The ABCs of Death (2012)

Before I watched The ABCs of Death, I didn’t know too much about it as I wanted a fresh mind for this kind of movie. The only thing I really knew was that it consisted of horror shorts beginning with each letter of the alphabet. The only other thing I knew was from other reviews, which gave me more of an insight into what others thought of this movie.

The general reception to The ABCs of Death were good, as I know that a lot of people really enjoyed the piece for what it was – but I cleared my mind of any knowledge and went right ahead to watching.

WARNING: May Contain Spoilers

(Each short will be reviewed individually.)

The ABCs of Death (2012)
Based on a Nightmare By: Ant Timpson

A is for Apocalypse
Directed by Nacho Vigalondo.
Starring Miquel Insua and Eva Llorach. 

This short was a little bit too anti-climactic, leaving me feeling slightly unfulfilled as the opening to an anthology. It’s a shame that this short wasn’t a strong one to start on, in my opinion. The choreography and execution of the violence was clumsy and didn’t hook me into the story. I suppose the concept of wanting someone to die before the apocalypse happened is a kindness and a part of the story I did find heartwarming. Aside from that and the good use of gore, I wasn’t entirely impressed. The way things were filmed gave Apocalypse an odd feeling, and I wouldn’t consider this one a favourite.

B is for Bigfoot
Directed by Adrián García Bogliano.
Starring Pablo Guisa Koestinger, Harold Torres, Alejandra Urdiaín and Greta Martinez. 

Bigfoot showed a typical set up to a monster-themed short. The two babysitters get the child to sleep by telling them a scary story. Sadly, the joke is on them, as the monster they think they have simply created is real.  The only way the child is spared is by counting sheep to prove she is trying to sleep. It’s such a cleverly put together short, taking ideas from typical children’s nightmares and making it a reality. The acting was surprisingly good and the tense atmosphere from the monster was excellent. Bigfoot was a great addition to this anthology.

C is for Cycle
Directed by Ernesto Díaz Espinoza.
Starring Juanita Ringeling and Matías Oviedo.

Cycle was the short within The ABCs of Death that I just couldn’t get into at all. I see what Ernesto was trying to do with the piece but I felt unmoved by the acting as well as the story itself. The endless cycle along with the strange sound coming from the dark hole in the bushes made what was, for me, something that could have been a lot better. The filming style didn’t work for me, either and overall it didn’t help my viewing experience.

D is for Dogfight
Directed by Marcel Sarmiento.
Starring Erik Aude, Lisa Lynch, Steve Berens, Joshua Diolosa, Riley the Dog, George Marquez and Chris Hampton. 

Dogfight was a clever, gritty short with absolutely phenomenal cinematography. The music went hand in hand with the atmosphere and the theme to create something so captivating to watch. The actors were fantastic, despite the lack of dialogue. Their actions and the way they enhanced the scenes with silent cheering as the fight advanced gave it that gritty, underground effect they were going for. The fight was incredible and well choreographed with some brilliant close ups added in for effect. The colours used in the scenes show additional depth to Dogfight and make for something that is truly entertaining and excellent to watch. This short was so well made and actually made itself a place in my mind as one of my favourite short films of all time.

E is for Exterminate
Directed by Angela Bettis.
Starring Brenden J. McVeigh.

Exterminate plays on the arachnophobia genre that is common in todays society. The idea is that people are afraid of spiders and afraid of what the scary stories say they’ll do to us. From the way it was filmed, to the acting, it’s all quite basic. I was very pleased with the spider visuals, however. Unfortunately, Exterminate was a little too corny for my tastes and the dialogue from Brenden was quite robotic. As a person who likes spiders, it didn’t have the desired effect on me as it would someone with a phobia, perhaps. It wasn’t exactly a gripping idea for me, which is a shame, because I think others will actually enjoy it. But as I said, due to the fact I’m not arachnophobic, it didn’t do its job for me.

F is for Fart
Directed by Noboru Iguchi.
Starring Arisa Nakamura, Yui Murata, Hozake Yamada, Tomomi Sugai and Honoka Murakami. 

