The ABCs of Death features 26 different directors from 15 different countries each directing their own 5 minute short films to be compiled to make one movie. Each of them were given a letter and $5000 and had to make their film with only one prerequisite: it had to involve some sort of death. An ambitious concept to say the least. The shorts ranged from complete garbage to downright amazing. I looked up some reviews after catching the movie, and none of them had reviewed all 26 shorts. Most likely because the reviewers have lives and some of these shorts don’t even deserve a proper write up (I’m looking at you Ti West). I, however, have nothing better to do than review 26 5-minute movies for your reading pleasure so enjoy!
**Needless to say, it’s impossible to review 5 minute films without spoilers. I will try my hardest not to spoil anything too big.
A is for Apocalypse
Nacho Vigalondo gets things started off on the right foot with this segment. A wife tries various methods of killing her husband for mysterious reasons. Not one of the best segments, but more than enjoyable.
B is for Bigfoot
A young couple convinces the kid they’re babysitting to go to bed by telling her she’ll be brutally killed by the abominable snowman if she’s awake past 8. Crafted like a dark fairy tale, this one has me even more excited to see Bogliano’s upcoming ‘Here Comes the Devil’.
C is for Cycle
Very reminiscent of Timecrimes, C is for Cycle is one of the few shorts that could be extended into a feature-length film. It’s enough to keep you on your toes for its 5 minute runtime and is a well thought-out segment.
D is for Dogfight
Marcel Sarmiento, director of one of my favorite unknowns Deadgirl, steals the show in the first half of the alphabet with his segment. It is stylistically shot and visually amazing to watch. There’s also one of the most interesting stories told here in the entire movie and the finale will have you cheering.
E is for Exterminate
If you’re scared of spiders, the letter E will have you squirming in your seat. The CGI on the spider is surprisingly well done considering the tiny budget given to go on. E is for Exterminate plays on such a common fear and tells an urban legend that will make you think twice about
F is for Fart
If you know Noboru Iguchi’s work, you have an idea of how his segment turns out. Director of films such as ‘Bad Butt’ and ‘Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead’ his elementary potty humor has never won me over so I really wasn’t looking forward to his contribution. A Japanese high-school girl yearns to fart freely without care and smell her teacher’s farts. Seriously. I have to say, though, that this is the best work I’ve seen from him yet. That doesn’t mean I particularly liked it, but I found myself laughing a couple times at the complete stupidity of it. It also supplied the best quote of the film: “Or maybe that black gas is a fart from the ass of God?”
G is for Gravity
There’s not much to say about the letter G. It’s a confusing and subtle short that I had to watch twice to fully grasp. Even once I understood what was going on, there’s nothing special about it. I can’t really say it’s bad, but it’s completely forgettable.
H is for Hyrdo-Electric Diffusion
A hybrid man-dog enjoys a burlesque show given by a hybrid cat-woman sometime during WWII. It’s filmed like an old-style live-action cartoon with the eyes popping out of their heads and over the top acting. It plays out in a predictable manner and was one of my least favorites.
I is for Ingrown
I was left utterly confused by Jorge Michel Grau’s I is for Ingrown. A couple (at least I think they were a couple?) is in a bathroom with the woman tied up in the tub while a narrator voices over a poem-type story. There was little to no explanation as to what was going on here, and the narration felt disjointed like it didn’t belong. Another forgettable segment.
J is for Jidai-geki
Back to the weird. A samurai is supposed to execute another samurai, but things don’t turn out as planned. I feel like there was something here to be enjoyed, but it just went right over my head. Chalk another one up on the bad side.
K is for Klutz
K is for Klutz is an animated story of a poop that just won’t be flushed. The animation was pretty good, but the sound effects got annoying by the end, and the story was pretty damn boring. Yet another missed opportunity.
L is for Libido
Finally! After half an hour of no noteworthy segments, Timo Tjahjanto comes out of nowhere and immediately puts his stamp on the film with his sick and twisted segment. I don’t want to give the story away because it’s too good, but ‘A Serbian Film’ came to mind at multiple points throughout, so you know what you’re getting into with this one. Tjahjanto takes one of man’s greatest pleasures and turns it into pure torture.
M is for Miscarriage
Just when the ball gets rolling again, Ti West puts an effective stop to everything. Honestly, I’ve never been a huge fan of West’s previous work, but he has enough of a reputation to pull off something better than this. M is for Miscarriage is by far the worst of the entire movie. Low-res cinematography mixed with lazy story telling combine to produce an uninspired short that hardly reaches 2 minutes. It’s a shame this letter couldn’t be offered to a more willing director to showcase their skills.
