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The ABCs of Death


A is for “absolutely insane.”

Rod Lott June 19th, 2013

Suspense novelist Jeffery Deaver once praised the short-story format, writing that the minimal time investment on the part of the reader allows the writer to get away with endings he or she cannot in the long form. In other words, the writer can be meaner, more devious. He's absolutely right, and the theory applies wholesale to The ABCs of Death, more or less a horror anthology depicting "26 ways to die."

abcsofdeath

Tapping the talents of 26 directors in 15 countries, the film represents a global effort in which the contributors were granted one letter of the alphabet and "complete artistic freedom," and boy, do they ever take advantage of it.

It takes a few letters to find its footing. The fourth bit, Deadgirl director Marcel Sarmiento’s "D Is for Dogfight" is the first to work. Actress Angela Bettis (May) turns in "E Is for Exterminator," a lighthearted battle between man and spider, but with a terrifying ending. Norwegian Ninja’s Thomas Cappelen Malling merges Tex Avery with Joseph Goebbels for the sexy, stylish "H Is for Hydroelectric Diffusion."

Some shorts are experimental, à la Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s "O Is for Orgasm"; anyone who has seen the team's excellent feature Amer will not be surprised they leapt for this subject. Some are self-referential, like A Horrible Way to Die helmer Adam Wingard's "Q is for Quack," and some utilize their title as the payoff, as with The Innkeepers’ Ti West's "M Is for Miscarriage." At least one is downright depressing: Little Deaths contributor Simon Rumley's "P Is for Pressure."

Potty humor figures in heavily to the proceedings, including the two fully animated segments, both traditional (Anders Morgenthaler’s "K Is for Klutz") and claymation (Lee Hardcastle’s "T Is for Toilet"). Both are topped in sheer disgust by Karate-Robo Zaborgar director Noboru Iguchi’s "F Is for Fart"; leave it to the Japanese.

The race for most twisted would be a tie, if not for the closer, "Z Is for Zetsumetsu." For this short, Yoshihiro Nishimura (Mutant Girls Squad) sought to create something that couldn't be shown in his home country; he no doubt succeeded. Bringing up the rear in the WTF department are Timo Tjahjanto's über-demented "L Is for Libido" and The Divide helmer Xavier Gens' über-bloody "X Is for XXL."

The ABCs of Death has taken a lot of heat from an audience that should embrace something so daring, so made Just for Them, and all because it is a mixed bag. For chrissake, this is not Creepshow and its fully fleshed-out tales — or, to be more topical, V/H/S; these are shorts, often told without dialogue. Besides, I think it may be statistically impossible to love all 26. I sure don't, but the spirit of the project is so ballsy, I have to praise it as a whole rather than keep score through its individual pieces. No, it's not perfect, but it keeps you on your toes.

Magnet's Blu-ray is packed with featurettes on several of those pieces; better yet, on a second viewing, listen to the commentary track that must hold some kind of record for most active participants. The biggest bonus, however, comes at the film’s end: a title card promising More ABCs of Death in 2014. That’s a spelling bee I can get behind. —Rod Lott

Hey! Read This:
A Horrible Way to Die Blu-ray review     
Deadgirl DVD review      
The Divide Blu-ray review   
The Innkeepers Blu-ray review     
• Little Deaths DVD review 
Karate-Robo Zaborgar Blu-ray review    
Mutant Girls Squad Blu-ray review    
Norwegian Ninja DVD review     
V/H/S DVD review   
   


 
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