If you’ve ever watched Spike TV, you’ve probably seen “1,000 Ways to Die,” the morbidly amusing show that sarcastically re-creates the many ways that stupid or reckless people have been killed in horrible accidents. It’s black comedy taken to lowbrow extremes, with each “way to die” mockingly narrated to ridicule those who met with grisly, avoidable fates. All in good fun, of course.
“The ABCs of Death” follows a similar strategy, but its carnage is deliriously fictional and brazenly cinematic, coming from the deranged minds of 28 established and up-and-coming directors of horror. Each was assigned a letter of the alphabet (two films were co-
directed, hence the 28 total), a $5,000 budget and instructions to make a short film involving death, based on a word beginning with their letter. Each “chapter” ends, appropriately enough, with blood-red color filling the screen.
So we begin with “A is for Apocalypse,” by Nacho Vigalondo, the clever Spanish director of “Timecrimes,” and end with “Z is for Zetsumetsu” (“Extinction”) by Japan’s Yoshihiro Nishimura. In between is a crazily diverse variety of films by a who’s who of horror’s newest auteurs, including Americans Marcel Sarmiento, actress/director Angela Bettis and Ti West.
Employing a variety of techniques including live action, animation and Claymation, these “ABCs” inevitably vary in quality. But for those with a high tolerance for blood, gore and disturbing imagery, it’s fair to say that few are duds and several are brilliant. They provide a comprehensive snapshot of modern horror in all its gross-out glory. It’s a feast for fans of the genre and a guaranteed ordeal for everyone else.