‘The ABCs of Death’ Review
G is for Gimmick
But gimmicks are not necessarily a bad thing. 'The ABCs of Death' (which could also be called '26 Ways to Barf') is the mother of all horror anthologies, collecting 26 short films, each from a different director, all representing a different way to bite it.
C is for Clever
Because even when there's a short that isn't anything special (and there are, unfortunately, some that fit this description) you know that there's a new one coming right around the corner. Plus, each entry concludes with its title, oftentimes worthy of a chuckle as it isn't always so obvious. ("L is for Libido," being the biggest revelation of them all.)
N is for Name Brands
Connoisseurs of the current world/indie/horror scene will also get a chance to try and guess which of the entries are from whom. The Ben Wheatley ("U"), Noburo Iguchi ("F") and Lee Hardcastle ("T") shorts are easy to spot, but the others not so much.
D is for Delightful
As the bulk of the film is laugh-out-loud fun. Jason Eisener ("Y"), Yudai Yamaguchi ("J") and Adam Wingard & Simon Barrett ("Q") lead the charge, but all must bow before Jon Schnepp's "W is for WTF!" That piece brings in a whole new level of insanity that, luckily, is well-capped by Yoshihiro Nishimura's "Z is for Zetsumetsu." I'm not even going to bother looking up that word, because there's no way anything could ever explain the whacked-out craziness contained in that film.
A is for Artistic
Not everything is a spoof and a goof, though. Bruno Forzani and Helene Cattet's "O is for Orgasm" is gorgeous and erotic and shows one of the best ways to go. Entries from Srdjan Spasojevic ("R") and Thomas Cappelen Malling ("H") offer up some rather crackling, stylized filmmaking, and Anders Morgenthaler and the aforementioned Hardcastle dazzle with animation.
P is for Phoned In
Alas, some didn't take the assignment seriously. I loved Ti West's 'The Innkeepers,' but the dude should be ashamed for his one joke short ("M"). One of the two meta-shorts (not saying which) suggested that each of the filmmakers had a budget of $5000 for their entry. If this is the case the producers may want to know where the remaining $4990 are.
I is for Inappropriate
On the other hand, Kaare Andrews' short ("V") has enough production value that it looks like a few minutes ripped from a Hollywood movie. Or, well, at least an extremely well-financed direct-to-cable film. Unfortunately, the complex sci-fi tale is very much at odds with the rest of the movie, and while not everything should be in lockstep, this just doesn't smell right. It's better, though, than Jorge Michel Grau's film for "I." I greatly admired Grau's 'We Are What We Are,' but he uses his few minutes here for a brutal PSA about some of the world's actual problems that really harshes the vibe of this fun picture.
Above all 'The ABCs of Death' is a good time at the movies, loaded with gross-outs and some over-the-line humor that will keep worthy audiences shouting at the screen. With luck it will be enough of a financial success that, should other filmmakers around the globe look at this and salivate, it can continue as a franchise for 26 more years.
Jordan Hoffman was the movies editor at Hearst Digital’s UGO for four years and currently contributes to SlashFilm, MTV’s NextMovie and StarTrek.com. He’s made two marginally successful independent movies, is a member of the New York Film Critics Online and was named IFC’s Ultimate Film Fanatic of the NorthEast in 2004. Follow him on Twitter at @JHoffman6.