Cinema Review: The ABCs Of Death Ian White February 20, 2013 Movie Reviews 2 Comments 2628 â€˜The ABCs of Deathâ€™ has an intriguing premise: twenty-six directors from fifteen different countries were each assigned a letter of the alphabet and given free rein to make a short horror film based on whatever word they chose that began with their letter. The only proviso â€“ their film had to be about death. Itâ€™s an interesting brief, but a potential minefield for producers Ant Timpson and Tim League, who had to stitch some wildly disparate films together to make a cohesive and entertaining 129 minutes. Anthology films can be hit and miss at the best of times â€“ Iâ€™m not a big fan of the genre and canâ€™t remember the last time I saw a good one (last yearâ€™s V/H/S had its moments, but too few of them) â€“ and a weak chapter can easily undo the good work of the whole. Itâ€™s a challenge thatâ€™s not for the fainthearted (producers, directors or audience) and, as the opening titles rolled, I wasnâ€™t sure my faint heart was up for it. Luckily for me, â€˜The ABCs Of Deathâ€™ is a fantastic nightmare carnival of the weird and wonderful and, very often, the downright gross-out. Nearly all of the stories are worth watching, a handful of them are quite exceptional, and even the weakest entries are too short to outstay their welcome. Iâ€™m not going to mention them all. Iâ€™m not even going to tell you the words the directors chose. One of the really nice touches about this compilation is that the title of each short film â€“ the word that kickstarts the story â€“ isnâ€™t revealed until the filmâ€™s finished, which means we canâ€™t predict what weâ€™re about to see. But some of the interpretations are wonderful, especially Nacho Vigalondoâ€™s opening story which sets the bar very high, combining humour and gore with an unexpectedly emotional twist at the end. And then thereâ€™s Noboru Iguchiâ€™s take on the letter F, which was as hugely imaginative as youâ€™d expect from the director of â€˜Dead Sushiâ€™ and got the biggest (intended) laughs of the night. Thomas Cappelen Malling took a Looney Tunes-ish stance, pitting his World War II-era British Bulldog against a burlesque-dancing Nazi vixen, and Anders Morgenthalerâ€™s animation for the letter K put a fatal new slant on a familiar bathroom dilemma. Simon Rumley represented for the UK by casually setting up the letter P and then slamming a vicious kitten-unfriendly ending on top, which gave Adam Wingardâ€™s assault on the letter Q a hard act to follow. But Wingardâ€™s extremely black comedy, with a very different animal at its centre, took the challenge in its stride. Srdjan Spasojevic, whose â€˜A Serbian Filmâ€™ immediately earned him a controversial horror-porn reputation, delivered a predictably messy take on the letter R, and Jake Westâ€™s Grindhouse style gave the letter S a poignantly nasty punchline, followed by some witty claymation from the UKâ€™s Lee Hardcastle. Kaare Andrewsâ€™ interesting sci-fi take on the letter V, which had a backstory with some great ideas that deserved a bigger canvas and was sadly overtaken by the crash-bang-wallop of some impressive special effects gunplay, and Xavier Gens icky commentary on body image and cutting tools, were also stand-out contenders. And Yoshihiro Nishimuraâ€™s mindbending XXX-rated attack on the letter Z is still a film Iâ€™m not sure if I liked or not, but it was an experience to watch. And if fanatical nationalism and very sharp knives concealed inside giant dildos are your kind of thing, his contribution is worth the price of admission alone. So, as you can see, thatâ€™s not a bad success rate. Of the remainder, only Andrew Trauckiâ€™s letter G was the one that gave me a â€œwhat time is it?â€ feeling, whereas Angela Bettisâ€™s E and Ben Wheatleyâ€™s U were both enjoyable but unremarkable. Although itâ€™s good to know that Angela Bettis is spending time behind the camera as well as in front of it. Iâ€™ve been a fan since she starred in Lucky McKeeâ€™s â€˜Mayâ€™ (2002). Personally speaking, Ti Westâ€™s mid-alphabet entry was the film that disappointed most. I enjoyed his feature â€˜House of The Devilâ€™ and went briefly crazy over last yearâ€™s â€˜The Innkeepersâ€™ and used to really believe he might be the next major force in horror. But then his lacklustre contribution to â€˜V/H/Sâ€™ made me wonder, and what heâ€™s done for â€˜The ABCs Of Deathâ€™ is lazier still. Although, thankfully, itâ€™s one of the briefest films in the set. On the â€˜big-plusâ€™ side, there wasnâ€™t a found footage story in sight which gives me some hope for the future. I know Iâ€™ve missed a few letters out but I can remember each of the twenty-six films and not shudder at the memory of any of them â€“ at least not in a bad way â€“ so I guess that tells you all you need to know. I enjoyed â€˜The ABCs of Deathâ€™ immensely, I was entertained by most of it, intrigued by some of it, laughed out loud and / or squirmed at regular intervals, and at no point wished I was watching something else. For the fans of most of these directors, who have been waiting expectantly for this for quite a while, I don’t think you’re going to feel let down. There’s a lot of shiny stuff in this panning of the horror river with occasional sparkles of gold and very little sludge. Although going to the bathroom may never be the same again, and passing wind suddenly makes me feel like Buddha. Highly recommended. 2 Responses Ant Timpson February 21, 2013 Please add this to Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB.. we could do with some love. Col Kenobi February 21, 2013 Hi Ant, we’ve just submitted the review to imdb. Â Still working on getting ourselves on Rotten Tomatoes, but we’ll keep you posted.