The ABCs of Death (2012)

*. Anthology horror for the attention-deficit generation. Short films, around five minutes each, each helmed by a different director. The alphabet provides the only structure, but that isn’t much, as words are come up with that match whatever concept (almost literally, in the case of “F”) are pulled out of the director’s ass. Indeed, the words don’t even have to be English.
*. Here’s a quick run through the menu:
*. A is for Apocalypse: a decent short film that has a quiet domestic scene explode unexpectedly into crazy violence. Things then settle back down while the sounds of a larger conflagration are heard just beyond the window curtain.
*. B is for Bigfoot: the scary stories we tell become real? Or truth is stranger, and far more dangerous, than fiction? Take your pick.
*. C is for Cycle: I thought this was turning into something special, but I felt like a piece was missing at the end (or the beginning) to make it into a proper “cycle.” Still, it’s one of the more inventive and enjoyable pieces on offer, and one of the very few that gives you anything to think about.

*. D is for Dogfight: a well-produced and well-written little story. There are just a couple of turns to the plot and no dialogue, but that’s not a knock against it since there’s no time for anything more. The little kid in the crowd is a touch of genius.
*. E is for Extermination: decently enough done for a quick thrill, but this has to be one of the oldest urban legends in the book. I was kind of hoping they’d do something different with it, but no such luck.

*. F is for Fart: just as dumb as it sounds. Or just as Japanese. Meaning some crazy mixture of death and sex and fetishistic behaviour. Honestly, I have such a hard time relating to the Japanese psyche sometimes. House made more sense than this.
*. G is for Gravity: a quiet downer (pun intended). I like the board as tombstone.
*. H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion: furry porn meets WW2-era international intrigue. Zany, but without any real point aside from making you want to say WTF? Not quite as much as some of the other entries though.
*. I is for Ingrown: raw and unpleasant, which makes for a jarring change of pace. Pulling the shower curtain off the rail is a cliché I think we should retire now. I assume the title just refers to it being a case of domestic homicide.
*. J is for Jidai-geki: the title means Samurai Movie. Something seems to have been lost in translation, and there’s only one line of dialogue. As for the look . . . well, it’s how Peter Jackson got his start, isn’t it?
*. K is for Klutz: just a dirty cartoon. Shock toilet humour. South Park did it better, and I’m not a big fan of South Park. I think most people see it as being “about” abortion, make of that what you will (I can’t help).
*. L is for Libido: some kind of weird torture-porn game recalling A Serbian Film. One of the better pieces, well produced and with some good twists. Certainly not for everyone, but if you’ve come this far . . .
*. M is for Miscarriage: a woman miscarries into a toilet and goes to get the plunger. Which I guess recalls “K is for Klutz” in some ways. Short and completely without interest or merit. A waste of a couple of minutes of your life. Directed by Ti West, who may have been the biggest name associated with the project, so I don’t know what happened.
*. N is for Nuptials: just a joke about a talking bird that wrecks a marriage proposal.
*. O is for Orgasm: an arty snuff film. Most reviewers didn’t like it, but I thought it was a clever interpretation of la petit mort. Written and directed by Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani, the duo who did Amer.

*. P is for Pressure: a dour and depressing entry, again dealing with the conflation of sex and death. Yes, they really do go together.
*. Q is for Quack: oddly enough, another short featuring “animal snuff.” Served up this time as a joke, with the writer and director playing themselves in the leading roles.
*. R is for Removed: from Srdan Spasojevic, the guy who did A Serbian Film. A man’s skin is turned into film. It’s hard not to read that as an allegory of the movie business: Hollywood as a meat grinder, peddling flesh for fantasy. That may not be much, and it’s certainly been done before (see John Carpenter’s Masters of Horror segment Cigarette Burns), but it’s nicely produced and the apocalyptic rainfall at the end is great.
*. S is for Speed: you can’t outrun death. I get it. Not much to see here.

*. T is for Toilet: claymation from Lee Hardcastle. One of the best of the entries, looks great and is a lot of fun. But what is it with this obsession with scary toilets? The K and M stories and now this.
*. U is for Unearthed: some locals dig up a vampire who happens to be wearing a GoPro. Not as much fun or as interesting as it sounds.
*. V is for Vagitus (The Cry of a Newborn Baby): I’m not really sure what was going on here, not because it was deliberately obscure (it isn’t) but just because there wasn’t enough time to tell the story I think Karen Andrews wanted to tell.
*. W is for WTF!: I started out really liking this but after the first minute of set-up it just collapsed into chaos. Chaos that is no fun and has no point.
*. X is for XXL: an overweight woman with bad body image attempts a drastic form of reduction. This is a French film, and I thought it interesting that this woman was seen as fat to the point of being publicly shamed for it. She should move to the U.S. In America she’d just be a bit large, but still attractive enough to have her own porn channel. Her eating habits, however, really are disgusting. In any event, this is one of the only films here to have any kind of a message to it, which I think is successfully made.
*. Y is for Youngbuck: very odd conjunction of a story of pedophilia with an ’80s-style synthetic pop score. I didn’t get it. The symbolism, however, is pretty easy to follow.
*. Z is for Zetsumetsu (Extinction): more madness from Japan, more of the conflation of sex (or really porn) with extreme violence. Is there a message in here about the dangers of nuclear energy and/or weapons? If so, I couldn’t figure out what it was, even with Dr. Strangelove yelling at me.
*. I wasn’t blown away by any of this. D, L, R, T and X were pretty good, but there were way more misses than hits. What disappointed me the most was that the ones I liked were all the ones that looked the most expensively and professionally produced. Nobody here made me think they were doing a lot with a little or really taking the minimalist aesthetic road (gone in five minutes and $5,000).
*. It’s really just a showcase of what looks like student filmmaking, and since there’s an endless supply of student filmmakers out there, there had to be a sequel. Indeed, more than one. A franchise of calling cards fit perfectly with the age of YouTube. Like it or not, this may prove to be the new face of horror in more ways than one.

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