ABCs of Death, The (UK DVD)
Directed by Various
Distributed by Monster Pictures
The ABCs of Death is an interesting proposition: Twenty-six short films, each titled with a distinguishing word based on a letter of the alphabet, and each one provided by distinct talent, including some of the most promising up-and-coming genre filmmakers on the scene today. As is to be expected with such a wildly eclectic undertaking, the quality of the shorts on offer does vary wildly -- but unfortunately falls more often on the disappointing side of the scale than it does on the successful.
Things set off in good stead with Nacho Vigalondo's brutal yet humourous A is for Apocalypse, which sees a woman try desperately in vain to murder her bed-bound husband for reasons yet to be explained. Some excellent effects work and a gleeful sense of splatstick help Vigalondo launch The ABCs of Death with a good dose of fervour, but things quickly slow down with Adrían Garcia Bogliano's middling B is for Bigfoot. Ernesto Díaz Espinoza's C is for Cycle proves further disappointing with its poor realisation of what, at the core, is a pretty good idea left lacking impact through time constraints. Thankfully, Marcel Sarmiento blows the lid off the entire collection with the utterly stupendous D is for Dogfight - an overwhelmingly confident lesson in visual storytelling with a cheer-inducing twist that raises the bar here to heights that are hard to match -- and sadly, with twenty-two shorts to go, rarely are.
Standout entries are rare as the collection plateaus early, occasionally delivering some mind-boggling choices for what appears to be marketed as a horror anthology -- for example Noboru Iguchi's F is for Fart, Bruno Forzani and Héléne Cattet's visually delectable but totally out of context in this package O is for Orgasm and Yoshihiro Nishimura's ridiculous Z is for Zetsumetsu (Extinction). A pass shall be given for Yudai Yamaguchi's J is for Jidai-Geki, however, by virtue of it being genuinely hilarious and inventive.
So, what's particularly good in here? Well, the positive news is that when The ABCs of Death offers up a winner, it's likely to be a genuine triumph -- and each one for a different reason than the last. Norwegian Ninja director Thomas Malling displays a thoroughly impressive knack for the creative with H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion, while Lee Hardcastle's claymation short T is for Toilet is an absolute joy to behold. Kaare Andrews impresses hugely with the action-packed futuristic brutality of V is for Vagitus (The Cry of a Newborn Baby), while Xavier Gens joins in towards the end to deliver one of the (very) few truly disturbing, upsetting and shockingly tragic pieces of work in the form of X is for XXL.
Other well-known genre filmmakers such as Ben Wheatley, Adam Wingard and Simon Rumley take various interesting approaches to their entries -- from full POV action through depressing realism and into meta riffage, and while they may not be one hundred percent satisfying, the wild variety with which the shorts on offer are presented ensures that on the whole, The ABCs of Death is certainly worth the time spent with it. What's most confusing about the film, though, is that when supplied with the level of dedication and imagination offered up by the best in this anthology, creators Ant Timpson and Tim League still saw fit to include Ti West's lazy, tiresome and borderline incompetent waste of time M is for Miscarriage.
The most admirable thing about the film is the very concept itself. It's a bold and brave undertaking, and certainly no mean feat to put together; however, the goodwill of admiration can only take it so far. There's a balancing act on display here, but thankfully The ABCs of Death manages to stay on its feet by the time the final credits appear... yet, with an awful closer, it's a close call. Who's up for The Periodic Table of Elements of Death next, then? Anyone?
Monster Pictures' UK DVD release of The ABCs of Death comes onto the scene in an excellently-presented package in terms of both visuals and audio. A second disc packed with special features for a number of the shorts (which you can see listed below) varies as much in the quality of its offerings as the feature does, but delivers enough of interest to act as a welcome diversion. Of particular note is the behind-the-scenes effort of Kaare Andrews and Co. on V is for Vagitus, the heights of which continue to bolster hatred for the complete crap offered up by Ti West.
On the main disc, every short is backed up by a director's commentary, all of which are interesting or entertaining in their own way and make a second spin of The ABCs of Death a must with their inclusion. Of special note in this regard is Jon Schnepp's commentary for the mind-bendingly insane W is for WTF!, which strives to become yet another surreal layer to the insanity on show.
• Filmmaker Commentary
• A is for Apocalypse - Oil Burns Visual Effects
• B is for Bigfoot - Making of
• C is for Cycle - Deleted Scenes
• D is for Dogfight - Making of
• F is for Fart - Behind the Scenes
• H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion - Behind the Scenes, The Making of Bertie the Bulldog & Frau Scheisse and Finished Short vs. Behind the Scenes
• I is for Ingrown - Making of
• J is for Jidai-Geki - Behind the Scenes
• P is for Pressure - Interviews with Writer/Director Simon Rumley and Producer/Director of Photography Milton Cam
• R is for Removed - Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery
• T is for Toilet - Behind the Scenes
• V is for Vagitus - Deleted Scene, Behind the Scenes and Animatics
• W is for WTF! - Behind the Scenes, Bonus Flubs! and Star-Beast Outtakes
• Z is for Zetsumetsu (Extinction) - Behind the Scenes
• AXS TV: A Look at The ABCs of Death
• Do You Know Your ABCs Trailer
• Red band Trailer
• Green band Trailer
3 out of 5
4 1/2 out of 5