Sunday, June 9, 2013

DVD Review: THE ABCs OF DEATH (2013)


Label: Magnolia Home Entertainment

Region Code: 1 NTSC
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 130 Minutes
Audio: 5.1 Dolby Digital
Video: 16:9 Widescreen (1.78:1)
Directors: Bruno Forzani, Helene Cattet, Kaare Andrews, Angela Bettis, Adrian Bogliano, Jason Eisner, Ernesto Diaz Espinoza, Xavier Gens Noboru Iguchi, Thomas Malling, Jorge Michel Grau, Anders Morgenthaler, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Jbanjong Pisanthanakun, Simon Rumley, Marcel Sarmiento, Jon Schnepp, Srdjan Spasojevic, Timo Tjahjanto, Andrew Traucki, Nacho Vigalondo, Jake West, Ti West, Ben Wheatley, Adam Wingard, Yudai Yamaguchi
Tagline: 26 Directors, 26 Ways to Die 

AN ALPHABETICAL ARSENAL OF DESTRUCTION. This explosive film is comprised of 26 individual “chapters” on the topic of death, each helmed by a different director assigned to a specific letter of the alphabet. Provocative, funny and shocking, this anthology is the definitive vision of modern horror diversity. Get ready to learn your ABCs!

Gotta love the anthology format, there's a long tradition of it in horror cinema and this is a pretty unique concept hatched by Drafthouse Films Tim League and New Zealand based producer Any Timpson. we get 26 directors each taking on a letter of the alphabet pushing us towards the idea of death in some cinematic fashion. Like most anthologies there's a few stinkers in the bunch and given that there are 26 entries I would say that the ratio of awesome to stinkers in the bunch is pretty fucking low. Yeah, it's a bit of a disappointment overall but there's some blood-soaked entries worth sifting through the chaff to discover. So, without spoiling too much lets have a brief look at each of the entries with a letter grade for each, seems only appropriate for the ABCs OF DEATH...

A appropriately enough  stands for "Apocalypse" from director Nacho Vigalondo
who brought us the fantastic Spanish labguage time travelling thriller TIMECRIMES (2007) and it's my favorite of the bunch. In it a rather unhappy wife vents her frustration on her long suffering husband before the end prematurely and finally comes, this is a great start. A+ 

B is another neat one, this time a Spanish language chiller from director Adrian Garcia Bogliana (PENUMBRA) involving two horny teenagers and a not-very-sleepy young lady who interrupts their amorous nighttime pursuits  They relay a gruesome bedtime tale about a child-murdering abominable snowman who eats the hearts of children whom don't fall asleep at an appropriate hour. C

C is for "Cycle" and Spanish cinema is thriving with ABC's, director Ernesto Diaz Espinoza's (MANDRILL) temporal mystery-thriller should definitely appeal to fans of Nacho Vigalondo's TIMECRIMES (2007), need to check out more of Espinoza's filmography after enjoying this vignette. B

D is for "Dogfight" from Marcel Sarmiento the director of DEAD GIRL (2008) and this one churned my guts just based on the loathsome subject matter alone, the cruelty of dog fighting, but fear not this one does not glamorize nor condone the inhumane "sport", it's brutal there's a nice twist at the end which redeems this sweaty and violent entry. So far, we're just a few segments in and the score is four for four and I am completely into the ABCs of DEATH. A

E is for "Exterminate" comes to us from longtime Lucky McKee collaborator Angela Bettis (MAY). You recall her weird thriller ROMAN from a few years back which had her directing Mckee. This entry pertains to a man with a persistent arachnid infestation whom suffers from skin irritations and a constant ringing in his ears, not one of the more memorable entries in my opinion but it definitely got under my skin so to speak. E

F is for "Fart" from the director of THE MACHINE GIRL (2008) Noboru Iguchi and is the start of several Asian entries that are just beyond words, this one is a fart-fueled lesbian fantasy and the first to feel completely out of place here, not a fan of this flatulent fantasy. F

G is for "Gravity" from Andrew Traucki is seen from the POV of someone surfing who seems to have given up on life, another sub-standard entry that just fails to coalesce into anything worth watching, starting to get worried. F

H is for "Hydro-Electric Diffusion" from NORWEGIAN NINJA (2009) director Thomas Malling, a Nazi-exploitation of furry fandom-ism, a weird fantasy-nightmare that plays out like a dirty minded WWII-era Loony Toons propaganda film featuring a humanoid dog-headed pilot and a stripper-fox. Very strange but quite entertaining. B

I is for "Ingrown" from Mexican filmmaker Jorge Michael Grau and it's a painful one as a woman bound and gagged in bathtub is poisoned by a man with a syringe with a caustic compound, it's not terrible but the limitations of the format I think hurt this one a bit. C

J is for "Jidai-geki" (Samurai Move) from Yuda Yamaguchi (MEATBALL MACHINE) is a short one involving ritual suicide beheading, not much of a point to this one but it's bloody. D

K is for Klutz from Scandinavian filmmaker Anders Morgenthalleris the first animated short, the entire short is about a turd that's hard to shit out and even harder to flush with deadly consequences, at times it reminded me of the "Wadzilla" segment from CHILLERAMA. C

L is for "Libido" from Timo Tjahjanto (V/H/S/2) and let me just say, oh those fucked-up kinky Asians!  A bizarre and deadly contest of masturbation and self-restraint, this one is just weird and demented. C

M is for "Miscarriage" which comes from indie-darling Ti West (INNKEPPERS), I do enjoy all of West's feature films but this like his mediocre short on V/H/S is a misfire, this short is DOA. F

