ABCs of Death, a wretched horror anthology in which 26 directors around the world were each given a letter of the alphabet to use as the basis for a short film, captures what it’s like to be a fan of horror movies: lots and lots of dreck, some of it gross, much of it inept, almost all of it forgettable. Yet buried underneath it all, you might find a rare gem. Are the three gems in ABCs of Death worth the 23 other shorts you have to sit through?
It won’t be easy. These shorts range from tedious to dull to flat-out “what the hell were you thinking, Ti West, because now you’ve made me like House of the Devil a little less?” They imply a Japanese preoccupation with farting and jacking off, as well as other countries’ directors expressing their fascination with turds and furries.
But the reasons to persevere are D for Dogfight, Q for Quack, and P for Pressure. Marcel Sarmiento, the director of the uneven but interesting Deadgirl, directs the sleekly hilarious and beautifully textured Dogfight, which is literally about a dogfight. The centerpiece of this live action short is a really awesome dog performance. Adam Wingard, the director of A Horrible Way to Die and the framing device for horror anthology V/H/S, seems fully aware of the futility of doing anything meaningful with five minutes and a random letter of the alphabet, particularly when his letter is Q. Both Dogfight and Quack realize that a good option for a horror short is a touch of black humor.
But then there’s Simon Rumley’s Pressure, which is hands down the best thing in this anthology, partly for how it plays with its title (few of these directors seemed to give a damn about their assigned letter, much less whatever word they came up with), but mostly for how it’s actually a horrific short about a character instead of just a hurried concept. Pressure makes the point that horrible things aren’t always only horrible things. This should come as no surprise if you’ve seen Red White & Blue, Rumley’s masterpiece revenge story, arranged in a heartbreaking lattice of confessionals, cross-motivations, and character reveals (Red White & Blue is available in Netflix’s instant view catalog and I cannot recommend it enough to anyone who can handle Jacobean excess). Pressure is exactly what I would expect the director of Red White & Blue to deliver.
ABCs of Death is available on video on demand services. Watch it here to support Quarter to Three.