R is for Review: 'The ABCs of Death'
“Anybody can die, evidently.”
-“ABC”, Robert Pinsky, United States Poet Laureate
“Necrophilia is more erotic than that [censored!].”
-SWfan, Flayrah commenter
The ABCs of Death is the brainchild of producer Ant Timpson (an end credit suggests the whole thing was inspired by a nightmare of his): take 26 horror directors from around the world and give them a letter of the alphabet. They then pick a word with that letter, and direct a short film for $5,000 that depicts a death involving that word.
Pretty simple, and a great concept for a horror anthology, but why the review on a furry site? Well, there’s Thomas Malling’s “H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion,” which is basically a live action Tex Avery cartoon. And there are plenty of animal-related shorts available, as well; some of the best shorts on the roster, including “D is for Dogfight,” “N is for Nuptials,” “P is for Pressure” and “Q is for Quack,” involve animals, if not always anthropomorphic.
But are these highlights worth the time for furries?
O is for Overview
The directors present represent every inhabited continent on Earth, and they choose a variety of different themes. Some are symbolic art films, like “O is for Orgasm” or “R is for Removed.” Others are not so art films; two feature what can only be described as “toilet humor” (“F is for Fart” and “K is for Klutz,” though not, ironically, “T is for Toilet”).
Many are dark comedies (“N is for Nuptials” and “Z is for Zetsumetsu,” for instance), two even postmodern films that explicitly point out the conceit of the movie for humor (“Q is for Quack” and “W is for WTF”). Some are more straight horror stories (“B is for Bigfoot” or “L is for Libido”), while others are more action oriented (“S is for Speed” and “V is for Vagitus”).
Traditional monsters are lacking; there is a vampire in “U is for Unearthed” and zombies in “W is for WTF,” but for the most part the deaths are not supernatural. Dream sequences feature in two shorts (“S is for Speed” and “T is for Toilet”). “S is for Speed” is also the only short to feature death personified.
The shorts are in multiple languages, though many are “silent,” featuring no dialogue. Perhaps surprisingly, none are shot in black and white. Most are live action, though two are animated (“K is for Klutz” is traditional while “T is for Toilet” is in claymation). Two are shot completely from the point of view of a single character (“G is for Gravity” and “U is for Unearthed”).
Though most are meant to be entertaining, a few tackle real social issues, including “I is for Ingrown,” “P is for Pressure” and “X is for XXL.” Animal cruelty is a recurring theme, found in “D is for Dogfight,” “P is for Pressure” and “Q is for Quack.”
H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion
This strange film is one of the more visually striking segments in the movie, and was featured in the trailer. The two characters are an anthropomorphic bulldog, Barry, and a vixen, Fraulein Scheiss. Though taking obvious cues from funny animal cartoons, the film is live action, featuring a compromise between makeup effects and fursuit-like costumes.
Barry looks pretty great as is, but Fraulein Scheiss takes a while to get used to. She took me a while to warm up to, but now I really dig the look. She’s a Sex Death Vixen, which are great; okay, she’s a Nazi Sex Death Vixen, which is the worst kind of Sex Death Vixen – but, on the other hand, Nazi Sex Death Vixen is the best kind of Nazi.
Yes, this is The ABCs of Death, and somebody has to get blown up a bit more permanently than usually, but you kind of get the feeling that these two have done this before; though obviously reminded of Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner, I also thought of Mad magazine’s “Spy vs. Spy.” Who knows who’ll win next short?
A is for Animals
The first animal-themed short is “D is for Dogfight,” by Marcel Sarmiento, and it’s the best short in the movie. It’s an almost dialogue free short where a man is entered into a presumably illegal prizefight with a vicious attack dog. The fight is vicious, hard to watch, and genuinely scary, partially because the vicious attack dog is not a big ugly brute but a fairly normal looking mutt. There is a twist that makes this short; it's really the one short, even more than “H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion,” that you need to see.
