I first heard about this “super-anthology” at the press event for last year’s Bradford Film Festival. The film was to be shown late at night, midway through the festival. I was a student in Leeds at the time and although I was enthusiastic to attend as much of the festival as possible, I was restricted by the final train back to Leeds that left at 11pm every night. Hence, I was unable to stay for any screenings that took place after 9pm. Long story short, I didn’t have the “pleasure” of seeing The ABCs of Death a year ago. I’ve finally gotten around to watching it and can safely say that this is a screening that wouldn’t have been worth risking a train home for. It’s a disappointing film for many reasons but mainly because it is such an exciting concept. As a horror fan, I was excited about seeing this film. The trailer made it seem like the absurd gore fest that it is. Vibrant and diverse, I was prepared for this film to be a tasteless and bloody celebration of all things unsubtle, similar to Hobo With a Shotgun (which I had a great experience of seeing at Glastonbury in 2011). I was not prepared for just how dull and lazy The ABCs of Death was going to be. Here’s the premise: 26 directors are each given a different letter of the alphabet, a budget of $5,000, complete artistic freedom and 1 theme – death. The result is a collection of 26 films that vastly vary in quality, style and content.
I am not sure if any of the segments are good. A lot of them are bad. Many are awful. Most are offensive and unpleasant. Two or three are interesting and, let’s say, “all right”. Is it worthwhile sitting through the film to see the ten minutes of credible footage? Perhaps not. This film would be at home in college dorm rooms with intoxicated students who will get a cheap laugh and thrill out of it. The highlight is D: Dogfight. This is a well-directed and thought out segment that works well despite the rest of the nonsense all around it. Ben Wheatley’s contribution, Unearthed, is interesting as is Gravity and Quack. When you think about how much was contributed to the making of The ABCs of Death it seems a real shame as most of it is a complete waste of time. It is not just the visual content of this film that is so unpleasant but it is the lack of enthusiasm, effort and passion shown by most of the film-makers. Another famous anthology that didn’t quite work is New York Stories but despite that film’s problems it remained a work of love and collaborative artistry. The ABCs of Death left me wondering, why bother? If you’re going to create such limp, uninteresting work, why not spend the $5,000 on ice cream or, dare I say it, film-making courses?
Thanks for reading and let’s all keep supporting our beloved film industry.