Friday, September 5, 2014

Streaming: A don't-miss for genre fans--the multi-part, multi-directed THE ABCs OF DEATH

THE ABCs OF DEATH didn't make much of a wave theatrically (it may have done better via VOD), most likely due to the fact that this 129-minute movie is made up of 26 short films about death (often very bloody, gory, sexual and gross deaths) by 26 different directors, is, as they say, a mixed bag. A very mixed bag. Each short lasts around four to five minutes in length, so if you're suddenly stuck with a loser, it won't be long before you hit a winner. Or at least something passable. A few of the segments are simply no good.  (Ti West is at it again. When will this guy's reputation reflect the kind of low-end, empty cinema -- except for The House of the Devil, his single good film -- that he insists on churning out?)

A few are weak but passable, some are actually quite good, and several are simply marvelous -- the kind of transgressive, ground-breaking cinema that leaves your jaw on the floor -- and that makes this movie a don't-miss for genre fans and anyone who appreciates seeing landmark creativity at work. Of course, you have to put up with the not-so-hot to excavate these gems.

At the film's beginning we are told that each director was given a letter of the alphabet and then asked to choose a word beginning with that letter. Each then created a short tale of death relating to his/her chosen word, and each had complete artistic freedom regarding the content of their segment. Fair enough. But what a huge diversity we find in the style and content here!

From animation and claymation to live action, real to surreal, from straight-ahead storytelling to anything goes -- you simply have no idea what you're in for until it comes whooshing, zooming, clawing, or creeping at you. Beginning with the work of one of our favorite Spanish directors, Nacho Vigalondo (who got the letter A), and his murder, which is set to something rather special, and ending with Yoshihiro Nishimura (the fellow who drew the Z) and his wham-bam compilation of, well, just about everything under the Japanese Sun, this is a trip like few others.

Along the way, you'll delight to Ander Morganthaler's animated use of the letter K (as funny and inventive as simple, colorful line drawings can get) and swoon fearfully to Marcel Sarmiento's slo-mo, animal-loving letter D (above); France's Xavier Gens , using X, offers one of the best of the lot -- a cautionary tale about taking too seriously the message of the media, advertising and a stupid populace, while Mexico's Jorge Michel Grau, with the letter I, gives us a simple tale of death from the POV and voice of the victim (this one is quietly amazing and very moving).

There's plenty more good stuff. You'll have your own favorites. The point is, there are riches within this odd little movie, so explore. The ABCs of Death can be streamed now via Netflix and elsewhere, and is also available on DVD. 

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