Good short film anthologies are lovingly culled from disparate sources, so it's no surprise that the entries in this for-hire horror anthology-- in which 25-odd international filmmakers were tapped to provide brief, cheap chillers pegged to a letter of the alphabet-- are berserkly inconsistent. What's unexpected is how thoroughly The ABCs of Death's ample duds overshadow its treasures, and how uninspired it feels as a whole. Blame a premise that's both feather-light and almost unworkably wide open, along with an apparent edict by producers and horror film festival impresarios Ant Timpson and Tim League to get boobs, gore, child endangerment, and colorectal hijinks into every segment. Schtick-meisters and would-be taboo-smashers fare the worst: Timo Tjahjanto's "L is for Libido" flubs its Salo--style shock parade by subbing winking exploitation for political context, while the nonsensical "Z is for Zetsumetsu" from Yoshihiro Nishimura (Tokyo Gore Police) barely registers through its incoherence-- even with the World Trade Center's destruction re-enacted on a pair of tattooed tits. (One boob has the towers inked on it; the other boob has a jet.) The handful of truly memorable entries both interrogate the genre and incorporate wider cultural concerns: Where Jorge Michel Grau's "I is for Ingrown" and Simon Rumley's "P is for Pressure" each flesh out the woman-in-jeopardy trope with details most fanboys would rather avoid, Ti West (The House of the Devil) literally dunks our faces in them. His entry is both the flimsiest and most critically derided so far, but it's also the only one that incorporates its title into the narrative payoff (which I won’t give away).
Karre Andrews, Ernesto Diaz EspinozaDallas Malloy, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Ivan Conzalez, Kyra Zagorsky, Peter PedreroVariousAnt Timpson, Tim LeagueMagnolia Pictures