Monday, September 7, 2015

The ABCs of Death 1 & 2: Through the Eyes of Cat

---------!!Mild Spoilers!! ---------
Number Rolled: N/A
Movie Name/Year: The ABC’s of Death (2012)
Tagline: 26 Directors, 26 Ways to Die
Genre: Horror
Length: 129 minutes
Rating: NR
Production Companies: Magnet Releasing, Drafthouse Films, Timpson Films
Executive Producers: Ed Dougherty, Lee Kelleher, Oliver Linsley, Tom Quinn, Michel Teicher
Directors: (in order of film) Nacho Vigalondo, Adrian Garcia Bogliano, Ernesto Diaz Espinoza, Marcel Sarmiento, Angela Bettis, Noboru Iguchi, Andrew Traucki, Thomas Cappelen Malling, Jorge Michel Grau, Yudai Yamaguchi, Anders Morgenthaler, Timo Tjahjanto, Ti West, Banjong Pisanthanakun, Helene Cattet, Simon Rumley, Adam Wingard, Srdjan Spasojevic, Jake West, Lee Hardcastle, Ben Wheatley, Kaare Andrews, Jon Schnepp, Xavier Gens, Jason Eisener, Yoshihiro Nishimura
Writer: Assorted
Actors: Assorted

This film is a 26 segment anthology. 26 directors were each given a letter of the alphabet and were asked to film a short that featured their take on death, highlighting their assigned letter. The following were the segments for this set of ABCs: 
 
A – Apocalypse
B – Bigfoot
C – Cycle
D – Dogfight
E – Exterminate
F – Fart
G – Gravity
H – Hydro-Electric Diffusion
I – Ingrown
J – Jidai-geki
K – Klutz
L – Libido
M – Miscarriage
N – Nuptials
O – Orgasm
P – Pressure
Q – Quack
R – Removed
S – Speed
T – Toilet
U – Unearthed
V – Vagitus
W – WTF?
X – XXL
Y – Youngbuck
Z – Zetsumetsu

Number Rolled: N/A
Movie Name/Year: The ABCs of Death 2 (2014)
Tagline: Some people never learn
Genre: Horror
Length: 122 minutes
Rating: NR
Production Companies: Drafthouse Films, Magnet Releasing, Okta, Producciones de la 5ta Avenida, Rook Films, Shaiker, Soychiume Co., Tea Shop & Company, Timpson Films
Executive Producers: James Harris, Mark Lane
Director: Rodney Ascher, Julian Barratt, Robert Boockeck, Alejandro Brugues, Kristina Buozyte, Alexandre Bustillo, Larry Fessenden, Julian Gilbey, Jim Hosking, Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen, E.L. Katz, Ahron Keshales, Steven Kostanski, Marvin Kren, Juan Martinez Moreno, Erik Matti, Julien Maury, Robert Morgan, Chris Nash, Vincenzo Natali, Hajime Ohata, Navot Papushado, Bill Plympton, Dennison Ramalho, Todd Rohal, Jerome Sable, Bruno Samper, Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska, Soichi Umezawa
Writers: Assorted
Actors: Assorted

This sequel follows the same theme as the first ABCs of Death movie. 26 segments featuring different letters of the alphabet. Each director had free reign for the content of their short films. The following were the segments for this set of ABCs: 

A – Amateur
B – Badger
C – Capital Punishment
D – Deloused
E – Equilibrium
F – Falling
G – Grandad
H – Head Games
I – Invincible
J – Jesus
K – Knell
L – Legacy
M – Masticate
N – Nexus
O – Ochlocracy
P – P-P-P-P SCARY!
Q – Questionnaire
R – Roulette
S – Split
T – Torture Porn
U – Utopia
V – Vacation
W – Wish
X – Xylophone
Y – Youth
Z – Zygote

Cat’s Point of View:

While Selina is continuing her Dragon Con adventure, I have another ‘blast from the past’ review for you. This time, I had a mini movie marathon in watching the ABCs of Death movies back to back. 

I am practically at a loss where to begin. 

My overall impression from these movies is that I didn’t particularly like them. Each had segments that were okay, and even pretty good – but the rest left me with a general feeling of “what in the world did I just watch?” There are just some things that cannot be unseen.

I almost wished I was watching Faces of Death (1978) or one of its many sequels, instead. 

In the first anthology, less than half of the shorts were enjoyable for me – in that squirmy sort of way. I thought the story and execution (seriously no pun there) for B is for Bigfoot, D is for Dogfight, I is for Ingrown, and U is for Unearthed were the stand-outs in this set of 26.

