Thursday, October 2, 2014

Horrors of October - The ABCs of Death (#2)

The ABCs of Death (2012)

I really wanted to check out this film when it was released last year, especially after hearing its killer premise: 26 horror shorts, all done by a wide range of accomplished directors, with the strict guideline of each director revolving their movie around a word from the alphabetical letter they chose. Once I was done viewing it, I was going to be a hoity-toity big shot and review each "letter" short by using alliterative words. I know, it sounds annoying to read but it allows me to thumb through my beat-up thesaurus some more. Alas, I never got around to seeing it and the movie escaped my judgment. Fortunately, since I was going to do the Horrors of October again, and the film's sequel is supposedly being released online today, I was able to dig up this gem of an idea and finally write it out.

Unfortunately, my idea is a lot more expressive and well thought out than the majority of the output featured in the actual film because THE ABCs OF DEATH is as uneven in quality as a Globetrotters-Generals scoreboard. Of course, supervising and/or creating an anthology movie is always a tough project to pull off successfully, especially when trying to avoid the normal impulse of viewers stating that they only liked one or a couple of the stories and not the whole package. However, bequeathing a large supply of shorts in only two hours and giving total artistic freedom to all of the filmmakers takes the risk factor all the way into the stratosphere. I do applaud producers Tim League and Ant Timpson for experimenting and bringing in makers from all around the world but that doesn't excuse the film's many failures. The most obvious problem to harp on first is the sheer fact that a great majority of the shorts can hardly be labeled as a horror piece, often sticking out like a sore thumb and better suited to be included into an anthology film devoted drama, comedy, action or sci-fi. Further to their detriment, these shorts often shoe-in a last-minute death in order to do justice to the main title. But the gravest issue with the film is that few amazing works present come after the halfway point, perfect for home viewing but unbearable if you saw this in theaters. Now, let me spell out every short for you.

"A" abases the notion of kicking off the show with an absorbing or acceptable attraction, instead telling an awkward tale of abuse and Armageddon. "B" barely makes it to the "best of" section, boasting a basic and brief take on a bedtime story. "C" crawls slowly with a cryptically curt story of a man unable to escape his circle of fate. "D" is a dark delight yet the severe deceleration of the frames and the dispute of it being horror definitely demote it. "E" is an extreme error, where a Harry Knowles-loving loner tries to eliminate a spider, all executed on poor digital video. "F" is a faulty fart about farting and you are better off fast-forwarding through it. "G", good god, is a gloomy first-person view of of a surfing grump, a garish germ that should have been grabbed out of the editing timeline and dropped into the garbage.

"H" is a harrowing horror-show about WWII furries (yes, you read that right) and I will be honest in saying that the short's word is a humorous choice. "I" is an irritatingly ignorable item about a poem-reading woman tied to a tub; it was idiotic to include this in here, since there is no terror unless you read into its maker's pretentious ideals. "J" is a jaunty Japanese bit but is more jovial than jostling. "K" is a kooky animated tale about a sentient turd (ugh) but it should have been kicked off the program, especially when you notice that the final kill is slap-dashed in. "L" is absolutely loathsome, a lecherous look into the sick mind of its director, Timo Tjahjanto. "M" is a major malfunction; I was mortified that Ti West modeled this movie, as it is the true worst film of the entire set. "N" thankfully nullifies the previous two displays of bad taste with a nice and naughty skit around a talking bird. "O" certainly offsets the entire film with an opulently sexual act of oppression; one of the few major artistic highlights. "P" is a pointless piece of pseudo-prestige, focusing on the real turmoils of a poor family and what a mother has to partake in in order to purchase a bike.

"Q" quickly draws big laughs with its fourth wall breaking story of director Adam Wingard's quest to come up with a "Q" film. "R" is deliciously revolting, where a hospital ravages a man's skin to make 35mm film (wink wink). "S" is satisfactory, even though it's Tarantino-lite, but its salacious script has its female figures saying "bitch" non-stop. "T" is the top, a claymated tale about the terror a child has for using the toilet. "U", created by Ben Wheatley, uniquely utilizes the first-person view for a battle between a vampire and a group of hunters. "V" is vicious with its gore but it's a glorified vehicle for a sci-fi story, no horror whatsoever.

"W" is warmly nerdy but I must penalize it for using an expression, not a word. "X"...uh...has Xavier Gens xeroxing the unsettling tactics of the New French Extremity in order to be Cronenberg-esque. "Y" yields a great tune by Power Glove yet it will leave some people yowling due to its exploitation of youngsters. And finally, "Z" is zany, and thankfully doesn't do a story about a zombie, but its zonks against Japan and America are bewilderingly flat when you have a penis-wielding Feminazi (yes, you read that right as well).

Now you know how I felt about THE ABCs OF DEATH: severely disappointed. Maybe next time with the sequel, the premise will work and the final product will live up to my expectations. Or, maybe it will be another collection where the misses greatly outweigh the hits.


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