For this 26-part assemblage I have plumped on two separate articles. For the statisticians among us the appraisal runs through the alphabet in its entirety, with each individual vignette receiving a score, not out of ten, but instead, five as it is my belief that it is a far more precise way of evaluating such fleeting segments. Like any compilation of shorts it has its troughs but also yields a fair share of peaks, cancelling out these more uninspired offerings. Being an eternal optimist I have decided to focus on my personal favorites as they hoist it well above par and make the prospect of its planned successor a mouth-watering invitation.
The ABCs of Death gets off to a flyer with Nacho Vigalondo’s A is for Apocalypse going straight for the jugular in the most literal sense. Domestic bliss long since deceased forms the narrative of our opening dose of death and Vigalondo wastes not a split second in enlightening us on the potential for mischief with his emotionally jarring opener.
It takes marital hostility to a whole new level, piling on the grue with darkly comical excess, but beyond the pitch black humor lays a somewhat emotive tale which displays that while love may change, it still exists. It holds on to a fair degree of ambiguity with regards to retrospective and this suits its succinct duration hand-in-glove. There’s precious little time for reflection or motif but more than enough to evoke empathy for both protagonists. With a meager five minute time-frame, that is no small feat.
In totally unsystematic order, my next letter of gladness is Y for Young Buck. Jason Eisener may well be a recognizable name to you and, if not, then that is where the Keeper comes in. Allow me to enlighten any interns out there. Treevenge was his initial fifteen minutes of fame, with shrubbery citing their distinct disdain for the harsh handling they’ve been subjected to for hundreds of years of snapped branches and broken boughs.
Is it just me or is there a blueprint to Eisener’s work? Is he purely just a tree-hugger in disguise, an object of wanderlust, at one with the natural world? Again in Young Buck he exhibits nature at its most vengeful, only this time spotlighting vindictive venison. It manages, fruitfully I might add, to tackle the thorny topic of pedophilia.
This is not The Woodsman however. Kevin Bacon may have evoked a great degree of empathy from his addressees but the sycophantic turd of this fable is deserving of the comeuppance dished out by his antlered antagonist. Once more, Eisener displays an organic flair for short film-making in particular and compacts plentiful sterling content into its willowy running time, convincing us in the process that he is one to be keeping a very beady eye on over the coming years. I know Bambi will be giving a Bub-like full-hoof salute as we speak.
L is for Lust is a superb midpoint for The ABCs after the package has begun to flag a little. A strapping entry is the requisite to regain focus and it doesn’t frustrate. Sexual torture forms the crux of Timo Tjahjanto’s marvelously twisted entry and, to be more specific, veiled desire.
It’s a tantalizing curate’s piece, with some painful-looking skewering via devious mechanisms bolted sub-posterior wit the ability to bring tears to the ducts, as well as impish shit-eating grin spreads across our lip-licking chops. Imagine Japanese game-show Endurance with the ante cranked up to thirteen and you’ll get the general idea of the level of depravity Tjahjanto is prepared to inflict on any unflaccid deviants.
X is for XXL. Fuck diet plans, the blubbery belle here has a marginally more demented plan to silence the hecklers. It’s enough to make a Size Zero model dash out for a quick Zinger meal and Xavier Gens has a clear objective: to highlight the spitefulness of humankind and rapidly swelling obesity figures.
It also centers on the devastating effects of extreme dieting and eating disorders. Depending just how deep you want to delve into its meaning, it also takes a smart swipe at tabloid marketing and its despicably cruel intentions. Just as significantly it features a fuck-load of grue and discarded cellulite which is just as much its bread and butter.
C may well be for Cookie but in The ABCs of Death it’s also for Cycle. Continuing its imposing commencement, this uncanny entry from Ernesto Diaz Espinoza has a totally exclusive feel. Its one mass paradoxical mindfuck; Groundhog Minute if you will. Instead of Ned Ryerson we get somebody far more baleful.
I shall reveal no more as the less known the better on this occasion. The next time you make a decision on pruning the bush in the corner of your garden however, you may have second thoughts or…somebody may have got there first.
W is for WTF! And is the perfect summisal of this plainly preposterous light breather. Heads will be scratched but with no awareness that you’re doing so as you’ll be far too preoccupied attempting to fathom WTF! is going on and WTF! is coming next. In an eggshell, it’s sheer insanity and kudos to John Schnepp for throwing in two kitchen sinks. You’ll have forgotten what the fuck just occurred by the time XXL has bitch-slapped you with its bingo wings, but it warrants inclusion for sheer audacity alone.
G is for Gravity left me unmoved on primary viewing until I glanced to my right and witnessed my buddy, Silent Shadow gasping for precious oxygen alongside as if someone had their boot pressing down on his ribcage. As I watched the color return to his sea-sick expression I was forced into re-evaluation and, with lightning-fast deduction, I sussed where Andrew Traucki was intending to take his addressees.
When given his strict brief (“Your letter is G, you have five minutes to fill. Go! Fly my pretties”) he followed it to the letter offering a POV demise which implores you to step into the flippers of its hapless protagonist and catch that final wave on his behalf.
I must make mention Adrian Garcia Bogliano’s B is for Bigfoot which has one of the creepiest fucking death-bringers from recent memory. So impressive in fact, that he could sustain a full-length feature with no qualms. The tale itself is fairly simplistic but those eyes… one ghastly glaring peeper would be sufficient for bowel excavation all on its own. And there’s two of ‘em!
There is so much more meat in the baguette but to me these are the prime ribs. Like consequent listens to your favorite band/group/troop’s album, standouts will fluctuate but, as a great believer in trusting your gut’s primary reaction, these entries are what make The ABCs of Death a compelling experiment. Does it succeed as a whole? Yup, pretty much and for one clear reason. If one short stumbles then there’s another just behind it ready to pick things back up, thus it never wears out its welcome mat. If dross like Faces of Death can spawn four sequels, then I’d say the omens are positive for The ABCs of Death as it’s off to a fine start.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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