Pay attention, kiddos! There will be homework.
Directed by: Kaare Andrews, Angela Bettis, Helene Cattet, Ernesto Diaz Espinoza, Jason Eisener, Bruno Forzani, Adrian Garcia Bogliano, Xavier Gens, Lee Hardcastle, Noboru Iguchi, Thomas Cappelan Malling, Jorge Michel Grau, Anders Morgenthaler, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Banjong Pisanthanakun, Simon Rumley, Marcel Sarmiento, Jon Schnepp, Srdjan Spasojevic, Timo Tjahjanto, Andrew Traucki, Nacho Vigalondo, Jake West, Ti West, Ben Wheatley, Adam Wingard, Yudai Yamaguchi
Stars: Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Ivan Gonzalez, and Kyra Zagorsky
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Anthologies. Love them or hate them, anthology films have endured through the decades, and they show no sign of ever going away. Recently, anthologies have resurfaced in the independent horror scene with entries such as V/H/S, Chillerama, and The Theatre Bizarre. The latest offering is THE ABC’S OF DEATH, which has a particular gimmick that promises to make it stand out from the rest of the pack. So, what is it, and how does it fare?
With THE ABC’S OF DEATH, twenty-six different directors from all over the world were each given a letter of the alphabet. These directors were then to choose a word that begins with the letter and make that word the basis for a four or five minute short horror film. This anthology film is the result of their collective efforts. The content and tone of each short is wildly varied. Some are supernatural; others are more down-to-earth. Some are serious; others are light-hearted. Some are live-action; others are animated. Some offer social or political commentary; others are simple tales about simple people. All in all, it’s an ambitious potpourri of the horrifying, the amusing, and the bizarre.
With so many different stories told in a variety of ways in such small portions, one of the positive aspects of THE ABC’S OF DEATH is that you will seldom if ever get bored. If one of the tales doesn’t hold much interest for you, it’s just a few minutes until it is over and a new tale begins. The unfortunate flip-side to this is that very few of the stories take hold and are memorable once the end credits roll. A lot of these shorts are good. They just don’t stick with you. The only ones that stayed with me personally afterwards were a couple of animated tales involving toilets, a grim tale involving a prostitute in need of cash, and a truly off-the-wall tale involving a young girl’s obsession with her teacher.
It’s difficult to pick apart and discuss the positive and negative attributes of the productions for the individual films given that there are twenty-six of them. Generally-speaking, the acting across the board is very good. No single performance stands out as particularly great, but no one is bad or awful either. The writing and directing is largely where the films’ quality gets very inconsistent. Most of the tales feel like mild diversions, lacking any real bite or punch to make them memorable. At the same time, most of them are still okay. They are completely acceptable, with only one or two of them being outright bad. The special make-up effects are terrific in the segments that utilize them. The CGI effects are mostly ineffective, though.
Summing up THE ABC’S OF DEATH is a considerable challenge, and I do not envy any reviewer who must place a specific review score on the film. With the overall quality being all over the place, any horror fan searching for a consistent, great horror experience will be disappointed. However, if you are just looking to get a quick horror fix or are interested in sampling a wide variety of tastes from an international stable of filmmakers, then THE ABC’S OF DEATH will definitely scratch that itch. Overall, the film is fresh and interesting, if not all that memorable.
THE ABC’S OF DEATH is currently available digitally via Video On Demand, iTunes, and Amazon. It will play in theaters in New York and Los Angeles starting March 8, 2013. The film can be recommended by this critic.
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