By: Heather Seebach

 The horror anthology has been making a comeback lately with films such as Chillerama and V/H/S but none are so ambitious as The ABCs of Death. Drafthouse Films, Timpson Films and Magnet Releasing joined forces to create this 26-part collection of short horror films from some of today's best genre filmmakers. Those involved were given full creative freedom with only two rules - their short must involve death and must be based on a word from their designated letter of the alphabet.

With each short, the title and filmmaker(s) are not revealed until the end, so it becomes a fun game for horror fans to guess not only who made the film but the word it is based on. That word is often the very punchline of the short.  Sometimes the choice of title is perplexing - like the "I" film that centers entirely around an injection but is ultimately titled "Ingrown." Huh?

As with most anthology films, The ABCs of Death is hit-or-miss. That is inevitable in a movie where none of the entries are connected or collaborative, and each filmmaker is given complete artistic freedom. The weakest shorts are the ones that barely follow the rules they were given. A few felt like shorts not made for this film that were just crammed in.  

Of the directors who nailed it, here are the MVPs:

- Nacho Vigalando (Timecrimes) who kicks the movie off strong with his bleak but funny "A" film.

- Adam Wingard (A Horrible Way To Die), whose fourth-wall-breaking short mocks the concept of the film itself.

- Xavier Gens (Frontier(s)) with a brutal, bloody satire of society's obsession with the perfect body in "XXL."

- Jason Eisener (Hobo with a Shotgun) who adds yet another fantastic short film to his resume with "Youngbuck."

Srdjan Spasojevic (A Serbian Film), Timo Tjahjanto (Macabre), Jake West (Doghouse) and Kaare Andrews (Altitude) also turn in some gritty, interesting shorts. The two animated ones - Anders Morgenthaler's "Klutz" and Lee Hardcastle's contest winner "Toilet" - are very good, also.

Meanwhile, the Japanese directors (including Noboru Iguchi and Yoshihiro Nishimura) deliver their usual hilariously over-the-top madness. Others are visually stunning but lacking a bit in substance, like Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl)'s Dogfight, which passes as a very stylish music video but seems ill-fitted here. Then there are a few that drag the movie down with vague narrative and veering off-theme.

I really wish some of the entries who lost the 26th director competition could have found a way into this. If you are not familiar with that contest, check out my article on the best entries. If I had my way, I would easily replace 7 shorts from The ABCs of Death with #2 through #8 on my list. The titles could certainly be adapted to a non-T letter, no problem.

I know one of the things that makes this flick so epic is the involvement of all the established genre filmmakers but frankly a few of them dropped the ball. If more of the aforementioned competition entries had found a way into the final product, it could have been a near-perfect collection of horror shorts instead of being so hit-or-miss. Of course, this is purely hypothetical and a moot point. I just hope it will encourage you to check out some of those fantastic contest entries. 

 The ABCs of Death is loaded with blood, tits, poop jokes, and a lot of poor taste. Animals and children are NOT safe, as the producers warn before the film begins. For some people, that is a deal breaker; for others, it is a guaranteed ticket. Only a few shorts feel like total missteps, but the good news is they are over quickly. That is the nice thing about such a large anthology as this - it feels like you're at a short film festival. You are not going to love them all, but when the majority are at least entertaining, if not great, then it pays off. 

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                              Best of the ABCs of Death Competition
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