Review: The ABCs of Death / Cert: 18 / Director: Various / Screenplay: Various / Starring: Various / Release Date: June 3rd
The ABCs of Death in a collection of 26 short films from across the world, directed by 26 different directors which, as you might guess from the title, depict 26 different ways to die. It’s an eclectic collection and, by the very nature of its subject matter, it’s not exactly easy viewing. Most of the shorts here are very short; unlike last year’s collection of international zombie movies, Ultimate Zombie Feast, there’s nothing long-form, just a string of generally nasty, ugly films of five minutes' duration or less. Consequently it gets a bit wearing – at just under two hours it’s a real slog – because there’s no time for any of the films on offer to create sympathetic characters or build anything resembling a narrative. So we’re bombarded with 26 death sequences and it’s likely that by the time you get to to U or V even the most obsessive horror-hound will be squealing for mercy and a release from the dreary hopelessness of it all.
But arguably it’s just as well that these 26 films are all on the short side because many of them are just rubbish and some are vile. Inevitably the Japanese entries are the most extreme; Fart is a Sapphic love story of flatulence obsession and Zetsumetsu (extinction) is insane live action comic strip porn. Elsewhere, Libido is grotesque, Ti West’s Miscarriage unpleasant and pointlessly brief, while Ingrown is a random and disturbing effort about a kidnap victim which, like too many of the offerings here, seems to exist just for the sake of it.
It’s not all bad news though. There are a handful of worthwhile efforts, not least Ben Wheatley’s Unearthed, clearly filmed on the set of Kill List (it features the same cast), the initially amusing Thailand-originating Nuptials which features a too-talkative parrot and Brit Lee Hardcastle’s warped Claymation-style Toilet. Best of all is Adam (A Horrible Way to Die) Wingard’s Quack in which a plan to film a “real death” – albeit of a caged duck – backfires with consequences which, if not hilarious, do at least raise a welcome smile amidst all the gore (XXL is an effective if eye-watering comment on body image and one woman’s desperation to conform) and filth (Klutz is about a murderous turd).
Resolutely not for the faint-hearted or those who like to get stuck into a good story, The ABCs of Death is an interesting experiment but by its very structure it’s a frustratingly bitty, unsatisfying and rather sour experience.
The ABCs of Death will be playing at UK horror festivals throughout 2013 and receive a limited theatrical release on 26 screens across the UK on 26th April.