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The ABCs of Death (2012)

Magnolia Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 5/21/2013

All Ratings out of
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/29/2013

Books and movies are both mediums which tell stories, they simple do it in different ways. One thing that they have in common is that they come in different lengths. Short stories collected in book form have been around for ages and it's not unusual to see a volume with 20 or more stories. There's not much of an equivalent to this in the movie world. Sure, we've had anthology movies, but they contain five stories at the most. A new project entitled The ABCs of Death aims to change that by offering 26 short tells of terror, each corresponding to a letter in the alphabet. The producers asked 25 directors from around the world to participate and then held a contest calling for entries to be the letter "T". Can such an odd undertaking be pulled-off?

The text at the outset of The ABCs of Death reads as such:

"The following feature film was created by 26 directors from around the world. Each director was given a letter of the alphabet and asked to choose a word. They then created a short tale of death related to their chosen word. They had complete artistic freedom regarding the content of their segments."

I will now offer a few thoughts on each entry:

"A is for Apocalypse" -- Directed by Nacho Vigalondo -- As chaos reigns outside, a woman attempts to kill a man.

"B is for Bigfoot" -- Directed by -- Adrian Garcia Bogliano -- A couple uses a scary story to get a girl to stay in bed.

"C is for Cycle" -- Directed by Ernesto Diaz Espinoza -- A man hunts himself in a short which plays like Timecrimes.

"D is for Dogfight" -- Directed by Marcel Sarmiento -- Cross Fight Club with the ASPCA's worst nightmare and this is what you would get.

"E is for Exterminate" -- Directed by Angela Bettis -- A man and a spider wage war in an apartment -- urban legends ensue.

"F is for Fart" -- Directed by Noboru Iguchi -- If you've ever wished that your Japanese schoolgirl fetish included more flatulence, then this is for you.

"G is for Gravity" -- Directed by Andrew Traucki -- POV footage of a man drowning himself...I think.

"H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion" -- Directed by Thomas Cappelen Malling -- Apparently aimed at Furries, as woman dressed as a cat dances for a man dressed as a dog in a piece which recalls Tex Avery cartoons.

"I is for Ingrown" -- Directed by Jorge Michel Grau -- A bound and gagged woman is given an injection by a man in a piece who wants to be poetic, but simply seems pointless.

"J is for Jidai-Geki" -- Directed by Yudai Yamaguchi -- A ritual execution gets hallucinatory.

"K is for Klutz" -- Directed by Anders Morgenthaler -- Eddie Murphy once did a joke about the chunk which wouldn't go down when flushed. Someone decided to make a movie about this.

"L is for Libido" -- Directed by Timo Tjahjanto -- In a private club, men are forced to participate in a very bizarre contest. This is pretty rough stuff.

"M is for Miscarriage" -- Directed by Ti West -- Huh? Really short and way too literal. Of all of the directors here, I actually expected something from West.

"N is for Nuptials" -- Directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun -- This is more of a funny skit than something which belongs in a horror movie.

"O is for Orgasm" -- Directed by -- Bruno Forzani and Helene Cattet -- This looks like an erotically-charged version of one of those non-sensical perfume commercials we see on TV.

"P is for Pressure" -- Directed by Simon Rumley -- We go from bizarre horrors to a depressing piece about a mother who is determined to get the money to buy her daughter a birthday present.

"Q is for Quack" -- Directed by Adam Wingard -- Director Adam Wingard and Producer Simon Barrett lament the fact that they got the letter "Q" to work with and try to find something to do with it.

"R is for Removed" -- Directed by Srdjan Spasojevic -- This piece owes a lot to David Cronenberg and seems to be saying that artists literally are their art.

"S is for Speed" -- Directed by Jake West -- A melding of Russ Meyer and Quentin Tarantino leads to a twist ending.

"T is for Toilet" -- Directed by Lee Hardcastle -- In this claymation offering, a young boy's worst fears about the bathroom come true. The ending is predictable, but the part about having to "go" in the night rings true.