N is for"Nuptials" from SHUTTER (2004) director Banjong Pisanthanakum and is a fun bit of comedy as a man proposes to his girlfriend just as his pet parrot repeats quotations the young man has uttered to his mistress which leads to trouble, a fun entry. C

O is for "Orgasm" from the French film making duo of Bruno Forzani and Helene Cattet who directed AMER (2009) which I have yet to see. It's a stylized and sensual entry more suited to an erotic exploration like DESTRICTED (2010) but it's really out of place here, a sensual and titillating provocation, this is the ABCs OF DEATH not the ABCs OF EROTICISM. E

P is for "Pressure" from Simon Rumley of RED, WHITE AND BLUE and it's a crush-fetish video vignette, a desperate woman resorts to making crush videos with a cute kitty, that's it. E

Q is for "Quack" which comes from V/H/S alumnus Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett.  At first this vignette annoyed the shit outta me, a very hip and ironic entry as the filmmakers struggle to come with an idea for the letter "Q" finally arriving at the idea f shooting a snuff film with a duck, at the end I was won over, fun stuff. C

R is for "Removed" from A SERBIAN FILM director Srdjan Spasojevic is not for the squeamish, not surprising considering if you've seen A SERBIAN FILM, in it a man has his skin surgically removed, creating a fleshy 35mm strip of celluloid which is fed into a camera, this is a gory entry and becomes quite blood-soaked and pretty gross, too. C

S is for "Speed" from Jake West, the director of EVIL ALIENS, two amped-up women on the run from a hooded figure in a high stakes game of cat and mouse. What we get here are two smoking hot women, a menacing Death figure, a sweet muscle car, a kick ass flame thrower and a rather depressing anti-drug story and probably the best entry since the letter "D" for "Dogfight" and  bit of an upswing after a fairly pedestrian mid section. B

T is for "Toilet" from Lee Hardcastle who created a series of shorts called "Done in 60 Seconds. With Clay", your favorite horror films in 60 seconds done with claymation, be sure to check 'em out! This claymation entry features a young boy who fears using the toilet which confounds his parents, the boys nightmares feature a toothsome and acid-blooded shitter, in reality what he should fear is something  more mundane, a loose screw. B

U is for "Unearthed" from KILL LISTS' Ben Wheatley and continues the latter third streak awesomeness for the anthology after a weak midsection, a POV of someone afflicted with either vampyrism, lycanthropy or possession (not sure which) pursued by an angry mob, it has some decent gore and great energy to it, good stuff. A-

V is for "Vagitus" from Kaare Andrews who is an artist/writer for Marvel Comics in addition to directing the 2010 thriller ALTITUDE which was a bit generic, this however is a sci-fi dystopian actioner, in the future the government strictly controls fertility, a military branch aided by armed-robots enforces the law of the land with deadly force, we're thrust into a bloody battle with procreating "rebels" whom have para-psychic abilities. This was a high energy entry with some great sci-fi futuristic visuals, at the end I was hungering for a feature length film, that's a good sign. A

W is for "WTF!" from director Jon Schnepp who comes from fromAdult Swims  METOCALYPSE and VENTURE BROS. so it night not be a surprise that this segment  is an acid-tinged psychotic mind melter, an apocalyptic mind-numbing mix of live action and animation, a film within a film and completely unhinged. Not sure WTF! was happening but I feared I might slip into convulsions so much crazy shit was happening, it was obnoxious and absurd but not great. C

X is for "XXL"from Frenchman Xavier Gens of FRONTIER(S) features a heavy-set woman going about her day as she is ridiculed for her weight and subjected to advertisements geared towards thin women, she arrives home and binges on greasy slop, forces herself to vomit and jumps in the shower where she carves herself into the ideal woman. This is another one not for the squeamish as she slices of rolls of fat, be warned, there's lots of self mutilation, a sad trip indeed. B

Y is for "Youngbuck" from HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN's Jason Eisner, it begins with an older man teaching a young boy how to hunt deer, he's a creepy guy. It turns out he's a janitor at a school and after the boys basketball team finishes up practice he creepily licks the sweat from the benches the boys were sitting on. There's some implication of molestation going on here, not exactly sure but the boy attacks the old man with the decapitated deer's head, piercing the elderly sweat-licker's eyes with it's antlers. Loved the 80's synth score on this one. A

Z is for "Zetsummetsu" (Extinction) from TOKYO GORE POLICE's Yoshihiro Nishimura continues a streak of bizarre Asian entries with the ABCs ending it with a maggot ingested orgasm of Japanese Nazi kink with the bonus of a vaginal potato canon, loads of nudity and references to Dr. Strangelove, weird and gross, sorta fun.  C

Special Features:

- A: A, B, C, D, F, H, I, J, P, R, T, V, W, Z - An offering of Behind the Scenes, Making ofs and Deleted Scenes
- B: AXS TV: A look at 'The ABCs of Death'
- C: Filmmaker Commentary (Over 30 Filmmakers)

- D: Do You Know Your ABCs Trailer

Verdict: Hmm, wanted to enjoy this unique alphabetical anthology from start to finish but going in I just knew it would be a bit too much of everything  there's too much input, too many directors, it's overwhelming and uncohesive.  It turns out I was right, this is all over the map and it's about a 60/40 split with the turds winning out over the righteous. I give this a weak recommend if only because there's some actual  good stuff here but you're gonna have to whack away at the weeds for awhile to get to 'em. There's a little bit of everything here, something to offend, a few gross outs, and even a few stand-outs, just be prepared to skip around a bit.  2.5 Outta 5