Cinophile: ABCs OF DEATH

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Anthology films are great. Not every tale needs to be told in ninety minutes or more, so a movie that combines a number of cinematic short stories can go down well. Three is the most common number of films for a typical anthology, but that’s never set in stone. You can get as many as six or seven stories in a stretch of two hours.

But 26 has to be some kind of a record.

Twenty-six as in the numbers of the alphabet and The ABCs of Death says what it does on the label: twenty six stories about death, each themed after a unique letter. This may sound like a lot, but it is surprising what some filmmakers can pull off in just a few minutes… which is why The ABCs of Death is building a steady cult following.

The themes are abstract – it’s impossible to guess what many of the segments represented and the theme is only revealed at the end of the short, so ‘A is for Apocalypse’. But the films often approach their theme in an indirect fashion. Styles also vary, including first person and mockumentory films.

If you fear two hours of gore-soaked torture porn, don’t worry. The segments vary incredibly in style and story. There are comedies, animations, abstract tales, terse dramas and a few that just defy logic. Some do feature violence and gore, but overall this is a blend of edgy and interesting moviemaking. The producers recruited filmmakers from across the world, so the diversity in styles and languages is just a cherry on top.

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You could call the ABCs of Death a world tour of envelope-pushing filmmaking.

Yet it isn’t a horror anthology. The themes are macabre and several shorts certainly belong in the horror genre. But with so many filmmakers the theme transcends traditional anthologies that tend to sit in a genre rut.

Highlights include Klutz, Speed and the magnificent Dogfight. Despite what images such titles might conjure in your head, they rarely turn out that way. Many of the shorts are surreal and quite a few hide a twist.

Not everything in ABCs of Death is likable – in fact, it’s a bit hard to decide if you actually enjoyed the experienced or just felt weirded out. This may explain the terrifically negative reaction from critics, but in reality it is impossible to judge.

With so many films it is entirely subjective who will like what. So to answer if ABCs of Death is good would be pointless. It’s unique and won’t leave you cinematically poorer.

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Though not all of the segments are horror stories, ABCs of Death plays host to a number of the genre’s talent. Several of the directors also contributed to films in the V/H/S series of anthologies and others were responsible for cult hits such as Timecrimes, Evil Aliens, The House of the Devil, Hobo with a Shotgun and Tokyo Gore Police.
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Twenty six directors from fifteen countries contributed segments to the anthology. Each director agreed to a letter of the alphabet, but they could decide on the concept and make the film without the anthology’s interference.
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Almost all of the directors were approached, except for one that was selected through a contest. Lee Hardcastle’s claymation short T is for Toilet won the spot. The sequel held the same contest to find an unknown director.
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The movie landed an American teacher in trouble. After showing it to her class of high school students, she was convicted of exposing minors to indecent material. She was sent to jail for three months.

 

Cinophile is a weekly feature showcasing films that are strange, brilliant, bizarre and explains why we love the movies.

Last Updated: September 28, 2015

James

A total movie glutton, nothing is too bad or too obscure to watch, unless it's something like The Human Centipede. If you enjoyed that, there is something wrong with you. But bless you anyway - even video nasties need love...

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