The ABCs of Death (2012, 2 hrs, 3 mins)
I watched a documentary last year, “A Night At The Movies: The Horrors of Stephen King” on TCM, where legendary horror author Stephen King gave his amazing insight on how horror influenced him. In one segment, he talked about how most gratuitous violence has its place in horror movies, but more often than not, violence is thrown in just for the sake of it, like gore porn. I have to agree. As a horror fan, my code is to appreciate a kill for the scare factor, be it from a creature, killer or hero. Once it goes past this, it becomes a repetitive splatterfest and well literally, overkill.
I’d like to think that I can sit through virtually any horror movie. There are a couple, however, that I flat-out refused to finish watching because they were violent for violence sake. Some modern films push the envelope so much that they sometimes confuse outright offense with a good old-fashioned scare. And as an animal lover, I am especially irked when the family pet becomes a casualty because it is trying to warn its loved ones of some impending doom, or they are just killed for sadistic pleasure. Along with that is any kind of exploitation of kids (unless they are demon spawn). So I approached this review of The ABCs of Death with a bit of trepidation as I sifted through a barrage of 26 shorts by 26 international directors, each based on a letter of the alphabet illustrating some gruesome form of death; most crushing my last horror nerve.
SPOILER ALERT! I don’t usually give anything away if I can, but if you want to try your hand at guessing what each segment represents (the title is revealed at the end of each one), read no further as I am about to reveal what some letters stand for!
It was definitely a crazy ride for sure. My senses were assaulted with gory imagery from 26 different perspectives, all with some unique and terrible deaths. Some segments I could have done without, like “L is for Libido”. The mixture of sex and violence was pretty excessive, even for this non-prudish pixie. “I is for Ingrown” had a poignant anti-domestic violence message that I found hard to watch. “P is for Pressure” and “D is for Dogfight” were especially offensive if you love animals. Others, like “F is for Fart” and “Q is for Quack” were respectively, gross bathroom humour and just kind of dumb. There were also a couple of animated contributions. The deceivingly cutesy “K is for Klutz”, about a woman’s battle with a persistent turd, and the claymation “T is for Toilet” illustrating a boy’s fear of his toilet (which actually won as the best of the bunch).
The standouts? Xavier Gens’ (director of The Divide, and Frontière(s))” X is for XXL”, a beautifully gruesome story of an overweight woman’s obsession with being thin. There was no way the viewer could predict the incredible outcome of this short. The “O is for Orgasm” segment directed by Hélène Cattet, was so artfully shot with shadow and starkness that I had an “oh that’s what it was!” moment. I also liked the comedic “N is for Nuptuals” by Banjong Pisanthanakun (who also directed the 2004 film Shutter), and the bizarre “R is for Removed” by Srdjan Spasojevic. The trippy “W is for WTF?” by Jon Schnepp who also directed the cartoon series Metalcalypse was pretty ridiculous. I have to admit the cartoon that started this short put me off a bit, but it descended into hilarious absurdity which reminded me of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! Finally, I was completely horrified by the aforementioned “D is for Dogfight” directed by Marcel Sarmiento. It’s the story of a man and his dog, but not what you might expect. The violence against an animal was almost unbearable, especially with the sweet face of Buddy, the star of the short, but this dog would have his day. What kept me watching was the choreographed slow motioned fight scenes that kept the sense of violence, but left the animal actor unharmed. I shouldn’t be surprised, since Sarmiento also directed the 2008 film Deadgirl which was equally as disturbing. If you’ve seen it and you’re woman, you’ll understand.
This horror anthology will certainly make your jaw drop and physically cringe. Leave your manners and decorum at the door, because The ABCs of Death will slap you silly with sex and violence, and smother you with its nightmarish patch work quilt of death.
Check out the official website: http://drafthousefilms.com/film/the-abcs-of-death for more twisted shorts that didn’t make the movie, but had honourable mentions.