Saturday, October 04, 2014

Alphabet Soup

The ABCs of Death

The ABCs of Death (2013, various directors) is the anthology movie as complete clusterfuck. The premise finds 26 filmmakers assigned a word corresponding with a letter of the alphabet. Apart from the letter and word, the filmmakers were given their heads to produce whatever they felt like producing. As with all anthology films, the results are highly variable. The rate of signal to noise in this collection is depressingly low. A lot of these films play like student films. A lot of them are profoundly scatalogical (full disclosure: totally not my thing). Depressingly few of them are any good.

The best of these films are "A for Apocalypse, which starts things off, "E for Exterminate," "M for Miscarriage," and "U for Unearthed." These are directed, respectively, by Nacho Vigalondo, Angela Bettis, Ti West, and Ben Wheatley, all of whom have cred inside the genre. Talent will out. "A for Apocalypse" finds a couple at each others throats, with the wife going to extremes to murder her husband before the flick of the tale at the end. "E for Exterminate" is predictable, postulating a spider taking revenge on an apartment-dweller who has failed to kill it, but it's executed with panache. "M for Miscarriage" is a sketch of a film, eliding its narrative without actually having to show it. It's a classic of the minimalist "iceberg" method of storytelling. "U for Unearthed" is a first-person film from the point of view of a vampire that's been unearthed by angry villagers.

I'm waffling on the value of "V for Vagitus," which at the very least is visually interesting. It's a sci fi tale directed by Kaare Andrews that packs a LOT of ideas into its short running time, more than it can possibly explore inside of five minutes. The imagery--much of it derived from anime (Kaare moonlights as a comics artist)--is cyberpunk dystopia, crossed with Cronenbergian reproductive unease. There's a longer film in this stuff, and it probably needs to be longer, because the impression I got from this segment was utter chaos.

I'm also not sure what to do with "XXL," which is alternately fat shaming and critical of thinspo culture. It's vividly nasty, though, and likely to be triggering to anyone whose body shape deviates from the cultural ideal of beauty. But it can't help demonizing its fat woman, either, finding that she's fat because she's a disgusting comfort eater rather than, say genetically or physiologically disposed to size. This segment horrified me, sure, but often for all the wrong reasons.

The rest? Mostly dirty minded, scatalogical, and absurdly sexual, and rarely veering anywhere near fears that people actually have. Scatology is encouraged by the producers, as it so happens, given that two of the keywords are "Fart" and "Toilet", both of which result in films that are more unpleasant and puerile than transgressive. Ditto the more salacious segments encouraged by words like "Libido," "Zetsumetsu," and "Pressure."

The ABCs of Death

In truth, I should have turned this off after "Dogfight," which bothered me out of all proportion to what it actually puts on screen. It presents a boxing match between a man and a dog, and even though the dog likely wasn't hurt by the filmmakers, I'm not in the headspace to watch animals--dogs in particular--fictionally harmed. A couple of other segments feature animal harm, too, which is indicative of a kind of desperation for legitimately frightening material. These films would rather shock than frighten. I mostly found it depressing.

Current Challenge tally:

Total Viewings: 3

First Time Viewings: 2

Around the Web:

Eric over at Expelled Grey Matter finds that there's No Such Thing.

Tim over at The Other Side doesn't care much for Fright Night 2: New Blood, a sequel to a remake.

Scott at Blasphemous Tomes has gotten out of the blocks with The Witches, Equinox, and The Seventh Victim.

The erstwhile Dr. AC over at Horror 101 also gets out of the blocks with Exists and a giant flying turtle. The good doctor is doing the challenge for charity, so make sure to check out his progress and donate if you've got a mind.

Lady Terminator Erika gets religion with The Church.

Jose at Riding the Nightmare has housing trouble with The Evictors and tackles The Believers.

Willow at Curtsies and Hand Grenades starts off with some William Castle, and the theme-park ride that is The House on Haunted Hill.

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