First Glimpse: The ABCs of Death

Directed by: See note

Release Date: 31 January 2013 (VOD); 8 March 2013 (limited theaters)

There was a time when the anthology was a welcome concept in the horror film industry. Spawned and sustained by myriad TV series like The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, and Tales from the Crypt, short story form hit a climax in the sixties, seventies, and eighties, and then slowly dwindled away as clever premise gave way to splatter and franchise movies. Anthology films weren’t just for young directors and actors to cut their teeth on. Peruse a list of anthology films and the names you find are at legendary status: Mario Bava, John Landis, Dario Argento, George Romero, Vincent Price, Adrienne Barbeau, Peter Cushing, Karen Black. And it was good storytelling despite budgets that could be skimpy. Anyone growing up on horror has lingering memories of Joan Collins being stalked by a deranged Santa on a cozy Christmas or Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks singing The Midnight Special on a long, dark stretch of road.

The past few years, people have been talking about the anthology making a “comeback” though it never entirely went away. Films like Trick ‘r Treat and V/H/S were received warmly, but count me as one who was underwhelmed with the latter. In 2013, short form is going to get really short… and it’s brining back the big names. Producers Ant Timpson and Tim League have wrangles twenty-eight directors spanning an impressive fifteen countries for The ABCs of Death. Their homework assignment: pick a letter of the alphabet to use for a vignette about death (yes, I can count – two stories are from a directing duo). It’s an ambitious idea, and foolproof, in a way. With such a high number of offerings, you’re sure to find your cup of tea, and if something’s not to your taste it will probably be over in less than five minutes. The trailer shows snippets of each letter scene, with a grindhouse feel and I was pleased to see mediums like Claymation and animation included. Directors have to be careful here, though, lest they get lost in the shuffle. Brevity is the soul of wit, but with an average of less than five minutes per story, each director must rely on an excess of ingenuity, expressionism, and shock-value to get the viewer to remember their contribution. The trailer has already made it known that the range here will go from truly bizarre to thought-provoking. Who am I looking forward to? Gens, Vigolando, West, and Wheatley, but with twenty-six stories for the price of one, it’s worth the ticket cost.

Note: the directors (listed here in order of film sequence) are Nacho Vigolando, Adrian Garcia Bogliano, Ernesto Diaz Espinoza, Marcel Sarmiento, Angela Bettis, Noburo Iguchi, Andrew Traucki, Thomas Capellen Malling, Jorge Michel Grau, Yudai Yamaguchi, Anders Morgenthaler, Timo Tjahjanto, Ti West, Banjong Pisanthanakun, Bruno Forzani and Helene Cattet, Simon Rumley, Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett, Srdjan Spasojevic, Jake West, Lee Hardcastle, Ben Wheatley, Kaare Andrews, Jon Schnepp, Xavier Gens, Jason Eisener, and Yoshihiro Nishimura.

Verdict: 




By Kiki McGraw

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