman is having some trouble flushing. After locating her plunger, the camera pre-empts it by slowly entering the toilet first, as it does so the red tinted colouring of the water becomes visable, and as the camera probes further we are subjected to tissue and bone. Without doubt my first audible “gag” of the anthology so far. (8)

•        N is for Nuptials (directed and written by Banjong Pisanthanakun)

A man has purchased a parrot and takes it home much to the dismay of his girlfriend. As he tries to impress her with some tricks he taught the bird, including carrying a wedding ring towards her. The birds big mouth begins to lead to other consequences. (7)

•        O is for Orgasm (directed and written by Bruno Forzani & Héléne Cattet)

Another dialogue free short here that is made up specific sounds of a sexual nature, be it twisting leather, deep breathing or moaning. Visually we see a leather glove caressing a body under a changing green, blue or red tint. It may be ambiguous, but its style is undeniable especially from the directors of ‘Amer’. (6)

•        P is for Pressure (directed and written by Simon Rumley)

The protagonist in Simon Rumley’s piece has three children who we are led to believe she provides for via prostitution. While at work a man, familiar to the children searches her home and takes her savings. With rent due she finds herself under pressure which leads to another client, as well as an ending that confounds. Disappointing. (4)

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•        Q is for Quack (directed and written by Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett)

Ingenius effort which is shot from the perspective of Wingard and Barrett struggling to find a topic to tackle for the letter Q. They decide to film a real animal killing, but what animal starts with the letter ‘Q’? This is definitely one of the stand out shorts for its originality alone. (8)

•        R is for Removed (directed and written by Srdjan Spasojevic)

Ah, the director of A Serbian Film. I’m sure this will be Disney-esque! A man’s skin is being peeled from his back and converted into 35mm film. One day, he escapes from this hell and wreaks vengeance on those that imprisoned him.  It’s a repulsive piece of film-making, yet one you cannot take your eyes off. Excellent. (9)

•        S is for Speed (directed and written by Jake West)

We’re in the desert in a post-apocalyptic environment alongside two women, one a prisoner, the other the captor. With the prisoner locked in the boot, a car chase ensues only for the captor to be caught by a mysterious hooded guy who tells her she “can’t run forever”. Reality though may not be what we think. (6)

ABC-003

•        T is for Toilet (directed and written by Lee Hardcastle)

The potty is in the bin! In this Claymation short a young boy must come to terms with being old enough to use the toilet by himself. But what if the toilet is actually a monster? Great fun. (9)

•        U is for Unearthed (directed and written by Ben Wheatley)

In the second short here shot from POV, we’re under the guidance of Mr.Wheatley. It’s an impressive work about what seems to be a vampire on the run from a group of hunters. We see him captured, fangs pulled out and stake administered in a very brutal manner. (8)

•        V is for Vagitus (The Cry of a Newborn Baby) (directed and written by Kaare Andrews)

Set in 2035 in the futuristic New Vancouver, all women are made infertile by the government but are able to earn back their fertility through service to Propagation Control. Certainly one of the most ambitious of the shorts, it has a very cinematic look but doesn’t quite match its lofty desires. (6)

•        W is for WTF! (directed and written by Jon Schnepp)

Similarly with ‘Q’, we find the filmmakers sat around brainstorming about what to do for the letter ‘W’. However, in contrast to ‘Q’ their search for inspiration becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as we become treated to a medley of blood, gore and mayhem. (7)

•        X is for XXL (directed and written by Xavier Gens)

An overweight woman is on her journey home within which she is subjected to cruel taunts about her size, whilst numerous times a bikini model advert appears to remind her of what she is not. On arriving home she binge eats, and before you can say “wafer thin mint” she decides to perform some weight loss surgery on herself. It’s grim, but it’s also a powerful indictment of our shallow society. (8)

•        Y is for Youngbuck (directed and written by Jason Eisener)

We begin with a seemingly innocent rite of passage with an old man teaching a boy to shoot deer. Soon enough though, we discover this old man – the school janitor – may not have honourable intentions. As we observe the pedophillic individual licking the boys sweat off the school gym benches, I think I felt my breakfast ask to may another appearance. Grim but gripping with a pumping synth score. (8)

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•        Z is for Zetsumetsu (Extinction) (directed and written by Yoshihiro Nishimura)

In a revisionist tale of Japanese relations with the west, political and historical allegories are mixed with insane splatter-gore, copious nudity and a giant rubber penis. An excellent way to end this great anthology. (7)

While there was a great deal of anticipation about ABCs Of Death, the reaction to it seems to have been somewhat less than complimentary. Verdicts range from “bad taste” to “boring”, while in the horror community the debate has been raging as to the worthiness of the project and the contents within. One reviewer (for another website) stated that he’ll never watch another Ti West film again and accused the celebrated genre filmmaker of ‘resting on his laurels’. I disagree, and I have to say I enjoyed every minute of the anthology. Granted some of the shorts (very few) are disappointing, but on the whole I found it to be an edgy, fast-paced, envelope-pushing parade of artistic expression. Short film is an overlooked medium in the UK, and if this goes some way to forcing it onto the home entertainment market, then that can only be for the good.

8 out of 10

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