Friday, May 24, 2013

Movie Review: The ABCs of Death

The ABCs of Death
Directed by: Nacho Vigalondo (A Is for Apocalypse) , Adrián García Bogliano (B Is for Bigfoot), Ernesto Díaz Espinoza (C is for Cycle), Marcel Sarmiento (D Is for Dogfight), Angela Bettis (E is for Exterminate), Noboru Iguchi (F is for Fart), Andrew Traucki (G is for Gravity), Thomas Cappelen Malling (H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion), Jorge Michel Grau (I is for Ingrown), Yudai Yamaguchi (J is for Jidai-geki), Anders Morgenthaler (K is for Klutz), Timo Tjahjanto (L is for Libido), Ti West (M Is for Miscarriage), Banjong Pisanthanakun (N is for Nuptials), Bruno Forzani & Hélène Cattet (O is for Orgasm), Simon Rumley (P Is for Pressure), Adam Wingard (Q Is for Quack), Srdjan Spasojevic (R Is for Removed), Jake West (S is for Speed), Lee Hardcastle (T Is for Toilet), Ben Wheatley (U Is for Unearthed), Kaare Andrews (V is for Vagitus), Jon Schnepp (W is for WTF?), Xavier Gens (X Is for XXL), Jason Eisener (Y Is for Youngbuck), Yoshihiro Nishimura (Z is for Zetsumetsu).
Written by: Kaare Andrews, Simon Barrett, Hélène Cattet, Bruno Forzani, Adrián García Bogliano, Lee Hardcastle, Noboru Iguchi, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Simon Rumley, Jon Schnepp, Srdjan Spasojevic, Nacho Vigalondo, Dimitrije Vojnov, Ti West, Yudai Yamaguchi.
Featuring: Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Erik Aude, Kyra Zagorsky, Lainey, Iván González, Dallas Malloy, Sarah Bonrepaux, Lee Hardcastle, Fraser Corbett, Peter Pedrero, Darenzia, Arisa Nakamura, Yoshie, Hiroko Yashiki, Lucy Clements, M@tch, Yui Murata, Je$$ica, Harold Torres, Matías Oviedo, Alejandra Urdiaín, Takashi Nishina, Chems Dahmani, Vanja Lazin, Eva Llorach, Demo Tanaka, Greg De Cuir, Hiroaki Murakami, Tsuyoshi Kazuno, Pablo Guisa Koestinger, Miguel Insua, Arata Yamanaka, Martine Årnes Sørensen, Sadashi Matsubayashi, Manon Beuchot, Brenden McVeigh, Daisuke Sasaki, Kurumi Ochiai, Hozake Yamada, Xavier Magot, Seminosuke Murasugi, Joshua Diolosa, Juanita Ringeling, Tomomi Sugai, Honoka Murakami, Naoko Takahashi, Greta Martinez, Katsuyuki Miyake, Atsushi Hiroki, Yoshio Komatsu, Kim Richardson.

When you have a film that is just over two hours long, and contains 26 short films about death, I’m not sure how I can go about reviewing the film without it sounding like a hit list – running down the films that work, the films that don’t, and those who fall in the middle. So perhaps it’s lucky for me that the vast majority of the short films in The ABCs of Death are absolute crap – because then it’s easier to pass judgment on the movie as a whole – it sucks. True, there are some interesting shorts, some funny shorts, but none of them are the least bit scary – disappointing for a supposed horror film. And none of them are truly great either. While the idea of the omnibus film is almost always better in theory than it practice, most of them contain one or two truly terrific segments to justify watching the movie as a whole. Not so with The ABCs of Death. I have a feeling that even the best sequences in The ABCs of Death simply look better because of the crap they sit alongside.

The basic concept behind the film is simple. 26 filmmakers are given a letter, and then have to come up with a word, and then get about five minutes to make a short film about death using that word. The movie doesn’t tell you the director or the title of any one film until it ends – then we get the title like “A is for Apocalypse” or “D if for Dogfight” and the director. The 26 filmmakers picked come from around the world – although unless I’m mistaken the Middle East and Africa aren’t represented. For the most part, I hadn’t heard of the filmmakers before seeing this film – and I’m not sure I’ll ever watch another film by most of these filmmakers.

So, let’s rundown the title real quick. The films that work:  D is for Dogfight by Marcel Sarmiento, a disturbing, violent film, wordless film that shows far more promise than the director’s god-awful feature Dead Girl. N is for Nuptials by Banjong Pisanthakun, a funny film about a man, his girlfriend and a parrot that turns deadly. O is for Orgasm by Bruno Forzani and Helene Cattet, which is an almost avant-garde little film. Q is for Quack by Adam Wingard, which is essentially about Wingard complaining how he got stuck with the letter Q. R is for Removed by Srdjan Spasojevic, a disturbingly graphic film, that I have no idea what it means, but I will not soon forget. U is for Unearthed by Ben Wheatley, a POV of a man being chased by an angry mob. Best of all is probably Xavier Gens X is for XXL, easily the most disturbing and bloody of the lot.

The films that are terrible include: E is for Exterminate by horror mainstay Angela Bettis, which is simply ridiculous and cheesy. J is for Jidai-geki by Yudai Yamaguchi about a samurai executioner and funny faces. K is for Klutz by Anders Morgenthaler, about a turd that will not be flushed.  P is for Pressure, which takes one ridiculous turn after another. T is for Toilet, a stop motion animated film that doesn’t work on any level.

Somewhere in between are: A is for Apocalypse by Nacho Vigalondo, about a woman attacking the man she was poisoning for months because with what is going outside time has run out. B is for Bigfoot by Adrian Garcia Bogliano, which plays like one of those scary stories we tell kids, because that’s precisely what it is. C is for Cycle by Ernesto Diaz Espinoza, which even at only five minutes starts to repeat itself too soon. G is for Gravity by Andrew Trauki, a POV of a surfer’s last ride. I is for Ingrown by Jorge Michel Grau, which is a somewhat disturbing look at a serial killer and his victim. S is for Speed, a play on exploitation films, with a horrible ending. W is for WTF? By Jon Scnepp, which at least lives up to its name.

And then there are the following films, which are quite simply an absolute embarrassment for all involved. F is for Fart by Noboru Iguchi, which is even more disgusting and ridiculous than the unpromising title. H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion by Thomas Cappelen Malling with people dressed as giant dogs that somehow also involves Nazis. L is for Libido by Timo Tjahjanto about a ridiculous and disgusting competition. M is for Miscarriage by Ti West, who normally I love, but whose film is simply the laziest of the bunch. V is for Vagitus by Kaare Andrews, which kind of played like SNL’s Laser Cats. Y is for Youngbuck by Jason Eisener, who after Hobo with a Shotgun, once again proves why he should never be allowed to direct again. And finally, Z is for Zetsumetsu, which would be offensive if it weren’t so utterly, completely ridiculous.

So, for those you keeping track at home, that is 7 decent films, 6 that are not good, but not horrible, 4 terrible films, and 9 complete embarrassments. That’s not a good average. If there’s a lesson to be learned from The ABCs of Death it’s that omnibus films are almost never a good idea, that trying to squeeze too many into a 2 hour running time is an even worse idea, and that perhaps giving directors “complete artistic freedom” as the prologue states is a bad idea, since when you do, they often come up with complete shit. I doubt I will see a worse film than some of the entries in this omnibus film all year – and the decent chapters cannot save this from being a complete waste of time.

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