What do you get when you dole out each letter of the alphabet to 26 vastly different directors and give them complete artistic freedom to create their own “short tale of death” based on said letter? Whether you are ready for or it not, you get the new horror movie anthology The ABC's of Death.
Horror really is the most appropriate genre for an anthology film – a feature length movie composed of several individual short films all linked together by a connective thread, such as theme or setting. Thrills and chills can be effectively created in a relatively short period of time, and the brief segments prevent the movie from fading into the clichés, repetition, or malaise that befalls much of the genre.
The ABC's of Death begins with a stern, semi-tongue-in-cheek warning about the violent, gruesome, and at times, extremely uncomfortable images the audience is about to see – and they are not exaggerating. The producers go on to say that no one under 18 should probably watch the film – again, they are not exaggerating. So after that and an appropriately sinister opening credits sequence, we get 26 distinct shorts in rapid succession, moving from one to another with a blood red fade out/fade in.
With titles like “Apocalypse,” “Exterminate,” “Hydro-Electric Diffusion,” “Speed,” “Toilet,” and “WTF,” you never really know what you are going to get. Of the 26, you are guaranteed to like a few, hate a few, and likely be disgusted and/or utterly baffled by several more – but it is quick and interesting to move from one to next, seeing which ones you will like and which ones will rub you the wrong way (which I assure you, some will).
As always is the case with anthology films, you have got to take the bad with the good. And The ABC’s of Death is no different, in fact, even more so because of the extreme wide range of tone, styles, genres, and skill at play here. The shorts run the gamut from excruciatingly amateur to polished, confident works and span a vast array of influences (sci-fi, rom-com, animated, claymation, Grindhouse, fetish, music videos, etc.). After a quick IMDb search, I discovered that I had heard of or seen previous works from only ten of the over two dozen participating international directors – a revelation that surprised, but did not deter me. In fact, many of the shorts I liked most were from the unknowns.
In the end, for me personally, the thumbs downs slightly outweighed the thumbs ups (about 15 to 11). Some of the good included: “Bigfoot,” “Dogfight,” “Jidaigeki (Samaurai Movie),” “Nuptials,” “Quack,” “Toilet,” and “XXL.” And I was absolutely appalled/confused/flabbergasted by others like “Fart,” “Miscarriage,” and “Young Buck.”
Overall, The ABC’s of Death is an admirable and interesting concept that sometimes struggles in execution and is ultimately weighed down by its inferior and off-putting pieces. Some of the shorts also get bogged down in trying to be too offensive or weird, just for the sake of being offensive or weird. As to be expected with this notorious genre, there are lots and lots of blood, sex, and violence used in a variety of ways – sometimes for scares, other times for humor (“potty humor” mostly, literally). There are tons of cinematic allusions to past notable films (not necessarily exclusively from the horror genre) that are fun to spot while watching.
Running about 2 hours in total and with 26 separate shorts, you are looking at less than 5 minutes a segment, which makes for a quick and easy viewing experience. Like I said, there is probably something in here for everyone, but only true followers of the gory horror genre will really get the most out of this madcap and assorted anthology.
The ABCs of Death opens Friday, March 8 at Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center, playing for one week, nightly at 8:00 p.m.
So come out to the Zeitgeist (1618 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. New Orleans) this weekend and take advantage of this unique film-going experience and all the Zeitgeist Arts Center has to offer. And by doing so, help support one the premier alternative arts center in the South.
Tickets are $8 general / $7 students & seniors / $6 Zeitgeist members
You can also visit the Zeitgeist Multi-disciplinary Arts Center’s website here.
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