MRR Review: "The ABCs of Death"

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A 26-chapter anthology that showcases death in all its vicious wonder and brutal beauty.
2.5

MRR Review: "The ABCs of Death"

-- Rating: NR
Length: 123 minutes
Release Date: March 8, 2013
Directed by: Kaare Andrews, Angela Bettis, and 25 others
Genre: Horror

The surprise horror hit "V/H/S" proved that horror fans enjoy anthology films. That film, which told a wraparound story with three short films in the middle, was such a hit that it launched a sequel and inspired countless other films, one of which is "The ABCs of Death." Its creators want to make it clear that they hope to achieve something completely different with this film and possibly change the face of horror.

Unlike other anthologies, "The ABCs of Death" does not have a wraparound story and, instead, presents twenty-six separate brief stories, each having its own plot, director, and actors. The first story begins with the letter A, and each story features a title that begins with a different letter of the alphabet. Many of the stories feature some intense scenes of violence and gore, which will undoubtedly appeal to many horror fans.

Highlights from the film include the work of Ti West ("The Innkeepers"), who directs the short entitled "M is for Miscarriage." Although this story isn't as gory as some of the others are, it's so emotionally draining that it will leave many viewers wondering what they just saw. Marcel Sarmiento ("Deadgirl") does a phenomenal job behind the camera on "D is for Dogfight," a story that is as creative as it is entertaining.

Xavier Gens previously directed the French horror film "Frontier(s)," which drew controversy around the world, and his story, "X is for XXL," in this film will likely draw some controversy from viewers as well. Viewers will also want to pay attention to "Y is for Youngback," a short film from Jason Eisner ("Hobo with a Shotgun") and "V is for Vagitus" from Kaare Andrews ("Altitude"). Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett ("You're Next," "A Horrible Way to Die") team up for "Q is for Quack," a slightly humorous story that introduces a much-needed lightness for horror-worn viewers. Unfortunately, as it happens, that relative lightness is just the calm before the storm.

Despite having some great moments, the film also has a few average films tucked in the middle. Yoshihiro Nishimura ("Tokyo Gore Police") directs "Z is for Zetsumetsu," a segment that feels rather confusing than rewarding. Some viewers might also find "G for Gravity" from Andrew Traucki slightly disappointing. Traucki is a great horror director, who stepped behind the camera for "The Reef" and "Black Water," but in "The ABCs of Death," his short film seems to lack the power of his other movies.

"The ABCs of Death" has one of the most-interesting premises of recent horror films. Fans no longer need to choose whether to watch a film about aliens, a slasher film, or a dark emotional drama, because this film includes all of those stories. The reason for some of the seemingly uninteresting or weak plots is simply that "The ABCs of Death" doesn't always allow its directors as much time as they would need to tell an effective story. The film's 123-minute total run time can allot to each director no more than five minutes to tell a compelling, attention-grabbing story. In addition, the directors must develop the characters, find a way to let viewers root for those characters, and, on top of that, give the short a strong ending. Some directors, including West and Eisner, manage to successfully combine all of these elements in a few short minutes, while others seem to need a little more time to accomplish the same feat.

Traditional anthologies, which invest anywhere from fifteen to thirty minutes in each story, do a better job of telling multiple stories. Some viewers might also find themselves wishing that the stories had some connection to each other, and "The ABCs of Death" lacks that connection: when one story ends, the next begins, and this fast cut between stories might leave some viewers wishing that they had a break. Watching so many gory and disturbing stories in a row might be a little too much for some viewers.

Horror movie fans are sure to find something to love about "The ABCs of Death." Familiar faces step behind the camera and in front of the camera, including Angela Bettis, who starred in "May" before directing a few horror films. Graphic imagery, emotional punches, and heart-stopping action are just a few things that viewers can expect from this film. If those won't be scary enough for some, "The ABCs of Death" has a few scenes up its sleeve that will unnerve even the most horror-hardened viewer.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5