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Review: The ABC's of Death (Directed by various) (Tiff 2012)

Sep. 19, 2012by: Chris Bumbray

PLOT: Twenty-six short films about death, each from a different director, and each corresponding to a letter of the alphabet.

REVIEW: An omnibus film is always a dicey proposition, and if nothing else, THE ABCs OF DEATH deserves a whole lot of credit for being bold. Twenty-seven directors, including Jason Eisener, Ti West, Ben Wheatley, and Adam Wingard bravely signed on, and each was (apparently) randomly assigned a letter of the alphabet, and given roughly five minutes and $5000 to tell a story that somehow related to death.

The styles vary from film to film. Some are scary, some are kinda funny, but all are gory as all hell, and the film comes with a hilarious disclaimer early-on warning that those “with a sensitive nature” are advised to skip the film, as it’s over two hours of unimaginable carnage and bad taste. Certainly this is one film wholly deserving of an NC-17, as nothing is left un-exploited.

Given that we have twenty-six films, some are bound to be good, a few maybe even excellent, while a lot are bound to be crap. For me, I’d say at least half the films range from bad (most of the Japanese shorts from Sushi Typhoon, who specialized in zany splatter, which I hate), to so-so (almost everything else). But, what makes THE ABCs OF DEATH well worth catching are the odd films that really work. The first film, A FOR APOCALYPSE, as directed by Nacho Vigalando starts things off in great form, with a woman violently trying and failing to kill her husband. The next really noteworthy episode is probably the best of the whole film,  Marcel Sarmiento's D FOR DOG FIGHT- which features only music, no dialogue of sound FX, and features a bum engaged in a fight to the death with a deceptively cute yellow lab. This short is stunning, and got a hearty round of applause from the audience, especially when it’s suggested that the bum may in fact be a dog himself, humanizing this vicious, disgusting spectacle in a way that’s quite striking.

Ben Wheatley (KILL LIST) also contributes a memorable entry later in the film, taking us through a particularly gruesome monster hunt through the POV of the monster itself (regulars Michael Smiley and Neil Maskell show up briefly). Even better is Adam Wingard’s mockumentary for Q IS FOR QUACK, which I won’t spoil here. In a neat twist, one of the most memorable installments, T FOR TOILETby Lee Hardcastle, is actually the result of a YouTube competition, but Hardcastle’s stop-motion film is really one of the very best of the bunch. Finally, Jason Eisener’s Y FOR YOUNG BUCK ventures well into the realm of bad taste and ick, but it’s shot so well, with a hilariously a propos synth score reminiscent of eighties fare like SAVAGE STREETS, that it ended up one of my favorites.

So, while I can’t say that THE ABCs OF DEATH is a slam-dunk, there are enough really good shorts here to make it well worth seeing- even though you’ll have to sit through some crap. It’s a great Midnight flick for a theater with a party atmosphere (this would have killed at Fantasia) - and the DVD, which will allow us to cut through the bad ones will be a must-own.

 

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