The ABCs Of Death takes a simple anthology idea, mixes in famous horror directors and talented amateurs, and cranks up the kill count…
“How lucky you English are to find the toilet so amusing,” says The Red Baron in Blackadder Goes Forth. “For us, it is a mundane and functional item. For you it is the basis of an entire culture.” If The ABCs Of Death is any guide, it seems the horror community feels the same way. And yet, that’s a surprise, given the premise of this project.
Inspired by children’s educational books, The ABCs Of Death is comprised of 26 individual chapters, each helmed by a different director assigned a letter of the alphabet. The directors were then given $5,000 and free rein in choosing a word to create a story involving death.
Given that there’s only one T to work with, it’s therefore impressive that so many feature the toilet. If the directors were trying to make a point, then mission accomplished – thatfilmthing won’t be going to the loo again anytime soon without checking to see that everything is in order.
This anthology movie helpfully kicks off with an explanation of the premise – as mentioned above, 26 shorts using the alphabet – but it also ends each segment with a similar explanation. Don’t worry, we’re not going to spoil any of the “A is for…; B is for…” captions here, as they are part of the fun. What’s particularly satisfying is that entries usually avoid the norm: C is not for Cannibal, W is not for Werewolf and Z is not for Zombie.
The ABCs Of Death has the feel of Asian J-horror anthology shows, which is one of the film’s strengths and also one of its weaknesses. Since each segment is a separate entity, directors don’t know what went before or what will follow. Because of that there’s no real core running through the film, other than the obvious sense of death. It’s kind of like following the YouTube link to something twisted and then clicking the links to the similar material posted around it.
What follows is a crazy mix of styles that blends together a lot of sex, plenty of cheese, animation and claymation, homage, cartoony violence, action and sci-fi, and buckets and buckets of blood. They’re usually short and sharp, so don’t worry if the one you’re watching right now isn’t tapping the vein, there’ll be another one along shortly.
While some fire wide of the mark, there are some real surprises here. D plays like a twisted music video that’s only missing Keith Flint from the Prodigy bouncing around in the background, while Simon Rumley’s P carries some real emotional weight. F takes the hard-fought prize of most bizarre entry, plus there’s some knife-sharp social commentary thrown in for good measure – we’re looking at you, X.
By the time we reach Z, the end is so batshit crazy as to make most of what went before seem (almost) sane. The duds that do pop up along the way – Kill List’s Ben Wheatley’s U is disappointing, but at least you won’t be shouting “where did the money go?” as you will at Ti West’s M – can’t completely derail a project that is fun and fertile.
Unsettling, uncompromising, uncomfortable and disturbing, The ABCs Of Death will only benefit when it quickly moves onto DVD and you can quickly skip to your favourites.