The ABCs of Death

You really don't want to know what F stands for.

You really don’t want to know what F stands for.

(2012) Horror Anthology (Magnet) Ingrid Bolsø Berdal (voice), Erik Aude, Kyra Zagorsky, Ivan Gonzalez, Dallas Malloy, Sarah Bonrepaux, Lee Hardcastle, Fraser Corbett, Peter Pedrero, Darenzia, Arisa Nakamura, Hiroko Yashiki, Lucy Clements, Match, Yuri Murata, Je$$ica, Harold Torres, Mattias Oviedo, Alejandra Urdlain, Takashi Nishina, Chems Dahmani, Vanja Lazin. Directed by a bunch of people.  

Horror movies are undergoing a quiet renaissance with an underground that is active and imaginative. While many of these movies aren’t getting theatrical releases, with the advent of YouTube, VOD and other means of putting movies out there, we’re seeing some really good stuff not just here in America but from all over the world.

Tim League, founder of Fantastic Fest, America’s premier genre film festival, wants these talents to see the light of day. Along with co-producer Ant Timpson (a Kiwi whose Incredibly Strange Film Festival is one of the world’s most prestigious) he came up with a concept – assign 26 of the world’s most exciting up-and-coming horror film directors a letter of the alphabet and have them make a short film relating a word starting with that letter to death and then with all 26 shown as a single film.

Like all anthologies, the quality varies and with this many shorts (most of which last less than 5 minutes) there is a wide variety of styles and content. Some are more comic than horrific, some taking on a combination of the two. Many are attempts to push the boundaries, not only of gore but of good taste. Some are intriguing, some are innovative, some are repulsive and some are mediocre. Most people will find at least one of the shorts to be outstanding.

There were some that were just plain horrific in an old-fashioned sense –  A is for Apocalypse is, for example, from Nacho Vigolando (of Timecrimes and Extraterrestrial) in which a savage murder is turned into an act of mercy. One of my favorites was T is for Toilet in which an overly skittish young man who has an irrational fear of toilets (a fear which turned out to be justified) done in Claymation – the director, Lee Hardcastle, actually won the 26th spot on the roster in a contest.

Xavier Gens, the French director who helmed The Divide has one of the more straightforward shorts in the bunch.  In X is for XXL, a tormented overweight French woman decides to take matters into her own hands and reinvent herself to be more in line with the aesthetic of beauty that French models ascribe to. Take from that what you will.

There is also much humor. J is for Jidai-Geki (Samurai Film) from Japanese director Yudai Yamaguchi has a samurai about to deliver the coup de grace for a samurai committing hara-kiri unable to keep a straight face because of the faces his charge is making. Q is for Quack has Adam Wingard (A Horrible Way to Die) and Simon Barrett commiserating over the disrespect afforded them by being assigned the letter Q and at their billing  in the credits. They concoct a brilliant way to make their segment stand out – then screw it up about as badly as it can be.

There are some surreal segments such as O is for Orgasm and W is for WTF. There is the animated K is for Klutz and the Russ Meyers tribute S is for Speed. I could go on and on but I don’t think it necessary to go over all 26 entries. You get the drift.

There’s enough good stuff to outweigh the bad by a pretty decent margin, so I can recommend this for most horror fans and even those mainstream moviegoers who don’t mind having their boundaries pushed a bit. This isn’t for the faint of heart, the squeamish or the easily offended. Who it is for are those who are looking for something a bit out of the norm and have an open mind about movies. I recommend bringing along someone with a big booming belly laugh. There was a guy like that at my screening of the film and it helps immensely.

REASONS TO GO: Some big laughs and some big scares. Pushes some boundaries and offers examples of what’s going on in the horror underground around the world.

REASONS TO STAY: Uneven – some of the segments are less successful than others. Too much toilet humor.

FAMILY VALUES:  Crude humor, graphic nudity and gore, foul language, violence, disturbing images and themes, drug use and a partridge in a pear tree.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Ant Timpson and Tim Teague, producers of the film, are best known for running the Incredibly Strange Film Festival and Fantastic Fest respectively; Teague is also CEO of the Alamo Drafthouse chain of theaters.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 4/21/13: Rotten Tomatoes: 39% positive reviews. Metacritic: 44/100; critics really didn’t get on board for this one.