Despite its comedic appearance, Fart was oddly romantic in story. Following a release of a deadly gas, school girl Yoshie intends to reveal her love for her teacher Miss Yumi by smelling her farts as she dies. The strange visuals, effects and the crude love story gives this short a strange likability. l was actually entertained by this piece, and the acting was actually really good considering the strange subject matter. I give a lot of credit to Noboru here as he really did create something funny and new to bring to the table.

G is for Gravity
Directed by Andrew Traucki.
Starring n/a.

Gravity depicts the beginnings of a typical GoPro surf video that you’d expect to see on Youtube or part of a known surfer’s webpage. However, this idea is pushed back when we realise the surfer has put bricks into his rucksack and things make a turn for the disturbing. Whereas the idea is excellent and the execution is great, there’s an overall eerie feel to the short and you finish it feeling quite strange. It does its job well and I like what Traucki has done here, because the GoPro idea is really creative, and I think this section deserves more credit than I think it has.

H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion 
Directed by Thomas Cappelen Malling
Starring n/a.

Within the Hydro-Electric Diffusion short, we’re treated to a stereotypical and incredibly satirical take on WWII. Using a bulldog as a British pilot and a fox as an undercover Nazi officer, we see a clever and quite funny take on the stereotypes associated with the Brits and the Nazis. The makeup is clever and really well done, but the concept is hilariously strange. It’s a really entertaining short, visually it is brilliant. Definitely worth the watch. The different contraptions created are creative and it ties the whole thing together perfectly.

I is for Ingrown
Directed by Jorge Michel Grau
Starring n/a.

Ingrown begins with a tense looking man in a bathroom. He’s seen clutching a syringe and we see he’s married from a ring on his finger. We then discover a woman is tied up in the bathtub. She’s injected and throws up. The woman has a ring on her finger too and we piece together through a beautiful internal monologue that she could in fact be this man’s wife. The entire short is tense and dark and the acting is brilliant. The monologue was well read and a great addition to the visuals we were treated to within the movie. This one is one to watch thanks to Jorge and it’s a stand out short within the feature film.

J is for Jidai Geki
Directed by Yudai Yamaguchi.
Starring Takashi Nishina and Daisuke Sasaki.

In Jidai Geki, the Yudai had a focus in mind which revolved around a samurai committing seppuku. Considering this ritual, our samurai must have a will to die honourably, or could have committed a serious crime. Either way, in death, he is charismatic and easily amused as we find him laughing in the entire situation. This short was well executed as a great historical idea with a good humour mixed in. The effects to create the laughing faces were incredibly funny, which seemed to add to the atmosphere of Jidai Geki. When the samurai is finally executed, the executioner begins to laugh at his final expression. I was pleasantly surprised by this short, and did really enjoy it. The visuals are excellent and it’s funny as well as a history piece to include everyone as an audience.

K is for Klutz
Directed by Anders Morgenthaler.
Starring n/a.

Klutz is an animated short that follows a woman who cannot seem to flush her poo down the toilet. The concept is laughable, and the animation more so. I found it incredibly entertaining and much definitely less serious than the rest. The art style was enjoyable and it was quite simplistic. There was no need for this to be over the top and the premise of the short is most likely relatable to some, aside from the end. I enjoy cartoon shorts, and this one adds to my list. It was fun and approachable, props to Anders for Klutz.

L is for Libido
Directed by Timo Tjahjanto.
Starring Paul Foster and Kelly Tandiono.

Libido is the short that I think puts this movie in the “disturbing” category. It follows a severe ‘masturbation’ contest in which whomever finishes last, gets impaled. The subject material on the stage slowly gets worse and worse until one of the contestants ends up on the stage himself, only to be cut up by a chainsaw by the woman straddling him. The cinematography is excellent and it’s one of the best short films in the collection. The visuals and the execution of what they were going for is definitely horrific and worth the watch. The use of gore and shock tactics add to the depth of the idea and creates something disgustingly entertaining.

M is for Miscarriage
Directed by Ti West.
Starring n/a.

Miscarriage is my least favourite short in this anthology. Ti West had a lot of potential here, but I think he fell through on execution. The concept and the follow up, I feel, don’t work and fall flat straight away. I feel as if it was missing something and felt disappointed when it was over. Considering that he could have done better when you take into account some of his other movie projects, I felt let down. There’s not much depth to the short and it’s just all round disinteresting.

