Wednesday, October 31, 2012

PFF: The ABCs of Death Review

26 directors, each given $5,000, a letter of the alphabet, and complete freedom compile an alphabetical guide of ways to die.

This was one of the movies I was excited to see at the festival. It met all my criteria: weird, ambitious, and unlikely to be screened elsewhere. And while it did not disappoint, it did not thrill either.

This is the most anthological (not a real word) of any horror anthology I've ever seen. 26 short films, only one of which appears in the trailer above, becomes, as you would expect, a challenging viewing experience. It's not that the movie is particularly sick or perverse or lacking in any way, there's just so much of it that I became overwhelmed by the experience of watching itself. Once the viewing crosses that line, a touch of the joy is lost.

Not to say there weren't very good shorts here. "D is for Dogfighting" was being screened before select prints of V/H/S as a preview for this movie and with good reason. The short is markedly well-done, constantly inventive, and conveys a full story in the briefest span. And it was fun to watch.

Likewise "Q is for Quack," "W is for WTF," "K is for Klutz," and "T is for Toilet" which all stick out in my mind. Ti West's short disappointed as did his piece for V/H/S, which was, again, doubly disappointing because he was one of the directors I was excited about. His short here came off as a cheap joke, almost lazy, and, after the joy I had seeing The Innkeepers at last year's festival, I'm wondering if the short form is really where he should be working.

There is a lot of good to this collection and I'm selling it short by criticizing it as I am. The problem ultimately lies in the presentation. This shouldn't be one program with piece after piece after piece. That becomes too much to take in and, since it's structured around the alphabet, kills some of the surprises. I found myself as the shorts went on trying to figure out what the cause of death would be. "If it's this letter, what could it be? What are they showing?" It didn't help that I became so exhausted watching that I forgot how the alphabet went, thinking U immediately followed Q. I would have enjoyed all of it more if it'd been sprinkled throughout a horror movie marathon--like a cable channel having a month of monsters and throughout playing random selections from The ABCs of Death. Then the shorts would have arrived in digestible chunks and not necessarily in order, adding a little more of a surprise.

Although nothing could be as surprising as Z. That, in all fairness, was the most ardently insane thing I'd ever seen on a movie screen and, yes, worth the price of admission alone, even if I'd had to pay.

3.5/5 stars

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