The ABCs of Death, Review

The ABCs of Death is a movie romp through the world of horror from A to Z.

What an ingenius concept! This film contains 26 unrelated vignettes directed by some of the best names in indie horror. Though not every vignette could be considered horror. They are tied together by the theme of death. Each director was given a letter and allowed to run with it. They were each to pick a word that started with that letter and create a short (and we do mean short) vignette around it. And they branch several different languages including Spanish, Japanese, French and English. Some are done with no dialogue at all. What came out of it was sometimes horrifying, sometimes disgusting, sometimes intriguing and sometimes just plain old messed up. This movie has something to horrify and disgust everyone. The author of this article actually had to fast forward through one that proved a little too disturbing. But we’ll get there. The movie doesn’t shy away from some really awful things including child molestation, suicide and sex. 

One of the things we found interesting from a film perspective is that many of these films, despite being made separately, had very similar themes. Sexuality, bodily functions and body horror seemed to dominate the vignettes. These three themes are very difficult to pull off. There is a fine line between examining sex from a horror lens and just making some very odd pornography. And when it comes to bodily functions, it’s easy to make us laugh instead of scream. Some of the films that attempted these two themes failed miserably while others were triumphant. 

Other films were incredibly unique and examined issues like suicide, the lies we tell to children and pedophilia. 

Because giving a synopsis of each short would probably ruin the essence of the film, we will only give a synopsis/analysis of our 5 favorite shorts and our 5 least favorite shorts. And then we’ll explain why the author of this article had to skip one.

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The author should disclose that because of certain “kitten crushing” situations in P is for Pressure, he didn’t get to watch P, Q or R. He’s sorry but he loves the kittens too much to be traumatized by a movie review. Plus Den of Geek doesn’t want to pay his therapy bills for the next 10 years. If you’ve seen this movie please let us know what happens in the comments below. And think of the kittens.

The Best
D is for Dogfight
Directed by Marcel Sarmiento

At first this one was very difficult to watch because it involves one of the major taboos of horror films. And that taboo is violence against cats and dogs. Dog lovers will rejoice in knowing that there is a “happy” ending to this piece so read on! This vignette tells the story of man vs beast. Literally. In what appears to be an underground fighting circuit, a man is pitted against a dog. The two fight it out for an excruciating amount of time. And just as the dog is about to tear out the man’s throat, the man realizes this dog is familiar. In fact, earlier, he saw a missing poster with the dog on it. So he calls out “Buddy.” And there is a moment where the dog and man both acknowledge that they shouldn’t be fighting each other. They should be fighting the real animal. The man who has forced man and man’s best friend to fight. They almost share a common humanity as they face off against their mutual enemy. This is probably the best and deepest of the 26 stories. This is a short story that manages to convey incredibly deep meaning without the use of dialogue, making it even more impressive. 

E is for Exterminate
Directed by Angela Bettis

Remember when we said there was something to horrify everyone? Well this one is dedicated to you arachnophobes. This short is pretty disturbing for anyone though. It is another man vs beast, but this time the beast is quite a bit smaller. Our protagonist is being stalked by a spider crawling up the wall. He has attempted to kill it, but has been unsuccessful. And we don’t know for sure, but we think that the spider has bitten him. Days pass and he seems to be having a reaction to the bite. He begins to feel ill and finds sores on his face and neck. And then there is a mysterious ringing in his ears. During the climax he is finally able to kill the spider. But the spider has one more surprise for him. The ringing in his ears becomes unbearable. And then hundreds of baby spiders crawl out of his ear. This is a wonderful piece of body horror. It is horrifying because it contains two amazingly done elements of horror: the monster (the spider); and the body turning against its owner. In this case the man’s ear has become an incubator for baby spiders. This tale seems to be influenced by the vignettes of Creepshow (1982), as in, it’s a little bit funny and most definitely disgusting. And for those of us terrified of spiders, this one will make you squirm and start looking around your house for these little octopedal invaders.

