I’ve always enjoyed horror anthologies. Ever since I watched Creepshow for the first time, I loved the idea of a few short horror flicks combining to create one entertaining final product. Therefore, I naturally felt a positive inclination toward The ABCS of Death. In the film, twenty-six directors are each given a letter and ten minutes to create a horror movie. Every letter in the alphabet represents a different tale of death, portrayed from a different perspective. This daunting and imaginative concept captured my attention from the moment the film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Of course, as soon as the feature became available On Demand, I was more than ready to shell out the ten dollars for a single rental.
In the past, certain short films have proven to be even more effective than full length features, by encompassing unpleasant feelings in a limited amount of time, without leaving room for unnecessary motives that muddy the original scares. That concept, combined with inventive minds like Ti West and Yoshihiro Nishimura, was sure to make one mesmerizing movie.
Unfortunately, many of the directors chose to use this grand opportunity to display immature pieces of potty humor. Even Noboru Iguchi, a director I know from his movies The Machine Girl and Dead Sushi, made an off-putting piece of child’s humor. I’m aware that he favors the comedic side of horror, but it’s hard to find any part of his segment “F is for Fart” that’s worth mentioning.
Not all of the segments were horrendous, though. A few of the directors took full advantage of the chance they were given to make a horror short without boundaries, and provide entertaining pieces of cinema that are up to par. If you’d rather not spend two hours watching all of the segments, here’s a few that are worthy of your attention: D, U, and X.
“D is for Dogfight” by Marcel Sarmiento. Known mostly for his film Deadgirl, director Sarmiento has a gift for finding the beauty in gritty, macabre situations. Although the ending is somewhat puzzling, the journey through this unique short is filled with gorgeous cinematography that make this brutal dogfight aesthetically stimulating.
“U is for Unearthed”by Ben Wheatley. This short about a man on the run is the only segment in the entire movie that is shown entirely through a POV shot. This unique perspective gives the feature memorable individuality, especially amongst so many others that blend together.
“X is for XXL” by Xavier Gens. This is my favorite short of the entire film. Director Gens managed to create a social commentary that speaks volumes about how beauty is perceived in society today, while still maintaining an eerie mentality that works to create tension among his viewers. In the segment, an overweight woman is taunted by her peers, until she can’t take the torment any longer, and resorts to drastic measures to become “beautiful”. Gens proved that with enough imagination and determination, any topic can be conquered in cinema, even if you’re assigned the letter X.
There were a few entertaining segments, but overall, The ABCs of Death was a disappointment. Not only were the majority of the selected shorts a waste of a golden opportunity, but other worthwhile features, such as “T is for Talk”, were turned down in favor of these questionable choices. However, I still find it exciting that horror anthologies are becoming more and more prominent, with the release of films like The ABCs of Death, V/H/S, and the upcoming V/H/S/2. Despite the fact that this compilation fell short, it’s still inspirational how these intriguing celluloids are occurring more often, giving more horror directors a chance to demonstrate their talents to a wider audience.