NEXT: I Declare War



"You're under arrest. No, really you are. Stop laughing!"

(Columbia) Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Seth Rogen, Bill Hader, Martha MacIsaac, Emma Stone, Aviva, Joe Lo Truglio, Kevin Corrigan, Marcella Lentz-Pope, Roger Iwata, Carla Gallo. Directed by Greg Mottola.

One of the hottest names in comedy in  is Judd Apatow, who is a producer on Superbad. Better still, the writer and one of the stars is another hot name, Seth Rogen (who starred in Apatow’s Knocked Up).

It is the waning days of their senior year and best friends Seth (Hill) and Evan (Cera) have passed through their high school years unremarkably, not cool enough to hang with the “A” crowd and as a result, score with the girls, but not quite dorky enough to be all-out geeks. There is a little tension in the air between them, however; Evan has been accepted to Dartmouth whereas Seth, who is not quite as smart as his friend, could only get into a state college.

They are going through their last weeks being put upon by jocks and wishing they could go to one last party, when they are invited to one by Jules (Stone), one of the cooler girls in school. The problem is that Seth has bragged that they have a fake ID and can get liquor for the party, so Jules is expecting them to. Making things worse, Becca (MacIasaac), a girl Evan has had a crush on, like, forever, is expecting him at the party too.

They might be okay though; their truly dorky friend Fogell (Mintz-Plasse) has gotten himself a fake ID which labels him a 25-year-old organ donor from Hawaii named McLovin (no first name). Seth is pulling his naturally curly hair out by the roots, but Fogell – er, McLovin – is confident. He goes into a liquor store, gets the items on the list provided by Seth and Evan, brings the bottles to the front counter – and gets cold-cocked by a robber.

The case is being investigated by two cops you won’t ever want to see pull you over – Slater (Hader) and Michaels (Rogen). They convince Fogell that they’ll drop him off wherever he wants to go and that they believe he’s a 25-year-old organ donor from Hawaii named McLovin. This forces Seth and Evan to improvise, leading them to the party from Hell. In the meantime, Fogell goes on a ridealong that makes “Cops” look like the “Donna Reed Show”.

This isn’t for the sensitive or the easily offended. The humor can be crude and sophomoric, and four letter words are used with great abandon. That said, this is easily one of the funniest movies of recent years. Some of the gags and jokes were laugh-out-loud, fall-out-of-your-seat, pee-your-pants funny.

The young actors do some really good work here. Mintz-Plasse, who looks like what Stewie from “The Family Guy” might look like when he grows up, is memorable as Fogell, getting not only the smarts right but also the awkwardness and false bravado letter perfect. It’s hard to believe he was only 17 years old at the time of filming. Hill has a great deal of potential, but he was unfocused at times and I wound up kind of getting sick of his character after awhile. MacIsaac is cute, sexy and does one of the better drunk seduction scenes you will ever witness.

Superbad was something of a surprise hit – although in all honesty Columbia’s publicity department pushed it hard. If you can get past the swearing and bodily fluids, you’re probably going to dig it big time. If not, well, there are reruns of I Love Lucy on TV Land that will suit you better.

WHY RENT THIS: Laugh-out-loud funny. Genuinely “gets” teenagers. Walks thin line between sentimentality and maudlin without falling off the rope.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Extremely crude and sophomoric. Final third drags in places.

FAMILY MATTERS: Are you kidding? This is crude, lewd, rude and proud to be that way. Lots of filthy language, plenty of sexual situations and the unrated cut on the DVD is even farther afield than the theatrical release. Not for the kids in any way shape or form even though some of the more mature boys will want to see it.

TRIVIAL PURSUITS: The lead roles were named for co-writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There are plenty in the extended unrated 2-disc DVD edition. There is a practical joke played on Jonah Hill as well as a faux documentary on actor Michael Cera, a staged interview in which Hill loses it during an interview with a snooty British interview, improvs done in the police cruiser with “special guest stars” including Justin Long, Chris Kattan, Jane Lynch and Kristen Wiig, as well as the traditional Apatow feature “Line-o-rama” in which lines of dialogue from the film are read by different actors.


TOMORROW: Angels and Demons