Sunday, August 25, 2013

REVIEW: The ABCs of Death (2012)

ABCs of Death? What is that, a childrens’ picture book for demons? What kind of a title is that? Well, I’m sure it will no doubt be the only strange thing about this film.

Director: Various
Starring: The alphabet

*one viewing later*

Okay, so this is actually a sort of compilation of short films, titled in order with letters of the alphabet. A lot of these directors are foreign and not very well known, and it really goes a long way to show, with the best ones, how much more there is to horror movies than the latest crap in American theaters. Of course, it’s a double edged sword, and while some of these shorts are quite good, a lot of them fall more under the ‘holy shit, what the fuck did I just watch?’ category. Interested yet? Let’s take a dive into The ABCs of Death.

We start off with A is for Apocalypse, which features a husband and wife with some slight marital problems…

Boy, the theatrical release of 'Gone Girl' is more violent then I thought it'd be...

She hacks away at him a bit, tries to fight him and he just sits around looking kinda like Peter’s dad from Heroes. Apparently he can’t be killed and is immortal, or something. Then the window outside turns red and we find out she was trying to save him from an even worse death at the hands of…the apocalypse! Dun dun dun! See, I thought this was good. It was short but yet, not everything was revealed right away. It held its plot twist until the end, and then just stopped without anything else happening. It’s all in the implication – you imagine what happened in your mind. It’s effective and works well as a nice, short horror tale.

Then we get B is for Bigfoot, which is a pretty nice slasher tale. I have to say it never gets old seeing stupid characters get what’s coming to them. Here we see a bitchy babysitter tell a little girl a horrifying story just so she can go have sex with her boyfriend. You know, I can understand this character’s motivations. The need to have sex is totally worth the price of emotionally and mentally scarring a little girl for life. They get killed by a guy with a pizza cutter, which is always a dignified way to go...

C is for Cycle is pretty much the movie Triangle except actually good. It’s a cool, trippy little tale about a guy who keeps waking up in different places and hearing things. Then he realizes it’s because he has become stuck in a time loop and his past self is trying to kill him!

D is for Dogfight comes next, a brutal tale that truly encapsulates the old sensationalistic journalism headline “Man Bites Dog”:

It’s actually a very intense segment with a lot of slow motion and no real dialogue, just distorted, slowed-down shouting. Really harrowing. But if you want to take the edge off, just picture that this is a bizarre-world in which everyone talks like this normally! No video editing at all! The story ends with the dog coming to his senses and realizing that the guy he’s fighting is his master. They enact some Biblical vengeance on the fuckers who kidnapped the dog, and that’s it. Bad ass.

E is for Exterminate…guy tries to kill pesky teleporting spiders around his apartment over a series of very short “days.” I don’t know why, clearly they just want to be his friend! But this isn’t the weird part. No, the weird part is the next one: F for Fart.

Okay, so this is a Japanese one, which means it’s about as sane as your decrepit grandfather who claims to talk to Abraham Lincoln in his sleep. But even for THAT it’s still bat shit crazy. I mean the first frame has a high school girl, “cute” uniform and all, talking about how she’s ashamed of farting. If that isn’t weird enough, we then see the world start to end via a black cloud of pollution which the girl calls “the fart of God.” Which is probably accurate. Japan has been attacked by pretty much everything else already, so it’s only natural God would try farting on them…kinda lazy though.

But that other stuff is only the icing on the cake. The next thing we see is the main girl going into some warehouse with a teacher of hers. Then she says she wants to die smelling the teacher’s farts. In every other civilized country in the whole world, this would be met with revulsion followed by appearances on Dr. Phil and Conan O’Brien, and then the rest of the girl’s life in a mental institution. But in Japan the teacher is happy to do it.

Someone out there is jerking off to this right now. Weep for humanity.

Then she magically pops inside the teacher’s ass, where the teacher also appears in a yellowish void and they embrace in a fetal position.

I finally get it now. The whole thing is a metaphor. In reality everything that's happening is a visual representation of this girl's sick and twisted daydream fantasy about her teacher. Of course! The social ramifications of the repressed Japanese youth are...still not enough to save this from being crap.

I…I just don’t know. I don’t know anything anymore. I’ve lost all conception of reality! Someone send help quick!

Well, if you actually kept watching after that, the next short is G for Gravity, a short bit of nothing about a guy killing himself by weighing himself to the bottom of the ocean with bricks. Usually someone else has to do that for you. I think they’re Italian and run in familial packs most of the time…and usually, they do things like this after, shall we say, financial disagreements. Or so I hear.

Next is H for Hydro-Electric Diffusion.

That’s it…I quit.

