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directed by Kaare Andrews, Angela Bettis, Hélène Cattet, Ernesto Díaz Espinoza, Jason Eisener, et al.
USA/New Zealand 2012

 

It was inevitable that a portmanteau film of twenty-six shorts by twenty-six filmmakers (actually twenty-seven since no one has bothered to surgically separate Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani) would be a mixed bag, but THE ABCs OF DEATH is rather a pointless exercise. Time constraints - very few of the shorts run over five minutes - mean that there is very little opportunity to build narratives, but most of the filmmakers aren't even interested in doing that; so the result is a series of punchlines that not only rarely elicit laughter but even many times fail to repulse no matter how much the filmmakers try to shock their predisposed audience.

The worst ones are pointless (Jorge Michel Grau's "I is for Ingrown", Thomas Cappelen Malling's "H is for Hyrdo-Electric Diffusion", and Nacho Vigalondo's "A is for Apocalypse"), obsessed with quite literal toilet humor (Anders Morgenthaler's animated "K is for Klutz" and, of course Lee Hardcastle's claymation "T is for Toilet"), are lazily self-referential (both Adam Wingard's "Q is for Quack" and Jon Schnepp's "W is for WTF!" address the challenge by making films in which characters argue what they are going to film for their designated letters), while the Japanese segments (Noboru Iguchi's awful "F is for Fart", Yudai Yamaguchi's "J is for Jidai-geki", and Yoshihiro Nishimura's "Z is for Zetsumetsu") mostly prove that it's going to take more than the relaxing of censorship standards (re: frontal nudity) to match - rather than imitate - the weirdness of classic Japanese sleaze from sixties Nikkatsu to eighties SOV flicks. Meanwhile, somewhat better-known cult filmmakers Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani (AMER) give us more surealistic sex/death giallo-fetishism in "O is for Orgasm" (Timo Tjahjanto's "L is for Libido" is more literal and less arty, but will probably have the same lack of effect on the viewer), while Ti West's (HOUSE OF THE DEVIL) "M is for Miscarriage" suggests that he's better off trying to perfect what he tried with THE INNKEEPERS, and "X is for XXL" by FRONTIER(S)' Xavier Gens shows that he has nothing new to say in the extreme horror genre, which was why he moved on to the mainstream (his upcoming pictures COLD SKIN and THE FARM both sound a lot more interesting).

In the middle ground are the inoffensive (Ernesto Díaz Espinoza's "C is for Cycle", Andrew Traucki's GoPro-gone-wrong "G is for Gravity", and Ben Wheatley's "U is for Unearthed"), have an EC Comics-like sense of humor (Adrián García Bogliano's "B for Bigfoot", scream queen Angela Bettis' "E is for Exterminate", "N is for Nuptials" or even Marcel Sarmiento's "D is for Dogfight"), at least have a hint of story that could be expanded (A SERBIAN FILM's Srdjan Spasojevic's "R is for Removed" and Jason Eisener's "Y is for Youngbuck") or is able to successfully encapsulate its story into the short running time (Simon Rumley's "P is for Pressure" and the not-bad-but-could-be-deeper "S is for Speed" by EVIL ALIENS' Jake West). A handful of these filmmakers have also directed entries for the pormanteau flicks V/H/S, V/H/S/2, and LITTLE DEATHS, and it might be interesting to compare their works with what's on display here.

Eric Cotenas

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Theatrical Release: 26 April 2013 (UK)

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DVD Review: Monster Pictures/Eureka Video - Region 2 - NTSC

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

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Distribution

Monster Pictures/Eureka Video

Region 2 - NTSC

Runtime 2:09:12
Video

1.78:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 7.42 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles English (for foreign segments)
Features Release Information:
Studio: Monster Pictures/Eureka Video

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
• DISC ONE:
• Audio Commentary with the producers and over thirty filmmakers
• Redband Trailer (16:9; 1:26)
• Greenband Trailer (16:9; 1:22)
• Do You Know Your ABCs? (16:9; 1:40)
• DISC TWO:
• 21 Behind the Scenes Segments on Fourteen of the Films
• AXS TV: A Look at 'The ABCs of Death' (16:9; 4:12)

DVD Release Date: July 22nd, 2013
Amaray

Chapters 27

 

Comments

The audio commentary features the participation of producers Ant Timpson and Tim League, as well as over thirty filmmakers including the directors, cast, and crew. While the comments do not necessarily increase one's appreciation of the films, they do reveal some interesting motivations behind the subject matter. Nacho Vigalondo talks about the pressure to deliver not only his own short's first shock but the film's first since he was tasked with the letter A. Adrián García Bogliano reveals some cheating in the challenge since he mounted his story as "Y is for Yeti" but the producers moved it to the beginning and changed it to "B is for Bigfoot" (it still works, but Yoshihiro Nishimura reveals that he was also given the letter R and mounted his project as "R is for Rice" before it was changed to "Z is for Zetsumetsu" (on the other hand, Simon Rumley reveals that the letter P in his film originally stood for Paramaribo - the capital of Suriname - before he changed it to "P is for Pressure").

Ernesto Díaz Espinoza talks about his direct inspiration from David Lynch's MULHOLLAND DRIVE for his "C is for Cycle", Anders Morgenthaler cites Disney shorts for "K is for Klutz", while Noboru Iguchi cites PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK as an unlikely influence on "F is for Fart", and Jorge Michel Grau cites the murders of women that appear in the Mexican newspapers daily. For his "M is for Miscarriage", Ti West decided to take an opposite tack from what he assumed would be his visually-arresting competition. Srdjan Spasojevic's commentary for "R is for Removed" is actually more of an internal monologue for his character (interesting but not very informative), while Jon Schnepp's commentary for "W is for WTF!" is all-but-unlistenable since he delivers a straightforward talk but then layers in another voice (presumably his own) mocking his own statements. Jason Eisener suggests that his "Y is for Youngbuck" takes place in the same universe as his HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN, and calls attention to the song for which the film (which he interprets as the origin story for a peculiar kind of superhero) serves as a music video.

The second disc of the DVD set (the Blu-ray - US HERE from Magnolia  and the UK edition from Monster Pictures, HERE, contains the film and extras on a single BD50) features twenty-one behind the scenes segments, deleted scenes, outtakes, interviews, and photo galleries for fourteen of the films (the films with more than one featurette have sub-menus and play all options) in addition to the usual disposable AXS TV special (which usually recycle behind-the-scenes and EPK footage from the extras on the R1 Magnet releases).

  - Eric Cotenas

 


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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

Distribution

Monster Pictures/Eureka Video

Region 2 - NTSC

 




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