The ABCs Of Death

commentary-abcsofdeath

No one can accuse The ABCs of Death of lacking ambition. It features 26 short films from different directors, one for each letter of the alphabet, all centered on the theme of death. As is typical of of the format it’s a bit of a mixed bag quality wise, but genre fans and the perverts among us you will probably find enough to enjoy here to make it worth a watch. Thoughts on the actual shorts aside, this is one of the most hilarious and entertaining commentary tracks I’ve ever heard. Technically it’s 27 commentary tracks as there’s one for each short and then an opening/closing credits add-on from co-producers Ant Timpson and Tim League. As with the shorts some are better than others, but there are a handful that had me laughing aloud and rewinding in disbelief. A few others are just plain old interesting too. Keep reading to see what I learned from the commentary track for The ABCs of Death.

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discs murderer lives

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. The Murderer Lives at 21 (UK release) A murderer is stalking the streets of Paris, and his only calling card is a literal calling card bearing the name “Monsieur Durand.” The police are getting nowhere fast, but when a petty criminal offers evidence that the killer resides in a local boarding house a top detective goes in undercover to ferret the murderer out for arrest. Hilarity ensues. I’m not kidding about it being hilarious either. Director Henri-Georges Clouzot would go on to make Wages of Fear, Diabolique and others, but his debut film shows an assured hand with both the visual style and a fantastic tonal balance between the mystery and the laughs. The dialogue moves at a ’40s screwball comedy pace, and it’s loaded with wit, smarts and innuendo. Even more impressive is the film’s final shot… especially knowing it was shot during the Nazi occupation of France. [UK DVD extras: Interview]

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The ABCs of Death

Editors’ note: With The ABCs of Death arriving in theaters this week, here is a re-run of our own Luke Mullen’s review of the film from Fantastic Fest, originally published on September 30, 2012. The brainchild of Ant Timpson and Tim League, The ABCs of Death sounds like a great idea: let’s bring some of the smartest up-and-coming genre directors together to create 26 separate short films, each based on a letter from the alphabet. If it sounds ambitious, that’s an understatement. Wrangling that many short films from so many different filmmakers in so many different countries couldn’t have been easy, but things finally came together and buzz was pretty high when we finally sat down to see it at Fantastic Fest. It’s hard to describe the experience of watching 26 different shorts in the space of two hours. There’s not really a sense of tone since each short is so different, but there does at least seem to be some sense of pacing due to the grouping of stories. Things start off well with three Spanish-language shorts from Nacho Vigalondo, Adrian Garcia Bogliano, and Ernesto Diaz Espinoza. Then Marcel Sarmiento‘s “D is for Dogfight” impresses in a big way and expectations are high. From there, it’s a rollercoaster ride with shorts ranging from pretty good to forgettable, culminating in Ti West‘s awful “M is for Miscarriage.” The second half features far more good than bad, but “Z” is so incredibly awful that it almost sours the whole experience.

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Angela Bettis

It seems like years since Drafthouse Films announced that they’d be boldly making a 26-part anthology that would shed a bloody spotlight on 26 different ways to die. With entries like “B is for Bigfoot” and “J is for Jidai-geki,” The ABCs of Death appears to be the kind of teaching tool that’s almost perverse enough to end up in Texas public schools. We’ve seen a trailer, written a review, and now the icosikaihexagonal horror is hitting all sorts of streaming and On Demand services ahead of its theatrical release in early March. Amidst a coordinated slew of interviews, I was lucky enough to speak via email with a personal favorite, filmmaker Angela Bettis, who starred in May, directed Roman and helmed the ABCs segment “E is for Exterminate.”

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The ABCs of Death

There’s a danger to anthology films in that the films often lack consistency when it comes to quality. They consist, after all, of multiple short films, each with their own writers, directors, and actors, and that variety can only lead to varying levels of success. So how do you combat the chance some of your shorts might suck? Make a movie featuring 26 shorts, of course. The ABCs of Death is an original Drafthouse Films production that gathered 26 filmmakers, assigned each of them a letter of the alphabet and gave them a simple task: make a very short film about death inspired by their particular letter. The roster of directors who answered the call are an international directory of genre fans and masters, and a small sampling includes Jason Eisener, Xavier Gens, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Nacho Vigalondo, Ti West, Ben Wheatley, and more. The first red band trailer has just appeared online, and you should check it out after the break.