N is for Nuptials
Directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun.
Starring n/a.

I had to watch Nuptials a couple of times to fully decide whether I really enjoyed it or not. There were elements of it I enjoyed whereas there were some I did not. The acting was good and I really like Banjong’s directing skills as I’m a huge fan of Shutter but the rest of the idea behind this short let me down. It was clever, but not something I would have expected within The ABCs of Death.

O is for Orgasm
Directed by Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani.
Starring n/a.

This short is a depiction of the female orgasm. It was a really clever idea, not only because the orgasm is often called the little death, but because asphyxiation was included in one of the visuals. This short was unusual, but well done. The close ups and the euphemisms used were fantastic and the cinematography along with the colours worked side by side to create something that no one else really thought to do. It’s sexy without being overly revealing and I think that’s why it worked so well.

P is for Pressure
Directed by Simon Rumley.
Starring n/a.

Pressure was a difficult short to watch, not only because it shows something that actually happens in the world, but because sometimes, people will go to extreme lengths to help get money to raise their kids. The concept of the story is quite sad, but the way it was filmed was absolutely exceptional. Though the (spoiler) animal cruelty is off screen, it’s a harsh implication and does make it hard to watch if you’re an animal lover. This piece is an incredible look at those who are less well off than others and the world of underground photography. I really recommend this one.

Q is for Quack
Directed by Adam Wingard.
Starring Adam Wingard.

Quack depicts our director Adam Wingard in a confusing state as he decides what to do with his letter. He quickly thinks that he could do what no one else has done and really kill someone or something on camera. The idea is simple and shows them in real time in a debate over the difficulty of having the letter Q, which I admit seems like a tricky task. The section is overall entertaining and I had fun watching it, especially the acting and the comedy relief to what they intend to do. The scenery used looks incredible and it’s entirely an enjoyable section. This section did its job better than others by using this kind of tactic.

R is for Remove
Directed by Srdjan Spasojevic.
Starring Vanja Lazin.

From the director of A Serbian Film, we get Remove. This shows a man who’s skin is used to make 35mm film. He is exploited due to his ‘technically’ famous skin but eventually grows tired of being used in such a way, so he seeks revenge. This short is set up in a dark, tense atmosphere and was so great to watch. It has a really eerie vibe to it and can be a little disgusting in parts but overall it’s an incredible addition to the anthology.

S is for Speed
Directed by Jake West.
Starring n/a.

Speed was a short that I didn’t really appreciate until the very end. The short follows a woman kidnapping another as she sacrifices her to a monster that is chasing her. When he denies the sacrifice, the woman falls into a hole and it’s revealed she was a junkie. The end was the best part of this short which made me appreciate the rest of the short as a whole, because I understood it. The acting was a little below par, which did ruin it a little for me, but when watched to the end, this short becomes quite entertaining.

T is for Toilet
Directed by Lee Hardcastle.
Starring n/a.

Toilet is a clay motion short about a young boy who is afraid of the toilet and his parents who aren’t quite sure why. It turns out that the toilet becomes a monster in his mind which makes him less than keen to use it. When he finally goes and realises it might be better than he thought, the bowl crashes down on him which leads his dad to come and see what the commotion is, he laughs at the scene. But when the top of the toilet falls down onto the boy’s head and crushes him, the dad screams in remorse. Toilet was an interesting short and I really liked the claymation style. The way it was directed and created was really inventive and entertaining, and I did really like that it was a British short, it gave me hope for Brit horror.

U is for Unearthed
Directed by Ben Wheatley.
Starring Simon Smith, Neil Maskell, Tilly Gaunt, Laurie Rose, Michael Smiley and Robin Hill.

Unearthed is a POV short from the eyes of the undead creature that has recently arisen. It has all the aesthetics of a classic vampire film and does its job well. The sounds are like you’d imagine of an undead ancient vampire/creature and the method of killing sticks to a traditional stake to the heart. Personally, I thought the POV idea was really creative and made the short a lot more interesting to watch. I was really sucked in to this one as I’m a sucker for a vampire and an angry mob. I recommend this short to vampire/monster fans – it’s most definitely worth it. The visuals are incredible and the acting is also really great. It all round works as a whole.

