The ABCs of Death Review
by Mike Holtz, WeWatchedAMovie
As a kid when your parents went to bed, did you ever sneak the TV on for a late night of watching everything you weren’t supposed to watch, just because you weren’t supposed to watch it? I did. Then every once in a while I would come across something on HBO or Cinemax that was way more than I bargained for. Instead of getting a cool horror movie or show full of violence way too grotesque for my age group I would come across some stuff so weird that not only did I not understand it….. I wanted no part of it. You turn on the tube as a 14 year old wanting something nice and violent and full of curse words and half naked women only to come across some weird kind of cartoon horror porn that just made you wanna watch Power Rangers instead and go to bed.
I kind of felt that way after watching The ABCs of Death. Not because I couldn’t handle what I was watching or because I was offended, it was rather because it was way more than I bargained for (in a bad, pointless way) and I just didn’t see the point of watching anymore. But I did…..
The ABCs of Death is a horror anthology in which 26 different Directors were assigned a letter of the alphabet and given free reign to choose a word starting with that letter and making a horror short about it. In short its a horror anthology with 26 different stories and Directors spanning across 15 countries.
Horror anthologies can be one of the funnest mediums for horror stories simply because there is an endless amount of opportunity within a short time and you can be shocked not once but multiple times with twist endings or interesting and original ideas. There isn’t a lot of lag time between scares. The issue with the ABCs of Death however? Zero scares, no terror. It was more an exercise in shock factor or a one upping contest of who can get the weirdest. Kind of like one of those strange late night HBO shows that were unfathomably weird. Was there originality? Sure, but not the impressive kind. Most shorts were original only because nobody else would have wanted to do them.
An anthology with 26 different horror stories has endless possibilities. Unfortunately most of those were wasted on toilet jokes and shock factor. It’s hard to respect a story that has to delve into topics like miscarriage, fecal matter and child molestation just to get a rise out of you. Anyone can make offensive garbage with a video camera… good horror is either fun or terrifying and The ABCs of Death is for the most part, neither. A cohesive 5 minute short that is able to actually tell a story and frighten or surprise you is impressive. This belongs on late night HBO sandwiched between Real Sex and Taxi Cab Confessions (Are those even still around?)
I wouldn’t want to blame everyone involved for the efforts of some (Ti West) So here’s a quick guide to each short, who Directed it and a grade for each.
“A is for Apocalypse” Directed by Nacho Vigalondo – (C+) This was actually entertaining for a moment and some pretty cool gory effects. Even though I’m still not sure exactly what the hell was going on.
“B is for Bigfoot” Directed by Adrian Garcia Bogliano – (D) A couple of jerks being mean to a kid with a non-redeemable and predictable finish that had nothing to do with bigfoot. There were a couple of laughs though.
“C is for Cycle”Directed by Ernesto Diaz Espinoza – (C-) A guy seems to be haunted by a version of himself, trying to take his life over. Give them credit for trying to be scary here even if it wasn’t.
“D is for Dogfight”Directed by Marcel Sarmiento – (B) This one was fun and original even without sound. It involves an underground fight club where men with boxing gloves fight dogs. Yup. Even carries a cool twist at the end.
“E is for Exterminate”Directed by Angela Bettis- (B-) Plays hilariously on one of most people’s biggest fears, spiders that retaliate.
“F is for Fart”Directed by Noboru Iguchi- (WTF?) Honestly, I don’t even know what to do with this. It involves girls passing gas in each others faces in some weird kind of supposedly erotic end of the world scenario. I wish I never had to write that.
“G is for Gravity”Directed by Andrew Traucki- (D-) About a guy drowning while surfing. Its shot well but it’s extremely underwhelming and pointless.
“H is for Hydro -Electric Diffusion” Directed by Thomas Malling- (C-) A lot of effort at least went into this one. Its batshit crazy featuring animals with human bodies, one of them a stripper/nazi. It’s a spectacle to say the least.
“I is for Ingrown” Directed by Jorge Michel Grau- (D+) If this made any sense than it was above my level of understanding. A guy delivers a syringe to a girl in a bathtub and some gross stuff happens while she goes on about something irrelevant.
“J is for Jadai-geki (Samurai Movie)” Directed by Yûdai Yamaguchi- (D-) I really don’t see the point. Samarais stabbing themselves while making funny faces. Literally.