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Kicking off this week with its Opening Night Gala for Hitchcock, Hollywood’s own AFI FEST effectively wraps up the year’s film festival-going season (a season that lasts approximately eleven months). Such calendar placement means that AFI FEST comes late enough in the year to serve as a last hurrah for titles that have been playing the festival circuit as far back as January (at Sundance) or as far away as France, Berlin, and Venice, and is the perfect opportunity for Southern California-based film geeks (or those willing to put some miles on their passport) to catch up on films they’ve been anticipating for months. Of course, of the 136 films playing at this year’s festival, we’ve managed to catch nearly a fifth of them at other fests, and we’re quite pleased to use this opportunity to remind you as such. Confused over what to see at the festival? Be confused no more! After the break, jog your memories of our always-extensive festival coverage with reviews for twenty-eight films set to play at this week’s AFI FEST that we’ve already seen (and, you know, reviewed). It’s like getting your festival coverage whole days early!

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Fantastic Fest 2012 Poster

The second wave of Fantastic Fest films is incredibly irritating. Why? Because alongside the first wave of titles, it represents the best line up in the festival’s history, and I won’t be there for the first time in years. Have no fear, because we’ll have plenty of Rejects on the ground covering every inch of film, but I will be twiddling my thumbs at home wishing I was getting drunk off of a third Guinness milkshake and watching weird movies. Looper is absolutely at the pinnacle here when it comes to anticipation, but there’s also the Cannes freak-out Holy Motors and Sinister, the newest film from Exorcism of Emily Rose director Scott Derrickson. Plus, the Fantastic Fest faithful can see a follow-up to New Kids Turbo and the ambitious horror short anthology The ABCs of Death, birthed outside of a dumpster right behind the Alamo Drafthouse. There’s also a healthy amount of filmmakers in attendance and probably some crazy surprises and why not just check out the whole obnoxiously good list yourself?

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Talk about giving back. With 26 directors and 26 short films making up the horror anthology The ABCs of Death, you’d imagine that they’d have their hands full, but the fine folks at Magnet, Timpson, and Drafthouse Filmshave decided to give back to the community. Their first poster promoting the project is a vibrant public service announcement celebrating the FUNdamentals of reading. It does it with a crow-winged Angel of death and a tiny toddler, but the sentiment is the right one. Check it out for yourself:

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According to a press release that left blood all over my inbox, Lee Hardcastle – a filmmaker twice featured in our illustrious Short Film of the Day feature – has won the chance to see his work next to 25 of the best horror filmmakers working today in the anthology picture The ABCs of Death. Drafthouse Films and Timpson Films held a contest that saw 170 entries narrowed down to 13 by the voting public. Those top 13 were then shown to the directors involved in the production, and they voted Hardcastle as the winner. T is For Toilet features a young boy who is learning to use the toilet all by himself, and the horrific monster that we all know lives inside all of our johns has different plans for him and his family. It should be shown to all potty training young ones, alongside this magical gem. Runners up, T is for Talk by Peter Haynes; T is for Turbo by Francois Simard, Anouk Whissel and Yoann-Karl Whissel; T is for Table by Shane Free; and T is for Termite by Steve Daniels will all be invited to be included in the DVD/Blu-ray release of the film. In the mean time, check out T is for Toilet for yourself:

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Why Watch? How do birthday wishes get granted? Take two minutes out of your day to find out, and you’ll be glad/bothered that you did. This beautifully shot, very short black comedy has the upper hand on being clever, unexpected and inappropriately funny. Just be careful the next time you blow out the candles, and remember – you still have time to vote for your favorite horror short in the ABCs of Death contest where the winner gets to see their work amidst 25 of the most talented horror filmmakers out there. What does it cost? Just 2 minutes of your time. Check out T is for Truck for yourself:

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Why Watch? There’s still time to vote for your favorite short film in the ABCs of Death contest where the winning director will see their work amongst 25 brilliant horror minds. This one is receiving a lot of love, and it’s easy to see why. The trend (and fascination) with child violence continues, but Paul F. Tompkins is the brilliant comic centerpiece of this short. It involves a string of child-murders, an active imagination, a lost tooth, and a costume meant to keep the magic of youth alive. Oh, and a lot of future therapy sessions. What does it cost? Just 5 minutes of your time. Check out T is for Tantrum for yourself:

