The ABC’s of Death Review


I’ll admit, I’ve been waiting to see this movie since it was first announced, and Drafthouse Films released their director slate.  New films (even if they are 5 minute or less shorts) from Jason Eisner, Xavier Gens, Noboru Iguchi, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Jon Schnepp,  Ti West, Adam Wingard, Ben Wheatley, Ti West, Thomas Cappelen Malling, Nacho Vigalondo, and Srdjan Spasojevic?  It’s like a list I would rattle off if I’m listing some of my favorite current genre directors, and here they all are making one film, if not together, collected.

Tim League and Ant Timpson of Drafthouse Films fame decided to put this wacky idea together, and for what it is, I like it.  Since the concept is simple enough, each director gets a letter, $5,000, and a 5 minute runtime limit, I can see them going on to make The ABC’s of Death 2, 3, 4….ad infinitum.  However, not all the shorts worked for me, but the general consensus between pretty much everyone that has seen the movie agrees, you are going to love some, and you are going to hate some, and rarely will you find two people that loved all the exact same ones.

Instead of a proper review, I’ll just do a quick rundown (spoiler free, of course) of my favorites, and I won’t even bother with too many reasons why, as a lot of them just need to be seen to be believed.  Everyone has their own system for judging the movie, and here’s mine:  I liked (t0 varying degrees) 13 of the 26 shorts.  Another 6 I felt were fair, with only 7 just being either pointless, or straight up crap.  I think everyone is pretty much in agreement that Ti West should have just passed, as his segment was by far the worst, and he’s obviously talented.  It wasn’t even bad, it’s just that it wasn’t even really a short.  It was a few seconds of an idea he scratched on a napkin and filmed to say he was part of it, I guess.

On the other hand, some directors went the opposite route, and went insane with very little money, getting incredible production value.  My personal favorite was the insane “H” by Thomas Cappelen Malling, who went far above and beyond what everyone else did.  As far as balls-out strange goes, the Japanese directors (who are mostly friends/co-producers on their other films) really did a number, with “F”, “J”, and “Z” all being memorable.  I really liked Jidai-Geki (Samurai Movie) by Yudai Yamaguchi, who did Battlefield Baseball, Meatball Machine, and Yakuza Weapon in the past.  Noboru Iguchi and Yoshihiro Nishimura are known for their insane F/X filled movies, and here they don’t hold anything back, with wry parodies of Japanese flamboyance and American interest in that flamboyance.

I would have to say my other absolute favorite was Ben Wheatley’s visceral “U”, Unearthed, which is almost a spoiler in itself, so I won’t say anything more, but the man had the best concept, F/X, and shooting style of any of the shorts, I just honestly wish it was longer.  I could stand to see a longer short done in this style, and just can’t wait to see what he has brewing for A Field in England, his next feature film.

I also have to give a big shout out to Jason Eisner, the crazy Canadian has done it again.  Straight outta Nova Scotia, the man has yet to make something I don’t absolutely love.  His short Treevenge is required Christmas viewing, his original Hobo With a Shotgun trailer was well worth the entire Grindhouse admission price alone, and the feature version was my second favorite film of 2011.  Here, with “Y”, he makes Youngbuck, and if you can guess what it’s about, even after watching it, I commend you.  Plus, the short has Powerglove as nearly the entire audio track, so who can’t love that?  Featuring the now trademark Eisner shooting style, you won’t forget this batshit crazy short.

I saw Lee Hardcastle‘s short T is For Toilet when he was trying to get the short in to the film, but I have to say, in context with the rest of the films, it more than stands up.  Such a great animated piece.  Nacho Vigalondo  never ceases to amaze me, and the Drafthouse team was smart to start the film off with him, because he really wakes you right up with his short.  I’d never heard of Kaare Andrews before, but after seeing his short for “V”, I’m really curious to see more from him.  Marcel Sarmiento‘s “D” is probably the best shot short of the bunch, and one I will remember for a long time.  I want to watch it again already, and now I will be watching Deadgirl shortly, no more fooling around.  

Srdjan Spasojevic and Xavier Gens both made interesting shorts, but both were kind of what I was expecting from the Serbian and French respective masters of shock.  Jon Schnepp of Metalocalypse fame lives up to his short’s name with “W”, and Adam Wingard wins with “Q” for the most humorous and clever use of a segment, along with his usual writing/producing partner Simon Barrett.  Kudos, guys.

Anyway, I’d say if you’re a horror fan, it’s definitely worth checking out, I mean, you know the body count is at least 26, and there are more than enough cool F/X to keep you interested throughout.  Because remember, if one segment sucks (and a few, like “G” truly do suck) there’s another one 5 minutes away, or if you’re lucky, even less.  I will say that for Ti West‘s laziness, at least he didn’t waste a lot of our time in the process.   People afraid of weirdness or gore, stay the hell away, you will hate it and probably walk out of the room, like my wife quickly did.



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