When I first heard of THE ABCS OF DEATH, I was quite excited for it. The poster was extremely cool, and the concept was something that hasn’t really been done before (at least not on such a large scale). Twenty-six Horror directors signed on to shoot shorts based on one letter of the alphabet. (Example: A is for Apocalypse.)
Having missed it during its initial limited theatrical release, I eagerly ordered THE ABCS OF DEATH via Video on Demand as soon as it was available! I just had to give this a look! Two hours later I sat on my couch feeling completely disappointed, and trying to come to grips with what had just assaulted my senses.
I’d say that out of the twenty-six shorts that make up this film, I only really enjoyed about five or six of them. I’m not saying the rest were all terrible, but some were just too weird (all of the Asian ones), too lazy (Ti West’s “M is for Miscarriage”), or too artsy (“O is for Orgasm”) for their own good. Here a quick sampling of some of the better shorts:
C is for CYCLE
This one was kind of cool; I was honestly expecting this one to be “C for Clone.” Multiple realities merge when a guy witnesses his own murder at the hands of… himself? Is he having a glimpse of the future? Is he about to be replaced by an evil doppelganger or twisted twin brother? It is never really revealed, but this was a cool idea regardless.
D is for Dogfight
This one was pretty weird. A guy prepares for an underground dogfight against an actual dog. As he and the hound trade blows and bites, they eventually stop and turn on their abusive masters. This short was gritty and cool, and one of the more satisfying entries into this motley anthology.
H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion
This one was insane and I loved it! Set during World War II, a fighter pilot walks into a bar to catch a strip show. The twist? The pilot is an anthropomorphic dog, and the stripper is a fox! Literally! It’s a twisted cartoon brought to life, with the brave pilot being captured and nearly tortured to death by the Nazi fox-woman in disguise. (Is is weird for me to find the human/fox hybrid sexy?)
Q is for Quack
Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett think outside the box on this one. Filmed as a “behind-the-scenes” video of their creation of their “Q-themed short,” the two brainstorm but can’t come up with anything. Eventually they decide to snuff a duck on camera with some funny results.
T is for Toilet
After sitting through a lot of toilet and sh*t-themed shorts (seriously, a lot of these directors have a bodily fluids fetish), here was one that I could get behind. Lee Hardcastle, the genius behind “The Thing” and “The Raid” with claymation cats, tells us the story of a child that’s afraid to use the toilet. This short was picked in a contest hosted by Drafthouse Films; you can check it out for yourself below.
V is for Vagitus
This one really took the ball and ran with it. Set in a Dystopian future where childbirth is controlled by the people in power, we watch as a police officer and her GIANT ROBOTIC PARTNER WITH A FOREARM MOUNTED MINI-GUN break into a warehouse and start gunning people down. The crime? Having a child without government consent. There’s a lot more to this short film that I won’t spoil, but after all the other toilet humor and weirdness, this one was a breath of fresh air.
So what about the rest? Well some are mediocre at best, but some are unforgivingly f*cked up. Noboru Iguchi’s “F is for Fart” is insanely bizarre and had me staring slack-jawed at the screen. Timo Tjahjanto’s “L is for Libido” is perhaps the most revolting short in the entire anthology. A guy is stuck in a life-or-death game where he has to masturbate and reach climax before his competitor. The thing is, the unwilling contestants have to whack-off to some truly disturbing stuff, like amputees engaging in self-gratification, and child rape.
Though nothing is graphically shown to the audience, our imagination is left to fill in the blanks, forcing us to travel down roads that we don’t want to be on. It’s probably the most shocking short film of the bunch, and will definitely make or break the remainder of the film for you.
“X is for XXL” features an overweight woman being brutally picked on by everyone that sees her. When she arrives home, she stuffs her face with food, then goes into the bathroom with a knife and begins hacking off her fatty flesh. Then there’s “W is for WTF!” which totally lives up to its name, and “Z is for Zetsumetsu” which is full of mutants, penises, and capped off with a parody of “Dr. Strangelove.”
I’m all for filmmakers taking a chance on creating something different, but in the end THE ABCS OF DEATH just didn’t do it for me. The good shorts are too few, and the majority of them are obsessed with bodily fluids other than blood. It’s a movie that will have you laughing one minute, staring in shock another, and will ultimately have you asking “What the hell is wrong with Asians?!”
In the end, I can’t really bring myself to recommend THE ABCS OF DEATH. There are a few diamonds in the rough here, but the film overall feels like a gloriously failed experiment. There is definitely a lot of room for improvement, and I am willing to embrace the sequel, the aptly titled THE ABCS OF DEATH 2. I’m just hoping that there’s a little more meat to the shorts, and that the bulk of them aren’t just weird for the sake of being weird.
THE ABCS OF DEATH is a bizarre cinematic experience that I won’t soon revisit, and I think I’m being rather generous by giving this patchwork anthology: