The horror anthology film is a wonderful thing. As discussed extensively in our Black Sabbath review, horror is one of the only genre’s where a collection of short stories all around the same subject really works and with VHS and the soon to be released VHS2 reigniting interest in the concept it seems The ABC’s of Death arrives at a perfect time to take it to a whole new level.
The idea is simple, inspired by children’s educational books all 26 letters of the alphabet where assigned to 26 different directors who were all asked to make a short film involving death.
The resulting mini-movies take the viewer on a joy ride from A to Z covering murder, mayhem, mutilation and much, much more than just things beginning with M. With directors of varying degrees of fame the list spans the globe from Japan to Serbia to Thailand to the UK and further afield with all the film makers offering up their own twist on the concept.
Although all the films offer something different and interesting some stand out letters include Marcel Sarmiento’s D is for Dogfight a beautifully filmed battle between man and beast, Indonesian directors Timo Tjahjanto deeply shocking sexual torture film L is for Libido which will stay with the viewer a long time after its finished, U is for Unearthed by Kill List’s Ben Wheatley a perfect POV piece that puts you in the reanimated head of a vampire and Jon Schnepp W is for WTF! which will leave you laughing even if you’re still thinking WTF.
Although it is to be assumed the directors involved had no knowledge or guidance on what they made it is odd when films following each other share the same ideas which is the case in P is for Pressure by Simon Rumley and Q is for Quack by Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett both of which revolve around animals.
Rumley’s film is a wordless and disturbingly realistic and moving work while Wingard parodies the whole concept of The ABC’s of Death in a postmodern comedy which is light relief after many of the other films the pair of shorts working perfectly together one after the other.
Much more than many other horrors in recent years The ABC’s of Death pushes boundaries in its content and subject matters something easier to do in a short film than a feature and some of the pieces are extremely graphically explicit, truly shocking and deeply disturbing yet still challenging and thought provoking at the same time.
It has to be said that not all the films work, Ti West’s being one of the most disappointing of all, and there is a large amount of puerile and misogynistic humor that grates after a while with some of the films coming across as sexist childhood wet dreams with a bit of blood which is a waste when the directors had such a blank canvas to work on.
This aside what is so great about The ABC’s of Death is that if you don’t like a film another will be along in a few minutes and with movies ranging from 80’s-tastic revenge from Hobo with a Shotgun’s Jason Eisener to Sci-Fi horror epics to animated madness to Nazi fighting human bulldogs to one woman’s disgusting quest to lose weight brought to you by Xavier Gens there is something for everyone on offer. The hope is the films will open your eyes and lead you to find a new director who you like or experience a new countries horror and investigate further.
The ABC’s of Death offers a feast of fear from across the planet for horror fans to devour and with such a brilliant concept if repeated, which it will be in The ABC’s of Death 2, has infinite possibilities to produce tons of terror filled, innovative and interesting short films from talented horror auteur’s for us all to enjoy.