THE ABCs OF DEATH
MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5)
Ingrid Bolsø Berdal as FRAU SCHEISSE
Kyra Zagorsky as LAINEY
Erik Aude as BEAT DOWN DUDE
Iván González as BOBO
Arisa Nakamura as YOSHIE
Darenzia as ROXANNE
Directed by: Various
BY KEVIN CARR
“The ABCs of Death” is one of those movies that is essentially an experiment. It’s a successful experiment, but like all experiments in their infancy, it needs to be repeated and tweaked before it becomes a standard.
The premise is quite simple… take 26 different directors and hand them some money (reportedly $5000 if you are to believe a line of dialogue in one of the more self-aware segments). Each director will shoot a short film based on an assigned letter in the alphabet. The directors are given full creative control to do so. These 26 finished films are strung together in an anthology of horror, punctuated with a pool of blood containing the revelation of the original word in school-block letters.
This is an experiment not because it’s an anthology movie. After all, these things have been popular to some degree since the 1970s with films like “Tales from the Crypt,” seeing a resurgence in the 1980s with films like “Creepshow” and “The Twilight Zone.” Anthology movies have existed for years as a way to distribute shorter content, and as a fan of the short film structure, I’ve always been curious about them.
Web sites like YouTube have made the availability of short films – either professionally done or shot in someone’s back yard on an old camcorder – much greater. Still, there has been a recent resurgence with movies like “V/H/S,” a pretty strong contender in anthology marketing.
What makes “The ABCs of Death” unique is the sheer number of entries into the anthology. It’s an ambitious undertaking, but the advantage is that if you don’t like the particular short film you’re watching, you can move on to the next in three or four minutes.
Because it’s a relatively low-budget film, there are few recognizable directors outside of the fiercely independent fan. Still, a few show up, like Ti West and Ben Wheatley (and while their entries are interesting, they aren’t the best in the bunch).
Many of the films fall flat a bit, suffering from the need to be really short and not offered much character development. However, there are enough gems in the bunch to make it worth getting through the lesser moments of the overall film.
While the freedom offered the directors is inspiring, it did lead to some unfortunate results. Some of the words associated with the letters are a bit of a stretch, such as the use of “WTF” for the letter W. Others literally get a bit lost in translation, like “Z Is for Zetsumetsu.” Other words play a bit too much into a one-note gag, like “M Is for Miscarriage” and “O Is for Orgasm” (though oddly enough, “F Is for Fart” and “T Is for Toilet” are two of the more creative installments in the film).
The triumph of this film is the ability to present such a wide array of styles and subject matter. There’s animation, surrealism and extreme psychosexual assault all found in the package. There will surely be a handful of these shorts that will offend and turn off almost everyone, but there will also be shorts that will really catch the same person’s eye.
In the end, I’m hoping for another installment in this would-be franchise. I’d love to see more focus and less randomness of how the filmmakers choose their words as some seemed to be grasping for ideas. I’d also like to see a what other filmmakers along the lines of the aforementioned West and Wheatley (and even the notorious Srdjan Spasojevic, whose entry “R Is for Removed” is one of the more interesting installments) could deliver.
Special features include four categories, assigned to a specific letter. “A” features behind-the-scenes and deleted scenes from the A, B, C, D, H, I, J, R, T, V and W segments. “B” is the featurette “AXS TV: A Look at The ABCs of Death.” “C” offers filmmaker commentaries for the entire series. Finally, “D” is the “Do You Know Your ABCs Trailer.”