V is for Vagitus
Directed by Kaare Andrews.
Starring Kyra Zagorsky, Michael Rogers, Elisabeth Rosen, Jeremy Raymond, Johnson Phan, G. Patrick Currie, Daniel Bacon, Fraser Corbett, Seth Ranaweera, Casey Andrews and Leo Dowd.

Vagitus is one of my favourites within the anthology. It tells the story of a futuristic society where women must apply for fertility. Our main heroine applies and passes, only to find out she is biologically infertile. In the end, she must take on and protect a ‘mental’ child as his mother. This short was the most visually pleasing in all kinds of ways. The gun fire, the depiction of a futuristic society and the cinematography. It was all phenomenal to watch. If this was made into a feature film, I would be the first in line to watch it. The acting from everyone involved was superb and resonated within each character. There was a whole new depth to this story that made it feel very high budget and absolutely breathtaking. It’s a must for sci-fi fans!

W is for WTF!
Directed by Jon Schnepp.
Starring Laya Bella.

WTF! was a short that I don’t really have much to say on. It was better than Ti West’s entry, but it was still really difficult to watch. The idea was basically the same as Quack, but very rushed together. From what I got out of watching WTF! was that it was all of their ideas slammed together into one trippy experience. I wasn’t impressed and it didn’t really get me enthusiastic about Jon Schnepp and his work. The most redeeming part was the beginning animation, but it didn’t really last.

X is for XXL
Directed by Xavier Gens.
Starring Rurik Sallé and Sarah Bonrepaux.

We come to XXL. This short by Xavier Gens was my all time favourite within the film. It tells the story of an overweight woman who is unhappy with her body and surrounded by thin models and verbal abuse due to her size. It’s a classic look on how society looks at weight issues. From the beginning to end I was enthralled by this story and I really felt for the main character. She’s overweight and unhappy, but society won’t let her forget it and that’s what’s heartbreaking. The dialogue and the performance from the actors involved had me really feeling the tense and sorrowful atmosphere here and I could watch this short again and again. When it all finally gets too much, our main character mutilates herself to achieve ‘the perfect body’ and she falls to the floor and dies as she pulls the supermodel pose. The effects used in the mutilation scene are fantastic, the visuals are great and the music really adds to the fact this is a tense and gritty look at what society is like when it comes to the weight topic. I thank Xavier for this piece, as it’s become a favourite short film of mine.

Y is for Young Buck
Directed by Jason Eisener.
Starring Rylan Logan.

Young Buck tells the story of a young boy being taught to hunt by an old man who we soon find out has a less than innocent infatuation with said young boys. There’s a lot of implied molestation and ends up as a revenge short. There was such a creepy vibe to this one with the colours, the music and the subject matter all mixed into one. I felt uneasy throughout. I think the final scene was the redeeming part as the young boy gets his revenge with a severed deer head. It’s a short you have to see for yourself to fully understand the odd feeling that comes from this short. In general, however, it is very well made.

Z is for Zetsu Metsu
Directed by Yoshihiro Nishimura.
Starring Hiroko Yashiki, Demo Tanaka, Je$$ica, Hiroaki Murakami, Naoko Takahashi, Kurumi Ochiai, Seminosuke Murasugi, Tsuyoshi Kazuno, Arata Yamanaka, Katsuyuki Miyake, Atsushi Hiroki, Yoshio Komatsu and Sadashi Matsubayashi.

Zetsu Metsu is a story that I believe shows how Western society has clearly influenced Japan over the years. It’s a cultural narrative telling of the American domination over Eastern society. We see that WWII has influenced this short a lot due to the cultural and social metaphors used. It’s a good one to watch, albeit slightly strange (in the form of a nazi mistress with a huge penis) but it’s gripping and is a great short to finish on. It wasn’t one of my favourites but it did entertain and did get its point across very well.

So that’s all 26 shorts as part of The ABCs of Death. If you’ve seen the anthology and you agree or disagree, let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear what you thought. If you haven’t seen it, I honestly think you should as it is incredible from start to finish. I give The ABCs of Death 4 out of 5 skulls (☠☠☠☠.)

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