Whenever a filmmaker or group of filmmakers decides to make an anthology of short films, what we will get most of the time is a small collection of maybe four or five stories put together. Think back on the famous horror anthologies that have been made such as “Tales from the Crypt,” “Tales from the Dark Side,” or even something more recent like “V/H/S.” These contained just a few stories that tried to give you a good chill, some succeeding better than others, in segments lasting 10+ minutes. Now imagine a group of filmmakers trying to do a collection of 26 short films all revolving around the same subject with even less time to tell their stories.
This is the very premise of the new horror collection “The ABCs of Death,” an anthology in which 26 different filmmakers were assigned a letter, asked to choose a word starting with that letter, and then given complete artistic freedom to make a short film involving death based on that word. The results, as you can probably imagine, vary in their effectiveness, but that’s the risk you run when you attempt to put this many short films together.
To give you a few examples, some of them are fairly basic, such as A is for Apocalypse, which involves one person killing another to avoid having them die in the coming Armageddon. Some of them are just outright weird and will leave you scratching your head as to how or why someone would think of it. For instance, F is for Fart (yes, it’s really in there), which involves death by inhalation of passed gas, seems to have been written by someone with a very low level of maturity, or Z is for Zetsumetsu (Extinction), which was rather inexplicable and didn’t seem to have much of anything to do with its word.
Many of them are just pointlessly gratuitous, such as X is for XXL, in which a fat woman is extremely desperate to get thin, or L is for Libido, which I’m not even going to get into the details of. This could have been an interesting opportunity to make short vignettes about the nature of death, which would have made for a far more fascinating film, but unfortunately, many of the filmmakers opted to try and gross out the audience instead. Just like with a full-length feature horror film, we’ve already seen that this method doesn’t work very well.
Another problem with having 26 short films in one collection is that some of them are bound to fall through the cracks, and by that I mean that several of them are simply forgettable among the rest. If you were to ask me to describe as many of them as I could remember on the spot, I might be able to tell you about a third of them, but after seeing so many short films doing similar grotesque activities, they merely become blurred together after a while.
The most entertainment to be had from the film ends up being in the attempt to guess what each letter stands for. For some, it is pretty obvious (O is for Orgasm comes to mind), but for others, it isn’t. I’ve already mentioned that the Z film has little to do with its word, but there are others that do this as well, such as K is for Klutz or G is for Gravity. However, there are some that you probably wouldn’t be able to guess even with unlimited chances, such as H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion.
If there’s one benefit to be had from putting this many short films together, it’s that, if you don’t care much for the current one you’re on, you don’t have to wait very long before the next one comes along given that each one runs only about four to five minutes. In fact, some of them run even shorter than that. However, chances are, if you’re not enjoying what you’re seeing in the first half hour of this two-hour collection, you’re probably not going to find a whole lot to like throughout.
This really isn’t that bad of an idea for an anthology, but again, it’s rather unfortunate that many, if not most, of the filmmakers decided to take the low road by making films filled to the brim with excessive gore. If all of those “Saw” sequels and “Hostel” films have taught us anything, it’s that this is not the right way to make an effective horror film. It’s rather amusing how a couple of references to the films of Stanley Kubrick are thrown in at the very end, as if to try and trick you into thinking you’ve seen something better than you actually have. Needless to say, it didn’t work, much like this entire experiment. 2/4 stars.
Starts tomorrow in limited release. Now available on Video on Demand.