In Review: The ABCs of Death

by Matthew Hammond on 10/04/2013


It might be argued the power of horror cinema has waned since the glorious heyday of the 1970s and 80s. However, occasionally, a film arrives that captures and embraces the spirit of retro exploitation cinema while also being modern and dynamic. The ABCs of Death is such a work and the sheer level of freedom and ambition on display is positively astonishing.

The ABCs of Death was inspired by an intriguing concept from producer Ant Thompson. As a child, Thompson was a fan of a series of educational books which expressed its narrative through learning of the alphabet. The idea of taking this form and subverting it into an exercise in representing death through a genre-driven anthology form is an appealing and exciting opportunity.

The directorial talent assembled is incredible. From Kill List’s Ben Wheatley to controversial Serbian filmmaker Srdjan Spasojevic, via the likes of Xavier Gens and Nacho Vigalondo, the 26 directors are perhaps the most remarkable gathering of creative talent ever brought together for a such a project.

Like V/H/S, the film’s effect and tone fluctuates between each individual piece. The eccentricity and wild variety of styles create a tapestry of horror cinema emotions that moves with such electric energy, sense of inventiveness and originality that is thrilling to behold.

Some segments shine more brightly than others, with a couple of misfires. Andrew Traucki’s Gravity and Ti West’s Miscarriage in particular are fleeting and instantly forgettable. Timo Tjahjanto’s skin crawling Libido, Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett’s meta treat Quack, Lee Hardcastle’s claymation marvel Toilet and Xavier Gens’s master class in body horror shock, XXL, are highlights.

The final short in particular encapsulates the boldness and uncensored attitude of the film as a whole; Yoshihiro Nishimura concludes the shocking alphabet with a fever dream of political controversy, mutation, graphic nudity and a giant rice-firing phallus. It’s shocking, grotesque and downright bonkers. The film should be commended alone for the freedom afforded to the directors and the uniqueness of vision that has been translated to the screen. The ABCs of Death spells horror cinema magic.

Matthew has awarded The ABCs of Death four Torches of Truth


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