G is for Gravity
Directed by Andrew Traucki

This is an unnerving and unflinching look at death. The author of this article had to watch this short vignette twice to really grasp what was going on. It’s haunting and subtle and without dialogue. We are taken on a suicidal journey in the first person. This is shot entirely from first person point of view. We see a person park their car. They go into their trunk to retrieve a surfboard and a bag full of bricks. They paddle into the ocean and drown themselves. We are left there. Lingering in the first person as we sink. And the screen begins to go dark. And we are left there. Drowning. It is claustrophobic, terrifying and strangely peaceful. We are taken on a journey that we can never really go on; a suicide from which we can walk away at the end. It will leave you speechless.

L is for Libido
Directed by Timo Tjahjanto

Mixing sexuality and horror is difficult to do well. It is not a shock that despite many of the short stories having themes of sex, only one was able to crack our Top 5. If there is too much sex it ends up being weirdo porn. Too little and it ends up a snuff film. You have to find a happy middle ground. Which is exactly what Timo Tjahjanto does. The plot is very simple: two men are competing against one another to see who can ejaculate first. The winner gets to go on to the next round. And the loser is killed via a spike driven up his body. As the rounds go on, the images they are shown are more and more horrifying. It starts out with a sexy woman and moves on to things child pornography. What these men have to do in order to survive is enough to make a person gag. And yet some of these men appear to be genuinely enjoying the child pornography. Our protagonist loses at this point and ends up being killed as a part of the next round. It is horrifying and nauseating to say the least. We say, well done!

X is for XXL
Directed by Xavier Gens

Let’s start with a macabre joke shall we?

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How do you lose 20 pounds in a week? Cut off your leg.

We were wondering how they were going to tackle the letter X. Xavier Gens nailed it. This exquisite piece of body horror is enough to make any horror fan happy. We follow our female protagonist through her day as she is harassed in public for being overweight and surrounded by images of skinny models. They seem to be harassing her as much as the people she meets. When she arrives back at her apartment the same models are on television. She goes into the kitchen and begins to binge and purge. Which is difficult to watch but hold on, it gets better. She then begins to cut the fat off of her stomach in a fit of rage. She then begins to cut it off her face and thighs. She is bleeding profusely when she goes into the shower. When we witness her emerge, she has cut all the fat off her body. She is finally skinny. And she collapses and dies. There is an incredible message here about our views of the body and that living bodies have fat on them. And that women’s lives are worth more than a number on a scale. And how lives are ruined in efforts to modify the body. Strangely this is the most feminist piece in the whole bunch and it was directed by a man. Bravo! 

The Worst
F is for Fart
Directed by Noboru Iguchi

Honestly. Just no. A vignette about a school girl finally coming to terms with the fact that she farts while also allowing her teacher to kill her with a fart is bizarre. It doesn’t work and it was just awful. No deeper meaning. No interesting twist. Just some strange farting.

H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion
Directed by Thomas Malling

What is up with this one. We never thought we’d have to write “Nazi Furry porn” in an article, but here it is. This is just Nazi Furry porn. A Furry fox seduces a Furry bulldog but then it turns out she’s really a Nazi trying to kill the bulldog. It is really bizarre and not very well done. Plus, Nazi Furry porn. This is where the mix of sex and horror DOESN’T work.

M is for Miscarriage
Directed by Ti West

This is the story of a very femme and well dressed lady trying to flush her miscarriage down the toilet. That’s it. That’s the whole damn story. The concept is great but the execution is just meh. It’s a great twist ending but it is so short that it can’t convey any meaning. And this theme has been done and done well. So boo.

Directed by Jon Schnepp

WTF indeed. It wasn’t that this was a horrible piece. We just feel it could have been done much better. It takes place at a brainstorming session looking at what film they can make with the letter “W.” So in that sense it is interesting that it becomes somewhat meta. They brainstorm things like “walrus” and “warrior.” When suddenly zombie clowns attack, colored chemtrails fill the sky and a beautiful warrior battles a giant Walrus. Leaving everyone, including the audience, thinking, “WTF?” It was a great concept that could have been done better. We were disappointed.

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Z is for Zetsumetsu
Directed by Yoshihiro Nishimura

A woman with a giant penis with a sword sticking out of it fights another woman. In a post nuclear Japan. That now worships America. And a lot of rice ejaculation. We don’t really even know what goes on this film. There is so much and it’s so bizarre that it doesn’t work. Again, a sex and horror vignette that isn’t done well. So it comes off as a messy mixture of awful.

Den of Geek Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars 





4 out of 5