Friday, 19 July 2013



This is nominally an anthology movie, though it's not a film in itself (unlike the old Amicus movies like Tales From The Crypt and From Beyond The Grave), rather a miscellaneous assemblage of shorts. Twenty six directors (or teams) were given a letter of the alphabet and had to make a low-budget five-minute film entitled A Is For ....., B Is For ..... and so on. The result, is a wildly variable gathering replete with sex, gore, death and nudity, together with a worrying obsession with toilets and frequently descending into unwatchable rubbish, but it lacks any consistency of style and has no overarching wraparound, with none of the individual segments being very good and some of them being utterly terrible.

I don't usually take notes during a film, but I had to for this one in order to keep track. I see that I've written "imbecilic" twice, "wank fantasy" once, "bollocks", "gibberish" and "stupid". In the film's defence I've written "funny" once and "creepy" once, along with "nice visuals", but three out of twenty six is a pathetic batting average. Furthermore, the "creepy" one is only creepy because it plays on my dislike of spiders, and the "nice visuals" refers to Forzani and Cattet's undeniably beautiful but meaningless O Is For Orgasm - lit like Suspiria or Maurice Binder's Bond titles. The funniest is Adam Wingard's self-referential Q Is For Quack, as he complains about being lumbered with the letter Q and why his name is last in the alphabetical credits (except it isn't). X Is For XXL (and also Xavier Gens) has a lot of blood as a fat girl hacks herself down to a size zero, and V (Is For Vagitus) has some terrific production values with a giant Robocop droid tracking down unauthorised breeding.

The rest of it? Well, Ti West's piece (the worst thing he's done, and that includes Cabin Fever 2) is a staggeringly ill-judged bad taste gag about miscarriage, F Is For Fart is as tedious and puerile as it sounds, the concluding segment Z is an incoherent mixture of ranting, Nazis, naked women and a giant prosthetic penis with a knife sticking out of the end, and W Is For WTF? throws together clown zombies, muppets, the apocalypse and a giant walrus to no effect except WTF bafflement. There are a few animations: a cartoon about a turd that won't flush away and a claymation piece about toilet training (in which the Dad looks alarmingly like Michael Heseltine). No idea at all what's happening in Andrew Traucki's POV surfing bit or Ben Wheatley's POV woodland segment. Or the one with a bloke in a dog suit fighting a giant Nazi cat. Or L Is For Libido, which appears to be about a Japanese wanking competition. Most of the others are just so-so and I'm having to look back through my scribbles to bring them to mind.

The ABCs Of Death isn't a film, it's a YouTube playlist and that's really where it belongs. It's too varied in tone, even within some of the segments themselves, to work as a movie in its own right; even the worst of the Amicus compendiums work because they are all done by the same people. But you can't juxtapose films by the makers of A Serbian Film, Doghouse and Hobo With A Shotgun and expect any overall coherence. With many of the shorts being unremarkable and most of the rest being memorable in entirely the wrong way, it's a pain to sit through; it's occasionally disgusting, occasionally tasteless, never scary (except E, the spider bit, but that's just me) and too often settling for bums, willies and poo like easily amused little boys. Fewer stories (The 1-10 Of Death?) that each had longer to develop, and an attempt at some overall consistency, would have helped enormously (The Theatre Bizarre doesn't entirely work, but is better in this regard). As it is, it's a Eurovision Song Contest rather than a symphony.


No comments: