Fantastic Fest Review: The ABCs of Death


The ABCs of DeathSaturday night, Fantastic Fest held the U.S. premiere of the anthology film, The ABCs of Death. Like last year's Slacker 2011, this film featured 26 of the best, up-and-coming or already established horror directors showing off their creative ideas about death. The directors include Adam Wingard (You're Next), Ti West (House of the Devil), Noboru Iguchi (The Machine Girl, Robogeisha), Austin native Angela Bettis (May) and Adrián García Bogliano (Cold Sweat, Penumbra).

Before the screening started, Tim League took the stage to apologize about the print we were supposed to see. In the craziness of various festivals it had been invited to, they had neglected to send a print back to the Alamo for this first screening. All was okay, as they had a working copy of the film, although it was missing a few big edits that made it to TIFF. So while this was close to the final film, it wasn't nearly as tight nor did it have some corrected title cards, which really could help decipher some of the strangest deaths.

One of the most fun parts about The ABCs of Death is that the films are not preceded by what's going to be the killer in each episode. Each short will drag you through, making you guess the whole way through. Rather than having all the kills be something out of a horror movie, some very unique and obscure deaths are tossed in the bunch to throw you off. Sometimes, the killer isn't even an outside force but something in the characters themselves that led to their death. With all of this hype built up around what each death would be, some failed to reach the same successes as others. This shortfall could have been for lack of a good letter in some instances, but in others, I was left wondering why the director had gone that way.

The anthology film had its highs and lows. Because it includes so many different visions, it could only be expected that some would stand out more than others. My favorite letters of the bunch included: D, L, Q, T and W. I'll leave it up to you to guess what those could be.

"T" is perhaps the best of the bunch and it's got the most interesting story too. Back when The ABCs of Death was first announced, a contest was held for one of the letters of the film. Contestants submitted their short films for the death of their choice. The winner, Lee Hardcastle, created a stop-motion of one of the most fearful things for a toddler: the toilet. You can view the winning short here.

In the end, The ABCs of Death was a fun (albeit long at times) look at how several directors can show death with only a letter of the alphabet and a wild imagination. Some of these pieces would work well outside of the context of the film, while others have to be seen in the collection. The film is being distributed by Magnet, so expect this to make a comeback in Austin sometime soon or be available on VOD.

Austin connections: Alamo Drafthouse co-founder Tim League is one of the film's producers. Austin-born actress/filmmaker Angela Bettis directed the "U" segment in Austin with several key pieces of scenery driving home that fact.