UK Preview Screening: The ABC’s Of Death (2012)
WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS
On April 24th I attended the eagerly awaited special preview screening of The ABC’s of Death (2012) at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre (Home of the Abertoir Horror Festival). The ABC’s of Death is an ambitious project that combines 26 short films in the standard run-time of 124 minutes, all directed by various well-known names from the horror circuit. The challenge for each director was being allocated a letter of the alphabet and a word beginning with the chosen letter. Using this they faced the task of creating a short story that represents their word relating to the theme of DEATH. This concept makes ABC’s stand out above other anthology films of recent years due to the short space of time each director had to tell their story. Various styles can be seen within the film and most of them were conveyed in a very tongue-in-cheek manner! As expected some shorts stood out more than others and it must be noted, each director had a budget of $5,000 and faced no limitations when creating a tale around their subject matter. The constant use of red between each segment gave it that classic Horror edge and also added to the transitions of guessing what word the previous film represented which made the experience enjoyable. Without giving too much away I will briefly discuss each film and what I liked and disliked about them.
A is for Apocalypse
Directed by: Nacho Vigalondo
Letter A kicked off the film to a blood-soaked start! An attempted poisoning gone wrong, a woman on the edge as well as the impending apocalypse lurking in the background. Obviously we aren’t aware of these characters history or why the apocalypse is on its way but the performances and gore makes the segment entertaining to watch and gives the audience exactly what they want to see from the horror genre. This is the type of style that personally stands out for me, domestic issues in the foreground with something much bigger than a relationship breakdown as a metaphor.
B is for Bigfoot
Directed by: Adrian Garcia Bogliano
Letter B was also a great entry into the anthology. Bigfoot plays on the notion of urban legends and if you believe something enough it can actually happen. A young couple attempt to have sex but are disrupted by the male’s young cousin. They proceed to tell her a horror story in order to goad her into going to sleep. The segment uses the traditional horror convention relating sex to danger through incorporating an amusing twist!
C is for Cycle
Directed by: Ernesto Diaz Espinoza
Letter C, Cycle was an average effort taking the concept of events spiraling out of control and repeating over and over, challenging notions of perception.
D is for Dogfight
Directed by: Marcel Sarmiento
Letter D cut close to the bone as it depicted a man fighting and being bitten by a dog. With recent tragedies involving dog attacks in Britain, the sequence was harrowing but not as cruel as initially expected.
E is for Exterminate
Directed by Angela Bettis
Letter E was directed by the first name I recognized, Angela Bettis (known for her roles in Lucky McGee’s May and The Woman as well as the 2002 remake of Carrie). Exterminate depicted arachnophobia which for many is a common fear, it was emphasized cleverly in this piece. A man is bitten by a poisonous spider and goes to great lengths to rid himself of the deadly insect, a satisfying twist came at the end.
F is for Fart
Directed by: Noboru Iguchi
As the title suggests, Letter F was an over the top yet humorous approach demonstrating the Japanese’s crazy sense of humor and unusual method of filmmaking. The short includes a school girl’s crush on her favorite female teacher and Yes, farts can kill people!
G is for Gravity
Directed by: Andrew Traucki
Letter G was an experimental short using POV shots of a man surfboarding in the sea then being swept underwater. The location looked stunning however that was all I liked about this bizarre segment.
H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion
Directed by: Thomas Malling
Letter H was probably the more visually larger than life segment as it showed humans in animal costumes and depicted in-your-face Nazi symbolism. The use of the “Keep Calm and Carry On” meme was highly amusing. This will most likely be one of ABC’s more iconic images.
I is for Ingrown
Directed by: Jorge Michel Grau
Letter I was about primal instincts and was a pretty standard horror piece of a woman bound and gagged in a bathtub having been tortured by a man who’s presumed to be her husband. The woman scratching her skin causing it to bleed was uncomfortable viewing.
J is for Jidai-geki (Samurai Movie)
Directed by: Yûdai Yamaguchi
The visuals for Letter J were laugh-out-loud crazy, one of the funniest entries in the entire film about a man committing Seppuku (that translates to stomach cutting!).
K is for Klutz
Directed by: Anders Morgenthaler
Letter K is a 2D animation about a woman struggling to shit in the toilet, not usually a fan of toilet humor but this unusual piece was executed well as the poor woman struggles to leave the bathroom due to being stalked by her own poo, silly but funny!
L is for Libido
Directed by: Timo Tjahjanto
I absolutely detested letter L, it was perverse and went too far on a disturbing level depicting how many stages men would go through when pushing the boundaries of their sexual urges. It hinted at pedophilia which is not clever or entertaining. Repulsive!
