Film Review: ‘The ABCs of Death’ a lifeless horror anthology

Man's best friend in a tender moment with man Credit: Magnet Releasing
Man’s best friend in a tender moment with man
Credit: Magnet Releasing

It was Blaise Pascal (although some say Mark Twain or George Bernard Shaw) who apologized to a friend for a long letter, saying he didn’t have time to make it short. Just because something is brief doesn’t mean it was easier to construct. It can, in fact, be harder. As proof, witness “The ABCs of Death,” a horror anthology of 26 shorts, each corresponding to a letter in the alphabet (“A is for apocalypse,” “B is for Bigfoot,” etc.). The longest lasts only a handful of minutes, the shortest about 30 seconds, and nearly all are obnoxious, forgettable time-wasters with images that are sadly less forgettable (Nazi dog strippers, farting lesbians, and so on).

It’s a shame, because the premise is inspired. Each of the 26 international filmmakers (28, actually) were assigned a letter and given free reign, so long as their film was brief and resulted in someone (or something) getting snuffed. Should a film whiff it, that’s conceivably okay, as there’s always a new one right around the corner. And yet the experience of watching “ABC’s” means always peering around the corner, frustration mounting as it becomes evident that even the talented filmmakers (“Timecrimes”’ Ernesto Diaz Espinoza, “Kill List”’s Ben Wheatley) have turned in work fathoms beneath them, mostly trading midnight-at-a-gorehound-festival juvenilia.

Okay, it’s not a total wash. Marcel Sarmiento’s “D is for Dogfight,” in which a bare knuckle boxer faces off against a fearsome mutt, has a weird, slow-motion beauty to it. Bruno Forzani and Héléne Cattet (of the French “Them”), with “O is for Orgasm,” deviate from the norm and give us an expressionistic montage of Dario Argento color filters. Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett — who contributed to another, slightly more successful recent horror omnibus package, “V/H/S” — make a self-reflexive comedy about the difficulties of find a good horror word pertaining to the letter Q.

Then again, it’s not a good sign that another filmmaker (animator Joe Schnepp) had a similar idea with the letter W. Still, it’s better to make the same joke than make a film with the usual parade of dumb shocks, or the stupid joke that comprises the contribution of Ti West, the talented filmmaker of “The House of the Devil” and “The Innkeepers.” Among this pedigree even a failed concept is one of the better entries, as with the not traumatic short by Srdjan Spasojevic, he of the notorious (if somewhat brilliant) “A Serbian Film.” Though all the work in “ABCs” is short, it’s not clear anyone gave them much time.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Woman dies when run over by bus at…

A woman at the Burning Man arts and culture festival in the Nevada desert died on Thursday when she was run over by a bus carrying participants.

National

Texas parents sue day care center for duct…

By Marice RichterDALLAS (Reuters) - A Texas couple has filed a lawsuit against the owners of a Fort Worth-area day care center seeking $1 million…

National

Santa Fe city council votes to decriminalize marijuana

By Joseph KolbALBUQUERQUE N.M. (Reuters) - Santa Fe on Wednesday became the latest U.S. city to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, with lawmakers in the…

International

Egypt queries Mursi over documents "leaked" to Al…

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt is investigating jailed ex-president Mohamed Mursi in connection with documents that judicial investigators say were leaked to the Qatar-based Al Jazeera…

Going Out

'Friends' coffeehouse Central Perk coming to NYC —…

"Friends" is coming back for a one-off special: "The One with the Free Coffee." Warner Bros. is bringing a pop-up replica of Central Perk, the…

Movies

Interview: 'As Above, So Below' directors: 5 ways…

The fraternal directors of the found footage horror "As Above, So Below" dish on the best ways to frighten the bejesus out of audiences.

Movies

Criterion's new Jacques Demy box mixes the light…

Jacques Demy, the most effervescent of French New Wave filmmakers, gets a Criterion box all to himself, with classics like "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg."

Entertainment

Comedian Joan Rivers, 81, rushed to New York…

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Acerbic comedian and fashion critic Joan Rivers was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York on Thursday after she reportedly…

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

U.S. Soccer

5 facts about new England captain Wayne Rooney

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was named as the new England captain by coach Roy Hodgson on Thursday.

NFL

Jets vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch

A win on Thursday night at the Eagles would give the Jets a 3-1 record and just their second winning preseason under head coach Rex Ryan.

Style

Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…

Wellbeing

4 healthy ingredient swaps to make your meals…

When it comes to eating well, everyone knows they could be doing better. But cooking in an apartment on a busy schedule is a recipe…

Wellbeing

Heart trumps brain when it comes to movies…

When you need a good cry, do you reach for the movie that’s “based on a true story”? Science says you’re giving your brain far…