What I'm Watching: The ABC's of Death
Welcome back, Triskelions!
So, what movie had the honour of being the very first thing I watched in 2014? I hate to say it was "The ABC's of Death" but here we are...
I was going to get this when it came out on DVD, but the price made me scrunch my nose and say no. Too much for an anthology movie of this nature; 26 short films, most about 4-5 minutes long at most, each one taking a letter of the alphabet, picking a word that starts with that letter, and then telling a story about that thing being responsible for death.
That sounds like it has potential, but having that many short stories, you are also going to have any number of misfires.
I kept the movie in the back of my head, and was poking around Amazon and saw it was free on Amazon Prime, so decided I'd watch it at last.
Let me tell you, I should have taken my computer completely turning itself off due to power issues on the D story as a sign and never gone back. But I am persistent and pressed onwards.
Yeah, that kinda tells you what I thought right there, doesn't it?
I would say that out of over two dozen short stories, there is MAYBE five or six that are worth your time. Some have decently cute twists, as much as you can pull one off in a handful of minutes, at least. But so many stories are just meh and forgettable.
But worse than that, there are way too many that are just sheer fucked up. And y'all know I have no problem with fucked up. I like the Human Centipede movies, after a fashion, right?
However, having stories about a girl obsessed with how her teacher's farts smell, and would rather die smelling that than the impending doom of a toxic gas leak, and then gets sucked into her teacher's ass, which apparently also contains a pocket universe?
And then there's the stripping Nazi furry.
But then there's the Dogfight story, which is actually well done, told without words, and is amazingly shot. The Q story poking fun at this whole thing by breaking the fourth wall in a glorious way. Xavier Gens' X story, XXL is also really good, has something to say about society, and is super creepy and effective.
Some just don't make a lick of sense to me, like Cycle, which seems to be an endless loop of a guy going back in time to go back in time to go back in time to kill himself, but it also seems like that's NOT it and he was replaced? The storytelling could have been clearer on so many of these shorts. And they would have if they weren't forced to be only a few minutes long so this runtime didn't explode with 26 half hour movies, right?
So, a handful of gems, a few okay stories, then a whole back-acre of meh, bad, and WHAT WAS THAT?! stories. That's normal with an anthology, but usually you can say, oh, there's one great story out of three, or two good stories, but there's just SO many shots going out here, and not enough of a hit ratio. Which is a shame for the gold buried here.
There WAS some fun to be had, trying to guess what the word would be, since that's not revealed until the end of each short, wondering what each word for each letter would be the thing to do people in. That was the best way I got through this mess.
ABCs really needed more storytellers that could deal with this short format, and maybe be a bit more creative without being so insane that you just don't care.
Which is another problem; with so many stories told so quickly, you just don't care. Any one of these might be fine to go watch on YouTube and it would be a fine little short film. But by story #19, you are being introduced to yet another set of characters that you're supposed to care about for a blink of an eye, in a row? That's a big ask. These work less well when seen all back to back, strangely enough.
And personally, I wish the movie hadn't been front-loaded with a handful of foreign language shorts, that kinda made the learning curve a little higher than I would've liked, and took me longer to get into it. Mostly because I wasn't expecting it, to be sure.
I really can't recommend seeing this as a whole, but there's a few gems worth seeking out, if you want.
A strange experiment that just doesn't work, but has potential with a stronger focus and better creators, maybe? I dunno.