Synopsis: Twenty-six directors. Twenty-six ways to die. The ABC’s OF DEATH is perhaps the most ambitious anthology film ever conceived with productions spanning fifteen countries and featuring segments directed by over two dozen of the world’s leading talents in contemporary genre film. Inspired by children’s educational books, the motion picture is comprised of twenty-six individual chapters, each helmed by a different director assigned a letter of the alphabet. The directors were then given free reign in choosing a word to create a story involving death.
Release Date: March 8, 2013 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Horror, Anthology
The concept behind Drafthouse Films’ The ABCs of Death is admirable; twenty-six different horror directors, ranging from cult heroes like Ti West (The Innkeepers, The House of the Devil) and Jason Eisener (Hobo With a Shotgun) to talented unknowns like Lee Hardcastle (the claymation animator behind the hilarious internet series “Done in 60 Seconds. With Clay“), each takes a letter of the alphabet and produces a short film about that letter having something to do with death. The shorts are then stuck together alphabetically in a “Sesame Street” style chain of carnage. It’s an extremely ambitious project, and the collection is lukewarm; the results are predictably inconsistent, and the shorts vary wildly in both quality and subject matter.
The best segment in the bunch is easily “D is for Dogfight,” a simultaneously brutal and thought-provoking short by Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl) about a very different kind of canine cage match. Also notable is “G is for Gravity,” an interesting segment by Andrew Traucki (The Reef) about a surfing session that goes by so fast that it is best viewed on VOD so it can be rewound and watched again to be fully understood. Several others are more comedy than horror, like (predictably) Noboru Iguchi’s “F is for Fart,” Anders Morgenthaler’s “K is for Klutz,” and Hardcastle’s “T is for Toilet.” Still others, like Bruno Forzani’s “O is for Orgasm,” seem out of place in the collection, not being even remotely horror or comedy.
The most disappointing entry is, without a doubt, the one by Ti West. His “M is for Miscarriage” is not only unsatisfying but predictable, and a director of his talent and vision really should have been able to come up with something better instead of phoning it in like he does. As one of the bigger names in the credits, expectations for his segment are high; unfortunately, his fans will be let down.
A couple of the shorts are hilariously meta in their execution. For example, in a faux behind-the-scenes piece, Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett (V/H/S) make fun of the fact that they were given the letter Q in “Q is for Quack,” before finally coming up with the concept for their short which, of course, involves a duck. And Jon Schnepp (one of the geniuses behind Adult Swim’s “Metalocalypse”) turns in “W is for WTF” which, after starting with an animation of a warrior named Willford rescuing a wench named Wendy who is being tortured by a witch who summons a warlock to which Wilford just says “Whoa…,” turns into another making-of film that sees the crew dealing with every cliche and stereotype imaginableâ¦and a few that are well beyond imagination.
As a collection, The ABCs of Death is hit and miss – unfortunately, more miss than hit. The good news is that, with 26 segments in a bit over two hours, they’re all fairly short, so audiences never have to sit long through a bad one; the duds are over soon, and each new letter brings renewed hope that it will be of higher quality than the last.
For a movie that brings together so much up-and-coming talent from the horror world, The ABCs of Death is pretty light on actual scares. The segments are too short to build up any real suspense, so there’s not much of a shot at any real payoffs. Most of the shorts go for the gross-out, and they do it well. The segments that employ practical visual effects use them convincingly and to excess; there’s a whole lot of blood and gore in more than half of them. A few segments are disturbing – “D is for Dogfight” and “L is for Libido” (by Timo Tjahjanto, who has a segment in the upcoming V/H/S/2) come immediately to mind – and several others are fairly creepy but, for the most part, The ABCs of Death provides more cringing than screaming.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Various
- Screenwriter(s): Various
- Cast: Ensemble
- Production Designer(s):
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- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score:
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- Country Of Origin: USA