An ingenious twist on the horror anthology genre, The ABCs Of Death created quite a response worldwide when playing to its initial intended audiences; the horror festival circuit.
But on disc, instead of being limited by home viewing crowd-wise it opens itself to more discovery with repeated viewing, as well as being essential for any open minded horror film collector or aspiring genre filmmaker.
Three years ago, internationally recognised film festival programmers Ant Timpson (New Zealand International Film Festival) and Tim League (Fantastic Fest, Alama Draftouse CEO) came up with an idea both innovative and devilishly simple: Present a film version of the traditional children’s alphabet picture books, only for adults with extremely open tastes in cinema.
To turn the vision into reality they chose 25 film-makers, gave each of them a different letter of the alphabet and a $5,000 budget to come up with any story they desired in approximately 5 minutes, that letter standing for a “death” of their choice. Due to the range of styles and viewpoints, not only is there a diverse and varied interpretation of death itself but as the international horror festival circuit is also a closely knit community, the ante has been upped regarding one more producers’ decision – No director was aware of what the others had devised…
As well as a chance to give established horror directors a chance to play with new rules, a few future talents were also given an even playing field, creatively speaking.
The letter T was offered up to the general public, receiving countless entries of competitive quality (most still available on Youtube), the winner being British animator Lee Hardcastle‘s jovially mischievous T is for Toilet, which also happens to be one of three lavatorial focused mini-epics, alongside Danish animator Anders Morgenthaler’s comical K is for Klutz and the self-explanatory F is for Fart from Japan’s frankly bonkers Noburo Iguchi (Machine Girl, Dead Sushi).
Unfortunately, (excluding a mixed double) only one entry is from a woman director, by way of usually dependable Angela Bettis’ disappointingly bland spider yarn E is for Exterminate, a balance which appears to be addressed in the forthcoming second offering.
Taboos as well as fears are both embraced and broken, with sex and sexuality explored in many ways, ranging from Carry On-esque (Shutter director Banjong Pisanthanakun’s) N is for Nuptials, the impressively beautiful (Amer directors Helen Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s) O is for Orgasm and the intentionally misanthropic and shocking (Macabre co-director Timo Tjahjanto‘s visual partner to A Serbian Film) L is for Libido.
Surprisingly, Serbian’s controversial director Srdjan Spasojevic’s entry, R is For Removed is one of the many highlights which improve upon repeat viewings, his being an elegy to film itself. Also amongst the highlights are Jake West’s cleverly dark entendre S is for Speed, clinically epic sci-fi actioner V for Vagitus from budget buster Kaare Andrews (Altitude) and the incredible D is for Dogfight by Deadgirl’s Marcel Sarmiento, which animal lovers will be thrilled to know becomes even more entertaining once they’ve seen the amusingly revealing behind the scenes material.
While on the subject of the disc’s bonus features, two in particular warrant this compendium as essential for aspiring low budget filmmakers- Hardcastle summing up how to make a film even more simply than Robert Rodriguez, and Andrews revealing just how ingeniously yet simply a production more ambitious than its budget can be achieved with a little inventiveness and sticky-backed plastic.
This isn’t to say everything about ABCs of Death is wall to wall with highlights, a few entries miss the mark dues to laziness, pointlessness or a need to offend (or in the case of Ti West’s M isfor Miscarriage all three).
Yet an occasional and slight drop in appreciation of some of the offerings doesn’t alter the overall rating, simply as horror itself is a subjective experience with many segments likely to be more effective for some viewers than others.
For this reason ABCs Of Death would be a great choice for two hours at home over beer with friends, with the added chance to put it on pause in one of its 25 credit sections in between. The pause button is also an advantage when viewing at home simply because the relentless nature of being bombarded by 26 very different assaults on the senses does tend to carry over, so it works even better with a little breathing space.
Now that ABCs Of Death 2 (featuring the Soska Sisters, Larry Fessenden, Alex de la Iglesia and the mighty animation legend that is Bill Plympton within its ranks) is due next year, an ever growing collection showcasing a vast overview of current horror cinema in small scale beckons for many living room shelves across from the nursery.
Thoroughly recommended both for its innovation and now versatility, ABCs Of Death is a must-have for all open-minded horror aficionados, especially those with short attention spans.