I’m done. I’m never reviewing anything ever again.

Those are supposed to be his balls. He got punched in the nads and then his balls came out his mouth, glowing like stars. Yes, really.

It’s…it’s a fucking dog in a soldier uniform and pilot cap and a cat lady Nazi stripper; how can I even talk about it?! What the fuck am I even going to say? What possible good could come of ever analyzing such a brain-mash of retarded ideas? I’m done. That’s the final straw; I’m leaving right now.

Sigh…okay, okay. I love you guys too much to really do that. Plus I don’t like leaving anything unfinished. 

So then we get I is for Ingrown, about some sick fuck who put his own wife in a bathtub and kills her with an injection of some kind of skin disease virus. The story is told through very dark, vague narrations of the woman as she loses her mind, mostly downplaying the man as “basic and primal.” Depressing, chilling and hard to watch, one of the better in here.

J is for Jidai-geki…weird Japanese facial expressions, then suicide. That’s about all you need to know. K is for Klutz, a stupid cartoon about a woman taking a shit that proceeds to jump out of the toilet and then kill her. Mostly harmless.

L is for Libido shows what happens when you sign on to be on the world’s sickest game show – two guys get strapped down to chairs mostly naked, and have to jerk off to whatever sick shit gets put in front of them. At first it’s just naked women with weird painted faces, but it slowly gets worse with each ‘level’ until level 13 is some fat guy having sex with a little boy. Gee. If that’s 13, what are the levels after that like? Hmmm…

Level 57:

Level 99:

Level 666:

M is for Miscarriage is like two minutes long and guess what it’s about. That’s right, it’s about philosophical discussions.

N is for Nupitals shows the perils of marriage yet again, as we see some guy propose to his girlfriend brilliantly with a parrot. Oh, if I could count all the happy marriages I’ve seen that begin with parrots…anyway, then the parrot starts re-enacting a sex scene the guy had with some other bimbo. Because you know how it is, guys about to sincerely propose to their girlfriends usually have sex with other women on the way home first. The parrot even starts mimicking the sex sounds. It really happens!

Then the girlfriend murders the guy with a kitchen knife and stabs him repeatedly. Somehow I think this girl was already screwed up in the head before this. I mean, it seemed to come pretty natural to her; stabbing her boyfriend that many times.

O is for Orgasm…artistic sort of thing about people having sex. Lots of cool shots and some very interesting directing choices make it one of the better cuts in this thing. There isn’t much to say, as there isn’t actually a story going on here, but the artistic feeling and expression is top notch.

Vomiting rainbow colors = orgasms now...apparently...I dunno, I got nothing else. It was hard enough taking a pic for this short.

Then comes P is for Pressure, a very disturbing real-life tale about a stripper with two kids who falls on some hard times after her boyfriend robs her blind while she’s not at home. She can’t pay her bills even with her stripper job, and so she has to take a second job in a “crush” film – which basically means she has to step on a cat so a bunch of sick fucks can get off to it.

Apparently, yeah, this is actually a real thing…I’m really just speechless here. To think of the kinds of people who enjoy things like this is to acknowledge the worst examples of humanity. I mean really think about it – what possible justification could there be for making movies like that? If you can’t get off except to sick torture of innocent little animals, I think it’s time you checked yourself into a mental hospital, because – news flash – you have serious problems.

But yeah, the actual short is one of the best in this whole thing, as it has some very artful Beasts of the Southern Wild-esque camera work and editing, plus clear characterization even in only a few minutes. It’s a social piece and very important. Harrowing and dark, but vital.

Q for Quack is the funniest one in here, about the director and writer trying to come up with an idea for a short film for the anthology - very meta of them. They decide to shoot a duck because "no one gives a shit about animals." They decide this while doing heavy cocaine and filming a woman with large breasts - well, that's how Quentin Tarantino got a whole career, so I guess it works. They end up shooting each other instead of the duck.

The evil lord and master of all ducks, and all life for that matter...little known fact, he psychically manipulated their guns to shoot them instead of him! What a genius!

Then we get R is for Removed. Wow, we’ve gone almost a whole twenty minutes without stupid potty humor and penis jokes, what a miracle…this is another one of the best in the collection, with a dark and macabre story about some guy who gets used for a horrific experiment by some corrupt doctors, where his skin is turned into a film reel or something. There's a really cruel, dark scene where they have the poor guy in a fuckin' cage on display like an animal.

Who is this guy? Why are they doing this? Never explained, and it should STAY that way. Because as is, this is a chilling and scary tale that lets your imagination get to work like any good horror story does. Watching the guy get his bloody revenge is awesome too. Killer little flick.