“K is for Klutz” Directed by Anders Morgenthaler- (D-) A cartoon about a woman using the toilet. She can’t flush it and her poop eventually kills her. Seriously? What is with all the bathroom humor in this movie? I thought this was horror?
“L is for Libido”Directed by Timo Tjahjanto- (C+) Wow was this gross and even offensive at one point but it was an original idea and was shot well. Its based on a masturbation competition where two contestants tied to chairs have to watch something happening in front of them and whoever finishes first gets to live. Like I said…. its original.
“M is for Miscarriage” Directed by Ti West- (F-) If there were a lower score I would give it. This guy is supposed to be the future of horror? Here’s his short: A stupid looking woman struggles on a toilet and tries to find a plunger before the camera pans down to show whats expected to be a fetus. The end. Its offensive at the lowest level because it’s not even slightly clever. Grow up.
“N is for Nuptials” Directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun- (C-) A bird repeats something a boyfriend doesn’t want his girlfriend to hear and she kills him. Not even in that cool of a way.
“O is for Orgasm”Directed by Bruno Forzani, Héléne Cattet- (C) Apart from maybe something about bondage this isn’t horror at all but its pretty well shot.
“P is for Pressure” Directed by Simon Rumley- (C+) About a woman struggling to keep a roof over her kids head. Apparently it makes her wanna kill cute animals. It’s really well made and I see what it’s trying to get across…..but it still ends with a cheap horror gimmick.
“Q is for Quack”Directed by Adam Wingard, Simon Barrett- (C) The two Directors star in their own short about getting stuck with the letter Q. Its tongue in cheek and the two guys are the most likeable actors in the whole movie even if the short was underwhelming.
“R is for Removed”Directed by Srdjan Spasojevic- (C+) This one actually almost felt like a horror short. Some patient in some messed up situations escapes to a gruesome conclusion. Still never made any sense.
“S is for Speed”Directed by Jake West- (B+) See! You can have a crazy, wild horror short with a twist ending that doesn’t have to involve the toilet! S is for Speed was impressive in its futuristic setting of two hot girls fighting each other and some sort of demon thing. The ending takes it across the goal-line as the best short in the film.
“T is for Toilet” Directed by Lee Hardcastle- (C) Back to the toilet! T is for Toilet is in claymation, which is a change from the live action toilet short and the cartoon toilet short…. can you sense the sarcasm? In all honestly this is the best of the toilet trio in which a small childs nightmare about a toilet becomes reality.
“U is for Unearthed”Directed by Ben Wheatley- (C) A man being chased by an angry horde. Or is it a man at all? Some cool point of view ideas in Unearthed but again I ask you where is the fear?
“V is for Vagitus” Directed by Kaare Andrews- (C-) A futuristic Robocop like story about infertility? A cool looking idea turns to an ambitious vision which then turns into overkill and self-indulgence. A typical theme for this movie.
“W is for WTF”Directed by Jon Schnepp (C-) Just a whole bunch of random end of the world stuff happening. It’s kind of endearing, I guess.
“X is for XXL”Directed by Xavier Gens (C+) An overweight woman becomes sick of being ridiculed and decides to take matters into her own hands the grossest way possible. It’s not perfect but its got some fun gross out factor and at least it follows a theme.
“Y is for Youngbuck”Directed by Jason Eisener (D-) Can’t you try to be controversial or horrific without stooping to the lowest common level? This one again deals with a pedophile doing gross things involving little boys and even though the kid gets his revenge…. you can do better than this horror.
“Z is for Zetsumetsu”Directed by Yoshihiro Nishimura (F) A bunch of gross and random junk thrown at the screen while some guy talks about Japan and a girl fights with a giant penis as a sword. Do you honestly think this is art? Or anything for that matter? Congratulations ABCs of Death you have assembled the second-rate Howard Stern version of a horror anthology by letting it (however bad it is) be finished with this nonsense.
The ABCs of Death is a great idea and the world could, for the most part, always use more horror anthologies. They are generally just pure horror fun. This one misses the mark way too often though and makes me wonder what the guidelines were to begin with. Did everybody just feel like being as weird and incoherent as possible? Or did the guideline literally say “Be as weird and incoherent as possible”. That being said a few of the shorts were well made and deserved better than this.