The concept behind The ABCs of Death is simple yet somewhat brilliant in theory. As the title suggests, this anthology film consists of 26 tales of death brought to life by 26 different directors, each of whom was given a letter of the alphabet to focus their story on. Each filmmaker was given free rein to do whatever they please with their story, so long as the title began with the letter they were assigned as well as a death to go with it.
As I said, brilliant in theory, but does The ABCs of Death deliver on its concept? Well, it’s difficult to review a 26 story anthology when there are so many parts that make the whole, so what I decided to do was give a simplistic mini-review for each short followed by a letter grade. This way you can skim each one and get a feel for how I reacted to each and every story as well as get an idea of my general thoughts on the film as a whole.
Before you move forward, however, it should be said that I mostly copied the notes that I took when I watched the film, so there will be moments where I break from the segments to talk about my feelings on the film at certain points during the movie. A sort of editor’s note, if you will, all of which will be wrapped around by a pair of *asterisks*.
A is for Apocalypse
By Nacho Vigalondo
A confusing look at a wife as she attempts to murder her husband while the apocalypse unfolds around them. Doesn’t make much sense, but it’s nicely shot and there is some seriously brutal knife violence.
B is for Bigfoot
By Adrian Garcia Bogliano
A horny couple attempt to scare a young girl to sleep with a terrifying bigfoot story, giving them the opportunity to “bone” without interruption. Using such tactics for selfish means, however, bites the couple in the butt in this basic story that feels a little hollow.
C is for Cycle
By Ernesto Diaz Espinoza
A well made and fascinating time travel focused short that follows a man through a time vortex located in his backyard shrubbery. This one does quite a bit with a little time.
D is for Dogfight
By Marcel Sarmiento
D is as simple as a man fighting a dog in an underground street fight. Well, dogfight, would be more fitting, I guess. This one is, overall, satisfying and certainly gorgeous in terms of photography and the dazzling use of slow motion.
*I’m very impressed with the high production value on display thus far. So far each short looks pretty fantastic and has its own distinct style.*
E is for Exterminate
By Angela Bettis
A creepy crawly tale about a man and the spider that is constantly “bugging” him. This one features some nice CGI work, and it’s simple premise makes for a satisfying little slice of horror comedy that, overall, feels complete as a short film.
F is for Fart
By Noboru Iguchi
A Japanese girl farts, which set off a series of transcendent female farting in this short that’s almost too strange and silly to enjoy. And that’s coming from a guy who LOVES farts. Especially his own.
G is for Gravity
By Andrew Traucki
A first person account of a man who drowns himself in the ocean. Too simple to be satisfying let alone poignant.
H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion
By Thomas Malling
Seemingly set during WWII, H features a human-styled dog enjoying a strip tease from a human-styled cat who, unbeknownst to the dog, is a Nazi who wants to steal his power. I think? Outside of the visual look and the strangeness of this one, it didn’t capture my attention in any way whatsoever.
I is for Ingrown
By Jorge Michel Grau
A woman is held captive by a man who injects her with something. I don’t know... this one looks great, but makes little sense.
*By this point, The ABCs of Death is getting a little tedious, and I’m not even halfway through it yet. This does not bode well for my future...*
J is for Jidai-geki (Samurai Move)
By Yûdai Yamaguchi
A Japanese man makes a bunch of silly faces before committing Seppuku. That’s it.
K is for Klutz
By Anders Morgenthaler
A nicely animated tale of a woman dealing with her turd, which has come back from the toilet to haunt her. Meh.
*Yeah, things are getting very bleak.*
L is for Libido
By Timo Tjahjanto
A couple of men are strapped to chairs and forced to masturbate to an array of disturbing imagery. If they refuse to tug away, they get a spike in their butt. An unnecessary attempt at being controversial and shocking when it does a better job of coming off as stupid and pointless. Even the nudity cannot help this one out of the bottom of the barrel.