"U is for Unearthed" -- Directed by Ben Wheatley -- This plays as the finale to a horror movie shown from the monster's POV. At least it's an interesting idea.

"V is for Vagitus" -- Directed by Kaare Andrews -- Remember that scene in RoboCop where the movie got crossed with Scanners and a cheesy horror movie? Me neither.

"W is for WTF!" -- Directed by Jon Schnepp -- This comes from one of the minds behind Metalocalypse. If you are familiar with that show, then none of this will surprise you.

"X is for XXL" -- Directed by Xavier Gens -- A heavy-set woman attempts do-it-yourself weight-loss surgery. This is clearly making a statement about media and self-image, but it's too over-the-top of its own good.

"Y is for Young Buck" -- Directed by Jason Eisener -- There's a school janitor and a boy and a deer and I don't know what was happening.

"Z is for Zetsumetsu" -- Directed by Yoshihiro Nishimura -- From the director of the likes of Helldriver, comes something which will make you say, “What is this movie rated?” as it goes out on a needlessly artsy note.

The law of averages says that out of 26 choices, one would be good. So much for math. This is the kind of movie where one would watch it and have at least one segment -- at least one -- that they would want to show to their friends, but no such luck here. Perhaps the filmmakers involved should have been given some sort of parameters, but this thing is all over the map and it goes everywhere...except for some place good. The pieces vary in length, running from short and pointless to longer and pointless. It appears that many of the directors here were simply going for shock ("A is for Apocalypse", "I is for Ingrown") than for using their brief segment to actually tell a story or create any sense of mood. Many of the names here were unfamiliar to me, but I can say that while I'm not necessarily a fan of his work, Ti West has shown promise with The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers, but his entry here is simply laziness personified. "T is for Toilet" clearly won the competition because it's animated. (A colleague of mine had an entry which was much better than this.) If I had to pick the best (or least bad) piece, I guess it would be "V is for Vagitus", because it looked like a lot of work went into it and it was interesting. "R is for Removed", from the director of A Serbian Film, has an interesting point, but it's too artsy for its own good. "L is for Libido" is the segment which will remain with you, but it's only for the truly brave and jaded. Otherwise, we are left with one piece after another which will leave you baffled by how "nothing" they are.

The ABCs of Death should send a letter of apology to the alphabet on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Magnolia Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 23 Mbps. It looks as if most of the entries were shot HD and for the most part, the image is sharp and clear, showing no intrusive grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good, especially in "H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion", and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is notable and the depth looks good. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.8 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The mixes here vary, but a few of the pieces offer nice surround and stereo effects. As many of the pieces are not in English, the subtitles are clear and easy to read.

The ABCs of Death Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. The movie is accompanied by an AUDIO COMMENTARY which features tracks for most every short and features over 30 speakers. We get "Making of" or "Behind the Scenes" featurettes for "Big is for Bigfoot" (3 minutes), "D is for Dogfight" (7 minutes), "F is for Fart" (10 minutes), "H is for Hydro-Electric" (has 3) (7 minutes, 5 minutes, 7 minutes), "I is for Ingrown" (7 minutes), "J is for Jidal-Geki" (7 minutes), "R is for Removed" (Photo Gallery), "T is for Toilet" (3 minutes), "V is for Vagitus" (14 minutes), "W is for WTF!" (8 minutes), and "Z is for Zetsumetsu" (11 minutes). "C is for Cycle", "V is for Vagitus", and "W is for WTF!" offer deleted scenes or outtakes. "A is for Apocalypse" has a look at the special effects. "P is for Pressure" gives us interviews with the director and the director of photography. "V is for Vagitus" provides animatics. "AXS TV: A Look at The ABCs of Death" is a 4-minute segment which offers clips and comments from some of the directors. The extras are rounded out by three TRAILERS for the film.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.