Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Halloween Movie Month: The ABCs of Death

The ABCs of Death (2012)
Netflix streaming

The ABCs of Death is an anthology of 26 short films - one for every letter of the alphabet.  Twenty-six different directors (27, actually - one of the shorts had two directors) were each given a letter of the alphabet, told to choose a word that starts with that letter, and then create a horror short based on their word.

From the outset, I really liked the concept!  I grew up watching the Twilight Zone, so I have a special place in my heart for short stories that have a big impact.  However, in the Twilight Zone, the impact focused more on what it is to be human and how slight changes can have serious, dramatic implications.  In The ABCs of Death, the big impact that they try to make in their short time feels more like "how much gore can I cram in this short amount of time?"  While that might be the overall feel, there were some vignettes that were much darker with much deeper implications.

As the title implies, every story involved the death of one (or all) of the characters.  Since death was the central theme and you knew that there was going to be at least one death in the next 5 minutes, the stories very quickly (around the letter E) lost the surprise factor.  This resulted in many of the stories feeling like just an exercise in excess of gore.  Some stories were unrealistic and just silly (especially the letter F - for Fart), some of them played on real fears or social commentaries, but most of them were more like music videos with excessive gore and scatological humor.

All that being said, there was something captivating about this anthology to me.  It could be because it reminded me of ghost stories around a campfire (especially B for Bigfoot), it could be because it reminded me of  Edward Gorey's Gashlycrumb Tinies (which is delightfully dark!) or Andy Riley's The Book of Bunny Suicides, or it could be because I'm a fan of Troma videos and their excessive independence.

Rating:  3/5 - The ABCs of Death had really good production value, a variety of thematic styles, and seemingly no fear when it came to what to show and what should be censored.  Overall, I enjoyed watching it, I'd be willing to watch it again, but I don't know if I would necessarily actively want to watch it again.

Recommendation:  Even though I give it a 3, my recommendation is pass.  If you are not a fan of horror, you will absolutely hate the excessive amounts of gore.  If you are just a casual horror fan, you will probably not enjoy how disturbing some of the stories get.  If you are a huge horror fan, you might actually enjoy it...but, you might also feel like a lot of the stories are a little stale and lacking some innovation.  Of course, that is probably because it is difficult to be completely original with just 5 minutes.

There is excessive gore.  There are stories involving children and animals that get pretty disturbing.  The stories that involve sex involve some of the more disturbed views of it.  Overall, I just don't think that most people would enjoy it.  There are some vignettes that intrigued me and I would love to see fuller versions of them.  For major horror fans, give it a shot.  But for the general public, this is a definite pass.

Be sure to check back soon for more reviews in Halloween Movie Month!  In the meantime, leave comments on this (or any other) review, follow me here and on twitter (@GargyleReviews), and let me know what movies you'd like for me to review for Halloween Movie Month!

-The Gargyle

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