M is for Miscarriage
Directed by Ti West
It comes as no surprise that I also didn’t enjoy this segment and not just because it was directed by Ti West who contributed to my worst film of last year V/H/S and the tedious The Innkeepers. Letter M was utterly pointless and sick for the sake of it. A woman can’t flush the toilet, she uses the plunger but sees there’s a pool of blood with a baby fetus down there, it added nothing to the film and was done in a lazy manner. My second worst film of ABC’s!!
N is for Nuptials
Directed by: Banjong Pisanthanakun
Letter N was brilliant. The segment focused on a man romantically proposing to his girlfriend by using his talking parrot, unconventional but sweet, that’s until he realizes his parrot has a bigger mouth than he expected! The performances were enjoyable to watch and this was one of the more inventive segments, definitely a favorite!
O is for Orgasm
Directed by Bruno Forzani & Héléne Cattet
Letter O came across once again as very experimental as it showed several provocative scenes of a woman moaning and being whipped, it had some interesting visuals rather then incorporating a narrative structure.
P is for Pressure
Directed by Simon Rumley
Letter P portrayed a woman prostituting herself in order to provide for her children, at first I found that it was interestingly shot as it didn’t incorporate any dialogue and focused on visuals to get the emotions across. That was until it showed a kitten being killed…too upsetting for this cat-lover!
Q is for Quack
Directed by Adam Wingard & Simon Barrett
Letter Q was my absolute favorite part of the entire anthology and the most inventive. I enjoyed the meta-narrative aspect as the directors struggled to find a concept for the letter Q for The ABC’s of Death. They intend to kill a Duck which literally backfires on them! The comedic nature of this segment was very well done as well as the tongue in cheek performances!
R is for Removed
Directed by Srdjan Spasojevi
Letter R comes from the controversial director of A Serbian Film, its an uncomfortable body horror that sees a man attached to an IV having his skin removed by doctors and turned into 35mm film. A cleverly done piece of horror.
S is for Speed
Directed by Jake West
Letter S appeared to take influence from the Soska’s Dead Hooker in a Trunk and the cult classic Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill! with its stylish female characters on the run from a hooded figure, but all is not what it seems. A thrill ride from start to finish with a compelling and unexpected twist, another top entry which echoed to the Exploitation sub-genre!
T is for Toilet
Directed by Lee Hardcastle
Letter T was again one of the most hilarious segments within the whole film. This claymation piece delivered British humor at its best and brilliant gore! A boy is afraid of using the toilet and has a nightmare about it transforming into a flesh-eating monster. Very entertaining and I admire it for taking a different approach with its style. Cartoon horror can be very imaginative.
U is for Unearthed
Directed by Ben Wheatley
I have a lot of praise for Ben Wheatley following the excellent Sightseers however his short for ABC’s fell a little flat. The audience are placed in the POV of a man who is being brutally murdered by a group of people including a priest, an interesting way of shooting a death scene, however it didn’t bring in anything new.
V is for Vagitus
Directed by: Kaare Andrews
Letter V included a graphic scene involving a child decapitation under the premise of a futuristic world where women are infertile, cool CGI visuals but unimpressive with its content.
W is for WTF
Directed by: Jon Schnepp
Letter W also played around with the meta-narrative idea by showing a guy experimenting with several crazy ideas in order to come up with a concept for the letter W. Silly and fun, mixing animation with live action!
X is for XXL
Directed by Xavier Gens
Letter X probably delivered the most profound message and commentary on society’s obsession with outer appearance. An overweight woman is paranoid about the people around her being judgmental toward her size that she goes to extreme and gory measures to become thin, giving into media pressures! Very thought-provoking and effective. All I can say is Fuck the diet!!
Y is for Youngbuck
Directed by Jason Eisener
Letter Y was ugly and gratuitous, I didn’t get what it was trying to achieve!
Z is for Zetsumetsu
Directed by Yoshihiro Nishimura
…and Finally, to round off this experimental and versatile series of films comes some over the top Japanese splatter from the director of Tokyo Gore Police and Mutant Girl Squad! With plenty of phallic symbolism, letter Z takes on board cultural issues including the Second World War and plays it in the vein of the Japanese’s wacky style!
The ABC’s of Death definitely had its moments of true entertaining horror however some pieces were difficult to watch and in instances the film relied too much on toilet humor in order to achieve laughs. In some cases the directors could have done something more with their budgets in favor of lazy and derived ideas. It was however nice to see a mix of narrative and imagery working together and separately. The film is worth watching and definitely has something for everyone! It also celebrates and appreciates how different cultures contribute so many unique styles to the horror genre as a whole.
Hayley Alice Roberts.