THE ABCs OF DEATH (2012) Review

Directed by: All of these people

26 directors from around the world. 26 letters of the alphabet. 26 different short films. When I first heard about this it sounded to me like a simultaneously good and bad idea. Good because in general I'm usually a fan of anthologies but bad because having such an array of different directors means that every segment will be different and therefore not to everybody’s liking. For example fans of Ti West aren't necessarily going to be into the more bizarre style of Noboru Iguchi. But by the time the credits rolled I think I can at least say that I had been thoroughly entertained even if I didn't enjoy every segment.

The concept for this anthology is simple. Each director was given a certain letter of the alphabet, a 3 or 4 minute time limit and the theme of death. Aside from those constraints they were given complete freedom in what story they wanted to tell and how they wanted to tell it. This resulted in 26 distinctly different shorts ranging from regular live action clips to 2D animation and even stop motion. There’s nudity, sex, violence, surgery, masturbation, torture, comedy and just about everything else you’d expect from such an eclectic range of directors. But while this variety is one of the film’s strengths it is also its weakness. 

The biggest problem for me was that since this anthology revolves around the use of the alphabet and therefore they are all shown in alphabetical order, there is no real balance. You might get a few blood drenched segments followed by an over the top CGI filled clip and then there might be a few slow segments before it starts to get interesting again. A good example would be the crazy fucked up acid trip of “W Is For WTF” followed directly thereafter by the more serious “X Is For XXL” which rather than being just a short film also has a message behind it. The alphabet idea is a novel one but I almost think this would have worked better if they’d ditched it.

The full anthology runs for around 2 hours and I would say that I enjoyed about half of the shorts on offer. So basically I got a solid hour of entertainment out of this which is not bad at all. I can’t really go into any of the clips too much because their short running times make it difficult not to spoil them but I will however list a few of my favorite segments that I think are well worth checking out.

“D Is For Dogfight” was perhaps my favorite of the lot. It looked really clean and crisp and the whole short is shown in slow motion which worked exceedingly well. 
“S Is For Speed” I thought was quite a clever and well done visual metaphor for drug abuse. 
“X Is For XXL” was a nice gruesome clip with a serious and no so subtle message behind it. 
“O Is For Orgasm” – I'm not so sure that I enjoyed this one that much but it looked really fucking cool.
And there are others of course but the less I say about them the more you'll probably enjoy them.

But for every good short it seemed that there was an equally bad or at least disappointing one. Some didn't seem to fit properly into such a short running time, others just didn't make sense at all and some were just plain shit. And if you’re not familiar with Japanese films and directors like Noboru Iguchi then you are just going to think that the few Japanese shorts here are plain fucking bizarre.

THE ABCs OF DEATH is a hard film to recommend. If you’re a fan of anthologies like I am then definitely go and see it because it is essentially the ultimate anthology. If you’re not so much a fan of anthologies or of short films (uber short films in this case) then obviously you'll want to stay away. But if you don’t really care either way about them and if you have an open mind when it comes to different directors and styles then I say go for it. Even if you only enjoy a quarter of the clips on offer that’s still a good half hour of entertainment, and who knows? Maybe you'll discover some talent out there you've never heard of before.

At its worst THE ABCs OF DEATH is an eclectic collection of hits and misses that isn't going to satisfy everybody. At its best it is a delightfully varied sampler of the wide array of talent we have out there in the horror genre. In fact it’s kind of like those Whitman’s sampler chocolate boxes. There’s plenty of good stuff in there but every now and then you bite into one that doesn't taste too good.

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