Anthologies irritate me. Perhaps this is mostly due to the inconsistencies and the mere fact that a poor attempt to tie the fragmented stories together with a book-end narrative never works. I also find that the amount of time allotted to each story in most of these anthologies is just enough to annoy me with all of the weighty exposition and provide one thrill. The result feels like watching the dull part of three horror films without the climax of any.
Anthologies are irritating, but I would not put The ABCs of Death in this category. Thematically these films are tied together, but there is no effort made to combine them in narrative. Viewers going into viewing of this film will have a much better time if they realize that this is a collection of shorts, each separate and merely catalogued alphabetically for viewing enjoyment. As a matter of fact, there is nothing saying you have to watch these films in order. It will make no difference in the viewing experience how you watch these 26 short films, though attempting to sit and watch the entire film in one sitting may test the patience of some less dedicated viewers.
This may not be a typical anthology, but it is carries the same inconsistency in material that has become expected with them. The difference between this film and the anthologies with three to five short stories is the length of time we are forced to endure the weaker aspects of the film. The film’s producers even provide the audience with a disclaimer at the beginning of the film, almost seeming to warn us that they had no creative control in the individual films from 26 different international directors. They were each given a letter of the alphabet and told to make a film about death using a word starting with that letter. Most shorts are around six minutes, so it never lasts too long if they are absurd, disgusting or simply dull.
Be warned; there are many shorts within this list that are sure to disgust and offend. The Japanese filmmakers have especially unique styles, though anyone who has watched a film from Sushi Typhoon should be no stranger to the unique blend of violence, sex and humor. It is also important to point out that though each of the films are about death, this does not necessarily mean that these are all horror shorts. Some filmmakers take a more comical approach, and there are even a few animated shorts thrown into the mix.
This is not a film I would recommend as light viewing. This is the type of movie which could easily be watched in sections, and perhaps enjoyed more in moderation rather than enduring all 130 minutes at once. Though most shorts run at around six minutes, some of them are rather intrusive to the senses. There is something in here to offend everyone, something for everyone to hate, and also something to like. The only consistency throughout this collection seems to be the shock factor in the material. Some of the shorts shocked me simply due to the laziness of the filmmaker or the lack of any coherence, while others are offensive in the traditionally vulgar manner. There is animal abuse, fart jokes, falic weapons, masturbation and even a killer turd. Half the fun of the collection is trying to figure out what word the short is using for the letter, which is not revealed until the end.
The special features on the Blu-ray include behind-the-scenes footage, deleted scenes and making of features for the letters A-D, F, H-J, P, R, T, V, W, and Z. Even more impressive is the filmmaker’s commentary, which has over 30 filmmakers chiming in. Also included is a promotional featurette, a trailer and a BD-Live feature with the short film competition submissions.
Entertainment Value: 8/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 1-8/10
Historical Significance: 7/10
Disc Features: 7/10