Friday, May 17, 2013

The ABCs of Death (2012) - A Review


26 directors, 26 short films, 26 letters, 26 deaths, 1 film. The ABC’s of Death was different from the moment it was announced. While the horror genre has never been a stranger to the anthology format, something like this had never been done. Combining some of the greatest minds of horror and bringing them together in such a way was new and familiar, and very exciting all at the same time. Not only were 26 directors picked, but each was different from the last. From the toilet-centric absurdist humor of Noburo Iguchi to the visceral, violent tendencies of Srdjan Spasojevic, you see a little bit of everything, and in a film like this… that could either be a great thing or a bad idea completely.

Title: The ABC’s of Death
Director(s): Kaare Andrews, Angela Bettis, Helene Cattet, Ernesto Diaz Espinoza, Jason Eisener, Bruno Forzani, Adrian Garcia Bogliano, Xavier Gens, Lee Hardcastle, Noburo Iguchi, Thomas Cappelen Malling, Jorge Michel Grau, Anders Morgenthaler, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Banjong Pisanthanakun, Simon Rumley, Marcel Sarmiento, Jon Schnepp, Srdjan Spasojevic, Timo Tjahjanto, Andrew Traucki, Nacho Vigalando, Jake West, Ti West, Ben Wheatley, Adam Wingard, Yudai Yamaguchi
Writer(s): Kaare Andrews, Simon Barrett, Helene Cattet, Bruno Forazani, Adrian Garcia Bogliano, Lee Hardcastle, Noburo Iguchi, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Simon Rumley, Jon Schnepp, Srdjan Spasojevic, Nacho Vigalondo, Dimitrije Vjonov, Ti West, Yudai Yamaguchi
Producer(s): Simon Boswell, Rob Cotterill, Nahikari Ipina, Claire Jones, etc.

Since the film concluded last night I’ve been trying to think of how I’ll even approach the review of this film. Do I review each segment? Do I take the highs and lows and review those? Do I review it as a whole? I’m going to do a little bit of each. I’ll post my three favorite, my three not-so-favorites and what I thought of the film as whole. 

It’s SPOILER TIME folks. You know how this works by now, hopefully. If not, keep an eye out for the END SPOILER, you’re good from there on out. 

There were several directors in this film that I was excited about. Angela Bettis, Ti West, Adam Wingard and Jon Schnepp. There were others where I wasn’t so much as excited as I was interested (Srdjan Spasojevic, A Serbian Film). While I was disappointed by all of the ones I was anticipating (haha, funny how it works), there were still several that I enjoyed. 

A is for Apocalypse 

I don’t know what the hell is going on, but then again, that’s a feeling that you get used to throughout the duration of this film. Most of these shorts are (at most) 5 minutes long with minimal dialogue and abstract visuals. In the film’s opener we see a man, eating a dinner roll in his bed. A woman enters and (very shittily) attempts to stab him. After several more attempts, and almost taking his hand off at the middle finger, she stabs him the throat and we assume she’s done. Nope. She returns with a frying pan filled with hot oil and some type of food, which is then thrown into the man’s face before she beats him mercilessly over the head with the hot pan. She then explains that she has been poisoning him for months, he should have already died and she apologizes that things had to end like this. Why did she do it? I don’t know. What was all that about? I don’t know. What does that have to do with the apocalypse? Well, she mentioned having been listening to the news all day, so maybe that comes into play, but I still don’t know. What I do know? I loved it. 

I is for Ingrown 

Oh man, this one was probably my favorite. This is the reason I sat down to watch this film, however (in reasons I’ll get into shortly), 90 percent of the film could not have been more different. This segment opens with a man sitting on a toilet. He is wearing gloves and holding a syringe and a red bottle, of what I assume is motor oil. He has already filled the syringe with whatever the substance was and he walks over to the bathtub where a woman, gagged and bound, is revealed to have been sitting. After a brief struggle, he injects her with the syringe and once he has done so he immediately becomes disenchanted, scared and worried and flees the room. We are then left to watch this young girl as the motor oil (once again, only an assumption) courses through her body. She scratches her skin until she bleeds, she vomits bile and foam, until she eventually dies. We hear an internal monologue, her describing how she had been marked and this wasn’t supposed to end this way. 

This for me was the most terrifying and harrowing segment of all. Watching her claw through her own skin because something foreign is working its way through her veins, it was… dark. I loved it, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for more of Jorge Michel Grau’s work. By the way, you’ve seen me plugging the re-imagining, but Jorge Michel Grau directed the original Mexican We Are What We Are.

X is for XXL 

Another big favorite for me, and beautifully simple in it’s execution. A middle-aged, overweight woman is seen being harassed as she walks home from what I presume is work. When I say harassed, I mean harassed. People in France apparently really hate fat people. Regardless, you feel for this poor woman, and when she finally arrives home she beelines for the fridge where she stuffs her face with god only knows what, while listening to a commercial of a young, fit woman advertising diet cereals. After she is done satisfying her hunger, she strips off her dress and goes to the bathroom. Here is where the proverbial shit hits the fan. While staring at herself in the mirror, she decides to take matters into her own hands and using a large butchers knife, begins to eradicate herself of her fat. The grand finale involves an electric meat carver in the bathtub, which for me, immediately brought memories of Evil Dead flooding back to mind. The segment ends with our main lady stepping out of the bath tub, thin and beautiful (only without skin and stuff). She places a hand delicately on her waist and collapses to the floor. 

Wow. This one had everything for me. The gore (I do love me some gore) and a real story. In 5 minutes, Xavier Gens was able to get me to not only emotionally attach to this woman, but to make me feel disgust and even a mild sense of happiness when she finally finished her piece of “work”. Loved it.


There’s no real point for me to pinpoint certain segments that I was not necessarily a fan of. What I will say about this film is that going into it, it was not at all what I was expecting. There was an over whelming sense of cheesiness and campiness through-out most of the sketches (especially the Japanese ones, i.e. F is for Fart and J is for Jedai-geki). When I wanted gore, heavy tension and deep seeded scares, I got animation, silliness and even a Looney Tunes inspired segment about a British bulldog and a Nazi fox entitled  H is for Hydro-Electic Diffusion

While there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s all comes down to expectations. When you want a Coke and get a Root Beer, you’re not exactly stoked on the Root Beer, even if you happen to like Root Beer just fine.

Now, onto the P’s and C’s.


1. There are 26 fucking directors: My favorite thing about anthologies is it gives you a great opportunity to take part in a little sampling of new directors. Some new, some old, all great. Horror is all about the director, more so than the actor, so what better way to get an idea of which directors you’re going to like and want to follow than something like this? 


1. Continuity: There were a few segments that were so bland that I would hesitate to even call them horror. While the cinematography was great for most of these, it created a lag in the flow of the film. While I LOVE the idea of getting together all these people who trying to advance the genre, going from an animated silly short to a gore-porn inspired segment was confusing and hard on the brain.


- Rg Lovecraft

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