N is for Nuptials
Luckily for viewers, Banjong Pisanthanakun quickly makes you forget about the letter M with his simple and funny N is for Nuptials. It’s nearly impossible to build characters in a 5-minute runtime, but he managed to do that with ease here, pulling off characters I instantly liked and could relate with. Pisanthanakun is also one of the few directors that has consistently shown he can create humor able to cross language and culture barriers.
O is for Orgasm
I’ve never been a big fan of Giallo-inspired films, so I am clearly not the intended audience for this short. The visuals are stunning to watch, but there’s not really any substance here to sink your teeth into. Some people might enjoy this one, but it definitely wasn’t my favorite.
P is for Pressure
Simon Rumley is quickly becoming the king of depressing films in my opinion. Both ‘Red, White, and Blue’ and ‘The Living and the Dead’ are horribly depressing tales spun by a director that knows what he’s doing. His segment P is for Pressure follows a young mother who’s forced into prostitution in order to support her 3 children. When she’s robbed, she’s forced to go even further in what results in a not-surprisingly depressing ending.
Q is for Quack
Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett decide to go meta with their short Q is for Quack in order to create the most genuinely funny short in the movie. It shows them behind the scenes bitching about getting stuck with the letter Q and trying to come up with something inventive, and they accomplished just that.
R is for Removed
Srdjan Spasojevic (A Serbian Film) has shown he knows how to make insanely dark thrillers. R is for Removed features a man whose skin contains the last known 35mm film. Because of this, he’s been captured and is being sliced up for the removal of the film to be used. It’s incredibly dark and disgusting and one of the most memorable shorts after everything’s said and done.
S is for Speed
Jake West’s S is for Speed was one of the most surprising shorts in the film. It starts out as a standard “run from the reaper” sort of flick, but turns into something much more.
T is for Toilet
If you want to get a taste of the weirdness in store for you with The ABCs of Death, you can check out Hardcastle’s segment on YouTube. It’s a clay-animated short about a child’s fear of the toilet. Darkly hilarious, it’s one of the best shorts in the movie.
U is for Unearthed
Ben Wheatley tells the simple POV story of a vampire creature being dug up from its grave by a bunch of town folk. It ends up being a slightly comedic chase through the woods until they can finally capture it and deal with it properly. Overall, it’s a fun take on the vampire genre.
V is for Vagitus
Another surprising one in my opinion. I had never heard of Kaare Andrews before this, but the man can direct one hell of a short segment. Presented in a Dystopian near future, V is for Vagitus is a time when fertility is a privilege and is being enforced by giant robots and police force. It looks like much more than a $5000 effort, and if there was one segment I had to choose to turn into a feature-length film, it’d be this one.
W is for WTF
WTF indeed. Jon Schnepp decided to take the meta route with his short and it doesn’t turn out as successful as Q did. It turns into 1000 things thrown at you in such a short period of time, and ends up a jumbled mess that’s difficult to follow.
X is for XXL
Xavier Gens absolutely steals the show with his segment. It follows the tragedy of a bullied, overweight woman who looks to her own alternative measures to turn herself into the so-called “standard” everyone wants her to be. It’s depressing, twisted, and one of the bloodiest shorts in the film. Easily my favorite one.
Y is for Young Buck
Jason Eisener is another director that you know exactly what you’re gonna get. Y is for Young Buck follows the creepiest school janitor whom for some reason is teaching a boy how to hunt. Inevitably he can’t keep it in his pants and the young boy exacts his revenge. It’s filled with Eisener’s dark humor and any fan of his work should love this segment.
Z is for Zetsumetsu
Yoshihiro Nishimura out-WTF’s Schnepp’s WTF segment. I could watch Z is for Zetsumetsu 20 times and still not know a single thing that’s going on. There’s something about the Japanese wanting to get back at the USA for the nuclear bombs dropped on them. Maybe. This is all while naked women fight each other. Yes, one of them has a huge penis-knife while the other shoots vegetables out of her vagina. It’s impossible to write that sentence without laughing. I have to give this segment credit due to the fact I’ve never uttered the words “WTF is going on right now” so many times in 5 minutes. I also could not stop laughing which I think says more about my sense of humor than the quality of the segment.
Overall, there was 18 I liked and 8 I didn’t like; a good ratio for any anthology film. If the segments had been in a different order, it could have been even more enjoyable. There is a huge lull from G-K right in the middle of the film, but it starts and ends strong. If you have a penchant for the bizarre, you can’t pass this one up. Even if you think the horror genre has been generally “more of the same” as of late, check this out and you’ll be proven wrong. The ABCs of Death is now available on demand through iTunes, Amazon, XBOX Live, and other VOD platforms.