An Anthology Film Taken to the Extreme – The ABCs of Death (2012)

February 1, 2013

The ABCs of Death is one of the most ambitious anthology projects to ever be made. 25 horror directors from around the world were chosen to direct a short film to do with a certain letter from the alphabet. Each was given $5000 and total control over what they make, as long as it results in someone dying. The 26th director was found through an online competition for the letter T, which was ultimately won by claymation expert – Lee Hardcastle.
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The two best short films by far were T is for Toilet (Lee Hardcastle) and X is for XXL (Xavier Gens), both including a lot of gore, one claymation and one live action. T is for Toilet starts out with a young boy who is attempting to be toilet trained, but is terrified of using anything other than his potty. His father finds it all hilarious and jokes around, whilst being quite cruel to his son. After a nightmare of the toilet almost becomes true, their bathroom becomes a blood soaked prison. Hardcastle is known for his amazing claymation skills, but this short is greater than any other he has done – it has the perfect amount of comedy and gore. X is for XXL is about an overweight woman being taunted by strangers in the street and reoccurring advertisements for bikini’s and weightless programmes. She decides that enough is enough and physically mutilates herself until she is literally just a pile of bones with a tiny amount of flesh attached. Coming from the director of the brutal Frontier(s) (2007), this short is equally amazing. Tonnes of gore that will make you cringe and squirm in your seat.
Although there were a few incredible entries into this anthology, some of the most successful and widely known directors let the film down – Ti West being the main culprit. His short was M is for Miscarriage and it sounds like it could have been grotesque and disgusting, but unfortunately it was the complete opposite. He basically filmed (on a really low quality camera) a hipster looking girl running around the house to try and find a plunger. That is the majority of his film. It ends with a shot of the toilet with a dead foetus at the bottom of it.  Not very interesting or exciting at all, and compared to his other films (The House of the Devil (2009) and The Innkeepers (2011)), this was leagues apart and just downright disappointing. Another sub-standard entry was G is for Gravity from Andrew Traucki. Following his preview films; Black Water (2007) and The Reef (2010), his short was also set in the ocean, but this time, with no horror elements at all in it. It’s basically a long point of view shot of a surfer running into the sea, then drowning. That’s it.
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As expected, the Japanese entries were full of comedic elements and some of the craziest ideas in the whole film. F is for Fart is the one that comes to mind first, being about a fart fetish. To put it simply, a schoolgirl has a massive crush on her teacher and during an earthquake a deadly black gas is released into the air, and kills everyone who breathes it in. Having a fart fetish, said schoolgirl runs into a building with her teacher and decides to be killed by her gas instead. After the schoolgirl has inhaled enough gas, the teacher somehow sucks back in her gas, taking the schoolgirl with it. It then cuts to a shot inside the teacher’s anus where a now naked schoolgirl is floating happily in her gas. Not exactly a film that would scare you, but more of a film that will make you think ‘what the hell was that?’
For a horror anthology, the majority of the short films weren’t actually horror; they just showed someone dying in an unusual manner. Possibly the weirdest death was in K is for Klutz, by Anders Morgenthaler. Being an animated short film, it wasn’t going to be scary, but it was definitely one of the best entries into the anthology. A woman is in a bathroom at a house party and goes for a dump. Unfortunately for her, her poo comes alive and jumps around the room, until it finally jumps back into her anus, travels through her body and kills her. Another contender for the weirdest death comes from Thomas Cappelen Malling’s short H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion. Think humans dressed as animals, crossed with Nazi robots and that’s basically what his short film is about. If you’re a fan of animals however, you should be wary of D is for Dogfight (Marcel Sarmiento) and P is for Pressure (Simon Rumley), as one contains a dog being beaten up, and the other has a tiny kitten being squashed to death with a pair of high heels.
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There is one short film that just has to be mentioned, as it is the one that will most likely make you feel uncomfortable. This one is from Indonesian director Timo Tjahjanto – L is for Libido. In some sort of fetish club, two men battle it out by masturbating over strange people, and seeing who orgasms first. The loser then gets killed by a giant spear from under their chair. What makes this so hard to watch is that the ‘strange people’ include a woman masturbating with her fake leg and a bulky man raping a young boy of about 7 years old. This seems like the sort of film that Srdjan Spasojevic (A Serbian Film) would have made, instead of his atrocious R is for Removed.
Taking all of the short films into consideration, the anthology is only just average. There are far more bad short films than good ones and hardly any of them truly scary or disturbing. It is definitely worth a watch though, to see each director take on the task in their own, personal ways.
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Apocalypse
Dir. Nacho Vigalondo

Bigfoot
Dir. Adrian Garcia Bogliano

Cycle
Dir. Ernesto Diaz Espinoza

Dogfight
Dir. Marcel Sarmiento

Exterminate
Dir. Angela Bettis

Fart
Dir. Noburo Iguchi

Gravity
Dir. Andrew Traucki

Hydro-Electric Diffusion
Dir. Thomas Cappelen Malling

Ingrown
Dir. Jorge Michel Grau

Jidai-Geki
Dir. Yudai Yamaguchi

Klutz
Dir. Anders Morgenthaler

Libido
Dir. Timo Tjahjanto

Miscarriage
Dir. Ti West

Nuptials
Dir. Banjong Pisanthanakun

Orgasm
Dir. Bruno Forzani, Helene Cattet

Pressure
Dir. Simon Rumley

Quack
Dir. Adam Wingard, Simon Barrett

Removed
Dir. Srdjan Spasojevic

Speed
Dir. Jake West

Toilet
Dir. Lee Hardcastle

Unearthed
Dir. Ben Wheatley

Vagitus
Dir. Kaare Andrews

WTF!
Dir. Jon Schnepp

XXL
Dir. Xavier Gens

Youngbuck
Dir. Jason Eisener

Zetsumetsu
Dir. Yoshihiro Nishimura

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