'M is for Miscarriage
By Ti West
A woman is shown fetching a plunger so she can unclog a blood-filled toilet. Despite being Ti West, who often makes movies that go against the grain of the genre proper in a way that can be almost alienating, I have a feeling he mailed this one in without much thought. Very unfortunate.
N is for Nuptials
By Banjong Pisanthanakun
A man surprises his girlfriend with a talking bird who helps him make a proposal, but the bird soon sends him to the doghouse. Kind of funny. I guess.
O is for Orgasm
By Bruno Forzani & Héléne Cattet
Seen through a series of brilliant imagery and fantastic sound design, a woman achieves the orgasm to end all orgasms as well as her life. Those familiar with Forzani and Cattet’s Amer will have a good idea of what to expect and likely see the brilliance of this one. Those who have not, however, will likely hate it.
*Even after this solid and much needed entry, I cannot believe that I am still here taking notes and watching this thing. Again, tedious comes to mind, and I’m starting to feel like I’m knowingly wading into shark infested waters.*
P is for Pressure
By Simon Rumley
This one follows a financially poor woman who goes to extreme measures to provide for her children after a boyfriend steals all of her money and leaves her. I was a little confused about this one, but I think there’s a lot of depth that might be better appreciated upon multiple viewings.
Q is for Quack
By Adam Wingard & Simon Barrett
The filmmakers break the fourth wall and play themselves as they attempt to figure out how to deal with the crappy letter they’ve been dealt, Q. This is certainly one of the more entertaining shorts, and the ending is as satisfying as the humor.
R is for Removed
By Srdjan Spasojevic
Surgeons remove patches of skin from a man’s deformed back only to reveal that each portion of skin is a piece of film stock. This one looks pretty good and I dig the body horror, but I have no idea what the hell is going on, nor do I even care at this point.
S is for Speed
By Jake West
*With this last one, I have simply become tired of taking notes for each letter and, worse yet, I’m tired of paying attention. I’m almost completely checked out and only in it for the review by this point. These waters are getting very choppy.*
T is for Toilet
By Lee Hardcastle
A funny claymation short about a boy who takes a deadly poop.
U is for Unearthed
By Ben Wheatley
This short is all shot from the perspective of a demon who is under attack in the woods by townsfolk and clergy, who seem to be attempting to exorcise the unseen creature.
*Again, my energy to keep going here is nearly depleted. The temptation to turn this thing off is starting to take over. Will I make it?! Seriously, I am on the verge of a nervous breakdown.*
V is for Vagitus (The Cry of a Newborn Baby)
By Kaare Andrews
A cool looking sci-fi actioner with some great special effects and a moderately intriguing premise.
W is for WTF!
By Jon Schnepp
Another short featuring the filmmakers trying to come up with ways to deal with the letter W, all of which are nicely realized in some form or another. Similar concept to ‘Quack’, but actually very different in its end result.
*ALMOST DONE!! YAY!!!*
X is for XXL
By Xavier Gens
After a bunch of assholes make fun of a heavy set woman, she goes to extreme measures to measure up to the perception of women in magazines and on television. The results are absolutely brutal and quite satisfying.
Y is for Youngbuck
By Jason Eisener
A revenge tale that gives a young boy the chance to get back at a creepy pedophile. This one really delivers as a whole and features some gorgeously garish style drenched by a seriously badass soundtrack.
Z is for Zetsumetsu (Extinction)
By Yoshihiro Nishimura
Not all that positive about what’s happening in this one, but there’s a lot of nudity and Nazis featured in this psycho-sexual orgy of nonsense. Whatever.
There are few words that I can use to describe how badly The ABCs of Death fails. Regardless of the few strong entries and interesting concept behind the film, this anthology is simply an inconsistent mess that does nothing to keep the viewer hooked for more than a few segments.
I do love that there's so much diversity in style and with the directors involved, and having filmmakers from so many different countries contribute to this piece is fantastic; however, that is also a part of the overall problem, as The ABCs of Death simply doesn't feel cohesive as a piece of anthology cinema.