Best of the "ABCS of Death" Competition

We first got wind of The ABCs of Death back in May. In addition to the 25 fantastic directors the horror anthology already boasts, Magnet and Drafthouse Films started a competition to find the 26th director, who would helm a short based around the letter "T".

The call for entries is now closed but voting continues here: Having been impressed by numerous candidates, I decided to dedicate this article to the very best.I strongly encourage you to watch as many entries as you can stand and vote for your favorites as well. Voting ends on Halloween. And please share which ones you watched and like in the comments section below! Here are my personal favorites in descending order:

10) T is for Temptation (dir: Michael Foulke)

T is for Temptation from Travis Gates on Vimeo.

This one has some great production value, and nice twisted sense of humor. It's a bit predictable (or maybe I've just seen too many horror films) but a cheeky little short all the same. I only wish the title was "T is for Thin Mint" instead. Fun fact: Lost fans will recognize this aspiring taxidermist as a certain high school teacher with an affinity for dynamite.

9) T is for Tips (dir: Christopher Baker)

Here is another one with a very twisted sense of humor. While the production value is not as impressive as Temptation, I actually prefer the wicked punchline of Tips. The pay-off is so worth the wait. I also like how this short is based entirely around its T word (something many of the competition entries failed to achieve).

8) T is for Turbo (dir: François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell)

T is for TURBO from on Vimeo.

Turbo is not really much of a horror short - more of a post-apocalyptic sci-fi - but with its hyper 80s style, kick-ass animation, and Peter Jackson-level gore, it is well worth watching. If you enjoy this, go find co-director Francois Simard's previous short, Le Bagman (soon to be a feature, and destined to be the next Hobo with a Shotgun). The gore and laughs are even more fantastic in that (and it's 4x as long).

7) T is for Table (dir: Shane Free)

We are moving away from the funny stuff for now (well, I suppose it depends on how sick you are). Table is a predictable little narrative but it still achieves great suspense and even a bit of claustrophobia. The story of two guys toying around with an ancient device and reaping the consequences of such - it reminds me a lot of a "Tales from the Crypt" episode. And I love that the titular table is not possessed or evil - what happens in the end is purely result of human idiocy. I love it!

6) T is for Tokophobia (dir: Evrim Ersoy, Russell Would, James Pearcey)

You don't even need to google "tokophobia" - you will know once you watch the short. The story here is very simple - and the camera never leaves the bathrooom - but watching this chick casually perform progressively more disturbing acts of self-mutiliation is deeply horrific. Of the near 100 films I watched from this competition, this is the only one to make me genuinely uncomfortable and borderline nauseous. I can barely stand to watch it again - the sound effects alone make me shudder. I originally expected a tongue-in-cheek ending to top it all off (like the fetus gets revenge) but alas, this isn't about that. Desperation and self-harm are far, far scarier. The term Cronenberg-esque comes to mind.

5) T is for Trespasser (dir: Bryan Ryan)

Without any real dialogue and little gore, Trespasser is a surprisingly effective horror short. It excels with music and editing. The story is a simple one but the filmmaker toys with perspective and a non-linear editing style to present an unsettling scenario that just gets eerier and eerier as it unfolds. I think the editing could have been a little tighter to achieve a greater twist but it really is fantastic as-is.

4) T is for Talk (dir: Peter Haynes)

Talk has gorgeous production value and simple but nasty gore. But mostly I love the story - it is so simple and without background - and that only makes it creepier. Who would do this, and why? Also, the actors are pretty good, and even the final scene is moving (especially for a character we've only seen for the last 4 minutes). Furthermore, the T word in the title is used perfectly - it the very focus of the story and source of fear. This is how it should be.

3) T is for Toss (dir: Jenn Rose, Erica Harrell)

T is for Toss from Erica Harrell on Vimeo.

Toss spoofs the concept of ABCs of Death itself by showing a twisted Sesame Street-like show, and it incorporates multiple T words in the process. You gotta appreciate ingenuity like that. On top of that, it's hilarious! And nasty! And might I add - directed by two women! Yay! I think this would have made an awesome promo for the competition - certainly better than Jason Eisener's T is for Twenty Bucks. Where else are you going to see toddlers disemboweling someone and fingerpainting with their blood??

2) T is for Thread (dir: Chris Nash)

T Is For Thread from Chris Nash on Vimeo.

Thread is deeply disturbing and a bit nauseating. You will certainly never consider plastic surgery from here on out. The cinematography and music keep the disturbing level rising right up until an epic climax full of over-the-top gore and a wicked sense of humor. You might have trouble scrubbing this one out of your brain for a few days.

1) T is for Toilet (dir: Lee Hardcastle)

You may already be familiar with Lee Hardcastle from his fantastic 60-second claymation horror recreations on YouTube. He tackles an original story with Toilet, wherein a little boy fears the toilet - and with good reason. The short is incredibly sick and twisted, and gloriously animated. Who knew clay gore could be so sickening? And the ending disturbs me to my very core - until I start laughing.

Honorable Mentions:

T is for Trout (dir: Daniel Johnson) (A funny tale wherein Big Mouth Billy Bass gets his revenge)
T is for Toxin (dir: Joe Begos) (a hyperkinetic POV story with a zombie feel to it)
T is for Thank You (dir: Gemma Fleming, Alex Mercado) (a very funny short, just not much of a horror film at all)

WTF Award: In this competition, I've seen flying testicles, killer boobs, a tranny fucking a stomach wound, carrot sodomy, a guy break off a thermometer in his ass, and tentacle rape - but none of those weirded me out as much as the simple WTFness of Nicolás Botana and Gonzalo Torrens's T is for Tomato. It's not that great of a film persay but it should be seen if only to be believed (and it's good for a laugh):

T IS FOR TOMATO (ABCs of death) 2011 from Gonzalo Torrens on Vimeo.
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