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Why Watch? There’s still time to vote for your favorite short film in the ABCs of Death contest where the winning director will see their work amongst 25 brilliant horror minds. Here’s one that’s so delightfully, Sesame-Street-levels of deranged that it has to be celebrated. Besides, what’s more horrifying than public speaking, confusion, and a jury of evil children all smashed together in a primary color bit of ultra-violence? Even though it’s slightly less bloody than Blues Clues, it earns extra points for coming up with more T-words than all other entries combined. And for making me fear (and hunger for) tacos. What does it cost? Just 5 minutes of your time. Check out T is for Toss for yourself:

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Why Watch? An unseen villain, a simple request, and a gruesome outcome. For the next week or so, we’ll be shining a spotlight on some of the short films from the ABCs of Death competition going on right now to find the 26th director for the upcoming horror anthology. Each entry starts with the letter T and has to pick a T-word to use in a deadly way. The results include movies like this one from director Peter Haynes who decided to kill people with talking. Is it wanton gore or a keen insight into our relationship to media? The answer is probably somewhere between the two, but this gorgeously shot piece inspires fear directly because of its lack of information, it’s impressionistic character development (which is there, but not by much), and the horrifying act committed in its closing seconds. It’s the exclamation mark that comes after the red stuff spills liberally. What does it cost? Just 4 minute of your time. Check out T is For Talk for yourself:

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, we pick a dark corner at The Highball in Austin, Texas to speak with Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League and Mondo creative director Justin Ishmael (and get a few exclusives in the process). Plus, Scott Weinberg from Movies.com and our very own Brian Salisbury square off in the Movie News Pop Quiz. No alcohol was hurt during the making of this podcast. Listen Here: Download This Episode

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By now you’ve already heard about The ABCs of Death – the anthology project being put together by Drafthouse Films, Timpson Films and Magnet. 26 directors, 26 letters of the alphabet, and 26 tales of horror and gore. The complete list of directors includes: Kaare Andrews, Angela Bettis, Ernesto Diaz Espinoza, Jason Eisener, Bruno Forzani and Helene, Adrian Garcia Bogliao, Xavier Gens, Noburo Iguchi, Thomas Malling, Yoshihiro Nishimura, J.T. Petty, Banjong Pisanthanakun, Simon Rumley, Marcel Sarmiento, Chris Smith, Srdjan Spasojevic, Timo Tjahjanto, Andrew Traucki, Nacho Vigalondo, Jake West, Ti West, Ben Wheatley, Adam Wingard, Anders Wulffmorgenthaler, and Yudai Yamaguchi. You no doubt counted that list and saw 26 filmmakers. You also noticed that two of them are a filmmaking pair, which means they still need one more to complete the series. That’s where you come in. This is your chance to have your name next to the guy that made A Serbian Film on a film’s credit sequence. Drafthouse Films is hosting an open short film competition to choose the last director where contestants will choose their own word (starting with the Letter T (my money’s on “Trebuchet”)) and craft a short based on it. Entries will be whittled down to a final 10 by a public voting system, and the winner will be chosen by the directors listed above. There’s no entry fee, and it’s open from now until October 1st at midnight PST. Grab your camera. Get started.

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Drafthouse Films, the recently formed film production arm of Tim League’s kick-ass Alamo Drafthouse theaters, has just announced their involvement in a fantastically creative but dramatically risky new film. The ABCs Of Death is an anthology film slated to begin production next month that will feature short contributions from twenty-six different directors. All but one of them will be working professionals with the final slot “chosen as part of a worldwide competition to find a new filmmaking talent.” Some of the talented directors already attached include Jason Eisener (Hobo With A Shotgun), Yoshihiro Nishimura (Tokyo Gore Police), Nacho Vigalando (Timecrimes), Jake West (Doghouse), Ti West (House Of the Devil), and Ben Wheatley (Kill List). Animal attacks. Beheadings. Cannibals. Etc. Twenty-six individual chapters that showcase death in all its strange and brutal beauty. Twenty-six directors will participate from all corners of the world: Australia, United Kingdom, USA, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Nigeria, Denmark, Germany, Samoa, Finland, Mexico, Argentina, Spain and France. Established filmmakers and emerging new stars will make up the diverse roster of creative talent that will showcase these tales of termination, beginning alphabetically with the letter A and eradicating all life right through the letter Z. Each director is assigned a letter and every letter represents a word that acts as a springboard to tell a short story about death. A linking device will open, connect and close. This unique anthology will be a celebration of death in all its forms, from the shocking and exotic to the humorously […]

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