Shocking, controversial, hilarious, touching, horrible, stylish, clever - there are probably as many complimentary adjectives to describe ambitious anthology movie THE ABCS OF DEATH as there are segments to it. What can be said about the movie as a whole is that, unbelievably, it works, both as a compendium picture, and as a fascinating snapshot of the current state of contemporary horror cinema. Parts of it may be too much for some people, parts of it may be too silly, parts of it may be too obscene, and in quite a few segments there is a worrying obsession with the toilet that works better in some stories than others, but overall the movie is well worth sticking with to the end.ABCs OF DEATH consists of 26 short films, by 26 different directors, crammed into a running time of just over two hours. The remit by the producers was simple: each director was allocated a letter of the alphabet and asked to make a short film related to that letter with a budget of not more than £5000. Taking this into account, ABCS OF DEATH could quite easily have been an uneven disaster of staggering proportions. That it has turned out to be the exact opposite is as delightful as it is surprising, with the standard of the shorts being very high indeed. Indeed, only a couple of segments fail to move you in some way, which is no small achievement. Each episode begins and ends with the colour red, with the ending also telling you the title of the short and the director responsible, so you get to learn straight away whose work you’ve just been watching. There is neither the space nor the time here to go into all the individual stories in detail, and I’m not going to reveal any of the titles because finding out what each letter stands for in the context of each story is part of the fun, but special mentions must go to to Jake West, Simon Rumley, Xavier Gens, Ben Wheatley, Adam Wingard, Ti West, Nacho Vigalondo, Marcel Sarmiento and Banjong Pisanthanakun, all of whom produced entries I absolutely loved. Lee Hardcastle’s claymation piece is probably the best use of the worryingly recurring toilet and toilet habits theme and manages to be both hilarious and terrifying while also being the only successful horror film I’m aware of to finish with a close up of a potty. A SERBIAN FILM’s Srdjan Spasojevic supplies my absolute favourite segment of the lot, and his is the one I’m most looking forward to seeing again when I give this movie another look. There are also a number of contributions from Japanese film-makers, quite a few of whom seem to be obsessed with young ladies breaking wind or young men engaged in other habits that might be described as rather less than tasteful, all to a point of excess that exceeds ludicrousness, and the final segment of the film, once seen, is not easily forgotten.
I was genuinely and pleasantly surprised by ABCS OF DEATH. I expected the film to have a couple of highlights at best, but it turned out to be quite a tour de force by a collective of exciting film-makers, almost all of whose visions were never less than interesting. I can highly recommend it, and I'm going to keep my fingers crossed that if the promised MORE ABCS OF DEATH materialises, it will keep up the very high standard set by the original.