THE ABCS OF DEATH **** USA / New Zealand 2012 126 mins
Continuing the trend for independently produced horror anthologies (with a second V/H/S on the way), the gimmick for THE ABCS OF DEATH was to give 25 established genre filmmakers (and one non-established) an allocated letter of the alphabet and a fixed budget to go produce a mini-movie. The unique result is, needless to say, wildly mixed but, more than most portmanteau movies, if you’re not enjoying one particular episode, there is the knowledge that there are 25 more to choose from!
Some directors play it relatively safe, with Jake West’s “Speed” in particular, throwing as many commercial ingredients at the screen (fast cars, brunette hotties with flamethrowers, drugs) as possible. At least two episodes are fixated on toilet and fart humour, though Lee Hardcastle’s sublime Claymation “Toilet” surprises by being the wittiest of the comedy stories. Ti West (“Miscarriage”) contributes a rare misfire while talented actress-turned-filmmaker Angela Bettis (“Exterminate”) offers a neat variation on the cockroach episode of CREEPSHOW. The director of TOKYO GORE POLICE inevitably brings something batshit crazy to the table in the form of “Zetsumetsu”, which features a topless female Nazi with a huge, ejaculating cock for a leg fighting a naked girl who can propel vegetables with her pussy. The directors of AMER have created, in “Orgasm”, another beautiful, if pretentious giallo homage; while Jason Eisener’s marvellous “Young Buck” fulfils the retro promise of his earlier TREEVENGE and HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN. The opening “Apocalypse” proffers a gory domestic microcosm of the end of the world with a stunning punchline, while Xavier Gens’ show-stopping “XXL” has the outstanding gore FX of the whole movie with its unrelentingly grim and graphic tale of a compulsive eater who goes to extremes to achieve the “body beautiful”. Perhaps even sicker and maybe the finest of the 26 is “Libido”, which experiments with the format of the post-HOSTEL torture movie and achieves a level of discomfort most of the other directors avoid. Overall, though, there is easily enough entertaining-at-the-least material here to make it worth wading through what-were-they-thinking misfires like “Fart”.
Review by Steven West