The next animal-themed short (and the next short, period) is Angela Bettis’ “E is for Exterminate,” and it’s a letdown after the previous short. A man tries to squish a bad CGI spider; it doesn’t end well for either party. Makes the five grand budget look like a five buck budget.
We’re halfway through the alphabet before the next animal-themed short pops up, but it’s pretty good, and actually kind of anthropomorphic, as Banjong Pisanthanakun’s “N is for Nuptials” features a man trying to romantically propose to his girlfriend with a talking parakeet. It starts out genuinely sweet, almost sappy, before taking a sharp left turn into hilarious dark humor. To say much more would ruin it, but it’s pretty good.
“P is for Pressure,” by Simon Rumley, features a struggling single mother of three in Suriname, where she works as a prostitute. When her on-again, off-again boyfriend steals her savings – leaving her without rent money, never mind the extra she was saving for one of her daughters’ birthday – she makes a deal with a man who wants her to do something truly horrible. One of the few shorts that actually had me thinking, “Oh, no.” Almost a spoiler to list with the other animal shorts, this short asks the quintessential short horror question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” as well as its even darker inverse, “Why do good things happen to bad people?”
“Q is for Quack” features Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett as the director and writer of a short for an upcoming horror anthology called The ABCs of Death, stuck with the letter Q (Get it? Get it?). Having no clue what to do, they decide to just shoot a duck for shock value. Maybe they should have learned proper gun safety first … surprisingly funny, and a lot better than the other “postmodern” short, “W is for WTF,” a title that could apply to every short in the anthology.
“Y is for Youngbuck,” directed by Jason Eisener, features a pedophile janitor who apparently teaches children how to hunt deer before raping them. One of his victims takes his revenge on him while wearing a decapitated deer’s head. Surprisingly meh.
E is for Everything Else
No, I’m not going to give a short review of each of the remaining 19 shorts, but I would be remiss to not give a nod to two of my favorites that don’t include animals, “T is for Toilet” and “V is for Vagitus.”
“T is for Toilet,” by Lee Hardcastle, reminds us that, statistically, you are more likely to die on the toilet than eaten by a shark (admittedly, while most of us come to know many toilets intimately, the average shark attack victim only meets that one shark). It features an incredibly gory dream sequence (perhaps the anthology’s goriest, though the impact is lessened somewhat by the use of claymation) with a man-eating commode; the actual death comes later, and is much more plausible, and therefore much scarier.
“V is for Vagitus” (relax, guys, it’s an old-timey word for the cry of a baby) features director Kaare Andrews showing up pretty much every other director on the roster with some incredibly impressive special effects. It pulls the opposite trick as “E for Exterminate;” it makes five grand look like five million. It also features one of the more involved stories; it manages to convey a pretty complicated backstory to a sci-fi dystopia featuring robots, psychics and a woman whose job is to arrest illegal parents.
C is for Conclusion
In a movie about a million miles removed from this one, someone’s mother remarked that life is like a box of chocolates. So’s death. And horror anthologies. You never know what you’re going to get. There are some pretty good shorts here; there are some pretty bad shorts here, as well.
In the end, I found the balance of the good outweighed the bad, though mostly as a horror fan. As for furries, it may be only us crossover horror/furry fans who get anything out of this.
Five shorts worth seeing: “D is for Dogfight,” “H is for Hydro Electric-Diffusion,” “Q is for Quack,” “T is for Toilet” and “V is for Vagitus”
Five shorts worth skipping: “E is for Exterminate,” “F is for Fart,” “G is for Gravity,” “M is for Miscarriage” and “W is for WTF”
About the authorcrossaffliction (Brendan Kachel) — read stories — contact (login required)
a reporter and Red Fox from Hooker, Oklahoma, interested in movies, horror, stand up comedy
Formerly Wichita's only furry comic.