S is for Speed is a very Lynchian, Mulholland Drive-ish little thing about a kidnapping gone wrong. Apparently some lady is kidnapping some other lady to offer as a sacrifice to the grim reaper in her place. The reaper says no, though, and takes her instead. And then we see it was all sort of a metaphor for the two girls both dying of a drug overdose. Very depressing. But I’m just wondering why the grim reaper in this looks more like a Lord of the Rings villain...

T is for Toilet…a Claymation short about a kid who’s afraid of toilets. We then see why:

Maybe have one parent stay in the bathroom with this kid at all times. Or just don't breed at all.

U is for Unearthed, a short piece about a monster getting killed by some townspeople. Cool camera work, but really no story at all. Maybe if they’d given it an extra minute and fleshed it out more, it woulda been better. As is, just sort of forgettable.

V is for Vagitus is a lame short, sort of a sci fi thing, with acting about as credible as any two-bit commercial on late night TV. The whole thing is just full of sci fi cliché and isn’t in any way very interesting. I’ve seen better sci fi stories from little kids playing with action figures.

W is for WTF! is a pretty oddball one again just full of random images thrown at you because they couldn’t think of anything for ‘W.’ Literally, that’s the answer we get. I’m not just being snarky this time! It’s kinda funny but at the same time, not really anything you’d need to watch twice…

X for XXL is about a fat woman who apparently lives on the most hate-filled street in the entire world, as in a two minute walk she is harassed by three different groups of people who make fun of her weight. I know fat people get bullied, but c’mon, this is just a goofy way of portraying it! Maybe one person making a rude comment, but three in a row just as she’s walking down the street to her house? Jesus. Then in her living room she decides to torture herself by watching the one channel where commercials with skinny Asian girls in bikinis play 24/7 – yes, only commercials. Nothing else.

I know that's not what's literally happening. Shut up. It's funnier in my imagined version where there's a channel that plays nothing but these commercials.

Then she decides to take the easy way out:

What did she really think was going to happen after this; that she'd get invited to pose for Vogue?

Pretty decent commentary on American fascination with perfect bodies – not bad, but a bit too goofy. Drives its point home well enough, though.

Y for Youngbuck, the story of the worst deer hunter in the world. You’re not supposed to rape little children after you kill a deer in a manner more befitting of Jason Voorhees, buster. You’re just supposed to kill the stupid deer and take it home.

Were they just trying to prove that they could combine deer hunting and child rape in a four minute short? What the hell?

Z is for Zetsumetsu is…I’m not gonna lie here; it’s pretty much just eyeball-gouging bad. It’s a bunch of awful shit with tons of penis jokes, random gore and the usual Japanese stigma of being unable to sit still for three seconds. If there’s a point here, I missed it. And I’m glad I did, because the idea of being in the same train of thought with the person who came up with this horseshit is not at all appealing to me! I’m sure the director had some clear intentions with all of this, but seriously – if you want to tell a story with a message, try and make it something watchable at the very least! If no one can sit through your 4-minute short film, there’s a problem there.

Aaaaaaand that’s it. ABCs of Death was…an experience, to say the least. It had its good shorts and its bad shorts, and overall even at its worst, it was never generic or rehashed like a lot of popular horror films, so there was that. It doesn’t excuse the really horrible shorts, like F, H, L, V or Z, but at least there was some kind of thought there, some kind of evidence that the directors had SOMETHING to say, even if it was done awfully. You can’t say that about The Devil Inside or Last Exorcism 2, for instance.

The good ones though? They were really good. I liked D, O, P, Q and R all very well, and several of the others were pretty cool too. These directors really stretched the boundaries of what can be done with short films. Hell, O and P were practically literary in how they expressed ideas and themes using very little of what could be called traditional filmmaking. There’s a reason film is called art, and a good filmmaker can tell a good story in a thousand different ways. There really is no rule book once you learn the basics, and the great thing about art is that you have basically unlimited ways of expressing yourself as such. Horror movies are an art too, whether the critics want to admit it or not, and some of these short films were really quite adept at expressing their themes without dialogue or a typical narrative structure. That may sound artsy to some people, and it is, but if you appreciate what movies are capable of when wielded by really creative hands, you’d do well to check some of these out. Just skip around the really bland ones.

Plus, some of the others are just funny, so there is that!

Overall, if you like movies, you’ll like at least one or two of these shorts. If you don’t like movies, WHY ARE YOU READING MY BLOG?

Also, there’s a sequel coming out next year…well, better break out the bunkers and hide.

P.S. Visit and help put an end to crush videos! Sign the petition and report abuse if you come across it!

All images copyright of their original owners. I do not own any of them.