The ABCs Of Death (18)

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Review byMatthew Turner24/04/2013

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 129 mins

The ABCs of Death has its fair share of hits and misses and it's ultimately worth seeing for the handful of good ones, but the overall execution of the project never quite lives up to the concept, with too many of the films feeling lazy and poorly thought out.

What's it all about?
Directed by 26 different genre directors (including Ti West, Adam Wingard, Lee Hardcastle and Ben Wheatley) from 15 different countries, The ABCs of Death is a horror anthology of short films about death, with each entry representing a letter of the alphabet. Unfolding in alphabetical order with the titles appearing at the end (occasionally as a punchline), the films range from between a couple of minutes to seven minutes long each and encompass a number of different styles, including animation and claymation.

The subjects of each story are wildly varied and include: villagers chasing a vampire with the action seen from the vampire's point-of-view (Ben Wheatley's Unearthed); a young woman who takes drastic measures after a stress-related food binge (Xavier Gens' XXL); a woman stepping up her plans for her husband after a catastrophic event (Nacho Vigalondo's Apocalypse); and a man being forced to compete in a series of masturbation contests where the loser is killed each time (Timo Tjahjanto's Libido).

The Good
Like most anthology films, The ABCs of Death has its fair share of hits and misses and there are some definite hits here. By a strange coincidence, two of the best films are animated shorts involving toilets: Lee Hardcastle's inventive and very funny claymation short Toilet (in which a small boy fears that his toilet will eat him) and Anders Morgenthaler's traditionally animated Klutz, about an accident-prone woman...well...going to the toilet.

As a general rule, the most successful films are those with a strong comedy element, such as Adam Wingard's self-aware Quack, though others impress with either stylish direction (Marcel Sarmiento's Dogfight), general grisliness (Gens' XXL) or the flat-out weirdness of the basic idea (Libido, Iguchi Noboru's Fart or ‘Young Ladies and Poison Gas’, and Thomas Cappellen Malling's Hydro-electric Diffusion).

The Bad
The main problem is that the execution doesn't really live up to the concept, something that isn't helped by the lack of a framing device; similarly, none of the films is allowed to breathe long enough to work up any real scares. On top of that, several of the shorts feel lazy and poorly thought out: fans of Ti West's films, for example, are likely to be extremely disappointed with his effort (to reveal the title is to reveal the punchline, but it begins with M), while others, like Srdjan Spasojevic's Removed or Yoshihiro Nishimura's Zetsumetsu are just plain baffling.

Worth seeing?
The ABCs of Death doesn't have a great hit-to-miss ratio, but the small handful of its best films ensure that it's worth seeing overall.

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The ABCs Of Death (18)
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Content updated: 26/09/2015 07:22

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