The ABCs of Death (2012)

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“A 26-chapter anthology that showcases death in all its vicious wonder and brutal beauty.” — IMDb

This was a re-watch for me — the first time was closer to when the anthology was first released — and I definitely enjoyed it, possibly more than most. It consists of 26 different short films from actors spanning 15 different countries, and the only common theme is death.

I think it’s to be expected that any anthology, but especially one with over 20 installments, is going to be an exercise in hit or miss. Even if you had a line-up of directors and actors with decades of experience, you’d still have some shorts that didn’t quite come together… and many of the people involved in these are new to the game. The good news for someone like me with a relatively short attention span is that each short is exactly that — short. It has a total runtime of 129 minutes so each film is an average of 5 minutes long… easy enough to sit through one that doesn’t really work. I think the interesting thing — aside from getting a taste of each directors’ style — was how differently the theme of death was interpreted. Some went the classic scary route, some went more cerebral, some went funny… literal vs abstract, gritty vs neat. It’s a fascinating, brief look into their brain, which is cool no matter the context. It’s also fun to watch the short and guess what the word is going to be!

** SPOILERS! **

There were a few that were interesting but not particularly gripping: Apocalypse (directed by Nacho Vigalondo) was an intense way to kick off the series; Gravity (directed by Andrew Traucki) was a neat little POV adventure; and Orgasm (directed by Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani) was stylish and sleek.

There were a few that made me want to see more… ones that worked well in their short timeframe but were intriguing enough to make me curious: Cycle (directed by Ernesto Díaz Espinoza) was a trippy mindfuck; Ingrown (directed by Jorge Michel Grau) was dark and intimate; Pressure (directed by Simon Rumley) played on the underbelly of desperation; Quack (directed by Adam Wingard) was just funny and clever; and Unearthed (directed by Ben Wheatley) was super engaging.

Sadly a bunch were just straight up dumb: Bigfoot (directed Adrián García Bogliano, who is ALWAYS hit or miss for me); Exterminate (directed by Angela Bettis) played on the creepy crawly aspect of spiders but was just bad otherwise; Fart (directed by Noboru Iguchi) was just stupid beyond words; Hydro-Electric Diffusion (directed by Thomas Cappelen Malling) was physically repulsive for me; Miscarriage (directed by Ti West) was easily the laziest of the bunch; Nuptials (directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun) was pointless; Removed (directed by Srdjan Spasojevic) was just UGH; Speed (directed by Jake West) tried to be deep but failed; Vagitus (directed by Kaare Andrews) was one of the most technically impressive but terrible otherwise; WTF! (directed by Jon Schnepp) was intentionally a hot mess but so damn lazy); and Zetsumesu (Yoshihiro Nishimura) I just have no words for.

A few went the funny route and did it well: Jidai-Geki (directed by Yudai Yamaguchi) was so bizarre; Klutz (directed by Anders Morgenthaler) was so good I want a whole show of it; and Toilet (directed by Lee Hardcastle) managed to be funny, bizarre, and surprisingly gory for claymation.

A few were pretty well done but OVER THE TOP shocking: Libido (directed by Timo Tjahjanto) is impressive if for no other reason than its ability to shock at every single turn, and XXL (directed by Xavier Gens) is an intensely dark look at the diet and weight loss industry’s impact on society.

There were only two that I considered truly awesome: Dogfight (directed by Marcel Sarmiento) was easily the winner of the whole series for me – gripping, intense, gritty, clever, and well shot; and Young Buck (directed by Jason Eisener), just a bizarre adventure overall but weird enough for me to love it.

Overall, well worth the two hours, and I’m super excited to watch the second series!

Rating: 5/10 | Director: Nacho Vigalondo, Adrián García Bogliano, Ernesto Díaz Espinoza, Marcel Sarmiento, Angela Bettis, Noboru Iguchi, Andrew Traucki, Thomas Cappelen Malling, Jorge Michel Grau, Yudai Yamaguchi, Anders Morgenthaler, Timo Tjahjanto, Ti West, Banjong Pisanthanakun, Bruno Forzani, Hélène Cattet, Simon Rumley, Adam Wingard, Srdjan Spasojevic, Jake West, Lee Hardcastle, Ben Wheatley, Kaare Andrews, Jon Schnepp, Xavier Gens, Jason Eisener, Yoshihiro Nishimura | Starring: too many to list

 

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