Bigfoot reminded me a bit of the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark horror anthology trilogy by Alvin Schwartz and unnervingly illustrated by Stephen Gammell. (It still blows my mind that those are considered ‘children’s books’; and can be purchased on most Scholastic book orders that go home with elementary students.) 

The dogfight isn’t one that you’d expect. It starts out rather cringe worthy (especially for animal lovers), but then leaves you with a sense of vindication. Ingrown is just heartbreaking and anger-inducing when you put the pieces of that puzzle together around the obvious murder going on.

There were a few others that were decent. I found N for Nuptials amusing with its blabbermouth parrot, and Q is for Quack was somewhat interesting in its ‘breaking the 4th wall’. The sketchy nature of the claymation in T is for Toilet added to the story of the little boy terrified of the commode. 

S is for Speed felt like it had come straight out of something like the Death Proof portion of the Grindhouse (2007) double-feature… that is, until the twist. 

V is for Vagitus seemed to have quite a few layers in it – I’m not entirely sold on it but it was interesting, and I almost wish there was more time for that story to be explored. This was also the segment that surprised me with a familiar face. 

I am a fan of SYFY’s show Helix (2014-), and Kyra Zagorsky (Toxin, My Life as a Dead Girl, The Pastor's Wife) is one of the leads. She played the enforcer that was ‘doing her part’ in exchange for a chance to be allowed to have a child in the future. There’s a bit of irony in this one.

Thus ends anything positive I have to say about this collection of short films. 

H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion definitely put the “H” in ‘what the hell did I just watch?’ The war dog and the Nazi vixen were just way too much over the top for me. Another that just left me with a feeling of confusion was O is for Orgasm. Seriously – was there death involved with that one? I’m not even sure. A woman blows orgasmic bubbles… and that’s really all I remember about it. No really. Bubbles like you’d give a kid to play with.

M is for Miscarriage actually pissed me off a bit. It almost felt like it was making light of something so heart wrenching and horrifying for a woman in that position. I also felt that it was extremely lazy within the context of the scope of this anthology project.

There are segments of this film that I believe were so abhorrent that I've already placed a mental block on those memories to prevent any re-visitation of them.

My final thought on this first ABCs film is that F is for Fart reminds us that sometimes really strange things come out of Japan. 

Overall, I think that this entire movie could be summarized by the title of the letter “W.”  W is [definitely] for WTF

On to the next!

In the second ABCs of Death installment, I found that I actually liked it a little bit more in general - in the way you might compare stinky diapers. I appreciated that they found a way to transition the short films better than the first. All of the participants in this project seemed to take it seriously.

I still came away with a feeling of ‘ugh’ after watching these. 

R for Roulette is one of the few that I really enjoyed. There are so many unexplained things that I just wanted more time for them to explore. What is going on outside??!? The tension as the clicks of empty chambers whittle away the odds for survival were practically thunderous on an emotional level.

I could see where N is for Nexus was going – at least partially. I enjoyed the buildup on this one. The taxi driver was a predictable disaster but how was it going to ultimately pan out? 

O is for Ochloracy was an interesting approach to the question of – “what happens if they find a zombie cure?” This was a well thought out story segment, and was executed well. (Ok so maybe I meant to pun that time.)

B is for Badger and E is for Equilibrium were the comedic relief in this anthology for me. S is for Split and V is for Vacation had an extra edge of uneasiness with them due to the fact that these weren’t clearly fictional scenarios from some fantasy-land. Plausibility is powerful.

As with the first, there were several shorts within this collection that just left me scratching my head. T is for Torture Porn, X is for Xylophone, and Z is for Zygote are among them. They received the most mix of ‘ew’ and ‘really???’ among my exclamations. 

Though, the segment that takes the cake and colors my perception of the entire second anthology is D is for Deloused. I repeat, there are some things that cannot be unseen. 

I had watched part of this ABCs sequel at the time that Selina first reviewed this. My internet connection had an issue and I was unable to finish it then. This is the segment that stayed with me. It haunted me. Disgusting isn’t even an adequate word. I have struggled to even really make sense of the plot of this one. 

I suppose, in some ways it makes that particular segment of this anthology wildly successful. I was horrified. However, it is also the reason I will never watch this again, and I will provide a disclaimer to anyone that I know that indicates they might try. 

I’m going to go spend a year in the shower now, trying to scrub these movies away.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score #1– 35%
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score #2– 76%

Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score #1 – 24%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score #2 – 41%

Netflix’s Prediction for Cat #1– 1.2/5
Netflix’s Prediction for Cat #2– 2/5

Cat’s Trust-the-Dice Score #11/5
Cat’s Trust-the-Dice Score #21.5/5


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