is more about Macguffins than McGuffey.
Twenty-six directors from around the world were invited to kill people
off using successive letters of the alphabet.
The results vary. Such is usually
the case with anthology films, but even more so for producers Ant Timpson &
Tim League’s The ABCs of Death (trailer here), which opens
tomorrow in New York at the IFC Center.
titles of each constituent film often act as macabre punch lines, capping off
each bloody bit of business with a knowing wink. Therefore, to refer to many films by name
would often be spoilery. Fortunately,
they all come conveniently lettered for easy reference. Nacho Vigalondo’s “A” is a perfect example of
an ironic reveal. While not nearly as
inventive as Timecrimes or Extraterrestrial it offers some clever
black comedy to kick things off.
are some notable highlights, including Thomas Cappelen Malling’s “H,” which has
to be one of the darnedest WWII films ever.
It also helps rehabilitate the old “Keep Calm, Carry On” slogan after
the recent Amazon kerfuffle. Noburo
Iguchi’s “F” is an apocalyptic Yuri epic that should appeal to a wide range of
fetishists. Marcel Sarmiento earns major
style points for the visually dynamic genre-warping “D.” Perhaps the biggest twist is the one applied
to old school exploitation in Jake West’s “S.”
While not exactly classic, Yûdai Yamaguchi plays the premise of Hara-Kiri for laughs, succeeding to an
extent with “J.”
there are considerably more misfires and head-scratchers than minor masterworks
in ABC. Jorge Michel Grau’s “I” is a short, nasty bit
of cruelty. Ti West’s slight “M” might
be the biggest disappointment, covering similar ground as several other
letters, but with far less plot or characterization. Yet, the film saves the worst for last with
Yoshihiro Nishimura’s “Z,” an incomprehensible mess, aside from the
irredeemably offensive misuse of 9-11 imagery.
least many of the worse entries are also the shortest. Here’s the speed-dating run-down on all
Vigalondo’s A: Amusing but gimmicky.
García Bogliano’s B: Connects with childhood fear more than any other entry—B
Díaz Espinoza’s C: Like a so-so installment of a cable horror anthology show—C
Sarmiento’s D: Ambitiously expressionistic—A minus
Bettis’ E: Relatively funny creepy crawler black comedy—B minus
Iguchi’s F: Entertainingly over the top—A minus
Traucki’s G: Utterly forgettable—C minus
Cappelen Malling’s H: Hugely inventive—A
Michel Grau’s I: Vicious and depressing—F
Yamaguchi’s J: Unabashed slapstick—B minus
Morgenthaler’s K: One of several tales revolving around toilets—C minus
Tjahjanto’s L: Sick but surprising, like a the horror movie version of Eyes Wide Shut—C plus
West’s M: The complete waste of a perfectly good letter—F
Pisanthanakun’s N: An effectively dark little O. Henry-esque story—B plus
Forzani & Hélène Cattet’s O: Sexually explicit films ought to be more memorable—C
Rumley’s P: More social realism than genre, but featuring strong performances—B
Wingard & Simon Barrett’s Q: The first and funnier self-referential hipster
Spasojevic’s R: Strong set-up, weak payoff—B minus
West’s S: One of the alphabet’s best—A
Hardcastle’s T: Unfortunately, you can
probably guess what T stands for—C
Wheatley’s U: Promising but leaves viewers wishing for a more fully developed
Andrews’ V: Respectable foray into dystopian science fiction—B
Schepp’s W: Self-referential, but with
less bite and narrative cohesion—D minus
Gens’ X: Disturbing and somewhat derivative, but well executed—C plus
Eisener’s Y: An unpleasant dud by any conceivable standard—F
Nishimura’s Z: Unwatchable, incomprehensible, and insulting—F
Altogether that roughly averages to about a
C. To repeat the obvious, anthology
films are always considerably mixed bags.
Unfortunately, the low points of ABC
are truly bottom scrapers many viewers will probably wish they could unsee. Recommended only for true diehard horror
fans, The ABCs of Death opens
tomorrow (3/8) in New York at the IFC Center.
Labels: Anthology Films, Ben Wheatley, Horror Movies, Nacho Vigalondo, Ti West