I'm still a bit confused as to what this is. Is this a project joing a lot of small, separate films or is this one essentially long film with "chapters?" I'm also curious about the length. Whether these are 5 minute death scenes or 30 minutes with a build-up to the death?
I ask mostly out of curiosity. It doesn't sound like the sort of thing I would want to see.
"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~
It's a lot of separate short films put together. Given how many letters there are in the alphabet, the 123 minute running time, and how low the budget was, I'd say even five minutes would be an over-estimate. "H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion" was about three or maybe four.
It's an "anthology," so think of it like a short story anthology; 26 separate stories (or short films) making one big book (or movie) that have a vague theme connecting them, but you don't have to watch "A is for Apocalypse" to get "Z is for Zetsumetsu" (though that's a bad example; I'm not sure it's possible to get "Z is for Zetsumetsu"). I think they were supposed to go about five minutes each, but some are much shorter; "M is for Miscarriage" is maybe a minute, while, on the other hand, "L is for Libido" went over five minutes.
Technically, you could just skip to the good ones (since this is now a DVD or VOD review) and not miss much, just like you could skip a story in an anthology. However, the producers (who would be analogous to the editors of a short story anthology) did move some of the shorts around so they flow better (the audio commentaries mention "B is for Bigfoot" was "Y is for Yeti," "Y is for Youngbuck" was "N is for Nature" and "Z is for Zetsumetsu" was "R is for Rice", which means "N is for Nuptials" and "R is for Removed" were also changed), so it does feel somewhat cohesive, if not narratively.
There isn't a bridge story, like say in the horror anthology movie Creepshow (also recommended in a not furry way) where all the stories are from one issue of a child's horror comic. The only connection is the theme, which is a pretty vague theme, so you get all sorts of stuff.
I would not be surprised if you could find various shorts floating around the Internet, probably evenly semi-legally; I know a version of "T is for Toilet" is available on YouTube, because "T" was the contest letter based around YouTube. I say a version, because the director changed the dialogue; he decided there was too much cussing, and essentially censored himself by asking if he could redub the movie version; the producers were apparently mystified, but allowed it.
I don't know; you did like "Cupcakes." The shorts are in that vain, more often then not.
this film has no place in a video store where young children can rent it! This should be rated a hard R or an X. I can't believe it has neither. I found it in the section for everyone, including children.
The short stories were horrible and were not horror at all, but rather absurd to rather disgusting. I love horror movies; this is not one. I will be requesting my money back on this and insisting that it be placed in the adult or R sections.
I agree with Vincent, horror is one thing but what we have here is tasteless, bordering on pornographic in some places, and utterly disgusting.
The worst for me has to be M for Miscarriage, would you want your wife/girlfreind seeing that if she'd just sufferred one.
Huh, I don't know whether to be more surprised that store owners seem to be putting this in the wrong category (according to the above two commenters), or the fact there are still video stores, apparently...
Yeah, I actually rented this from a video rental/tanning salon place. I had no idea there was such a thing, but I was pumped just to have a video rental store.
It was in the, uh, new releases section, actually.
Just recently watched this movie and I have to say... skip it. The good (or at least halfway decent) shorts are far outnumbered by the boring, insulting, or just plain stupid entries. In your list of what is definitely not worth watching I would have included Z - which was such a terrible way for this movie to end on I immediately came to the conclusion it would never be in my collection despite enjoying a few of the entries.
This collection was advertised as a horror anthology but anyone who gives it half a glance will see it has less to do with horror than a fascination with gore or pornography. If any letter were to properly fit this movie overall it would be F for Fetish.
Amazingly they're making a sequel... one wonders if they'll screen the directors better this time around. One thing to note, the letter M for this sequel is going to be selected through voting (they opened this letter up for submissions rather than just hiring a single director). I would recommend viewers look up M is for Music... very slight furry in that entry (most of the cast is wearing animal masks) but the short itself I found at least beautifully set up and more enjoyable to watch than the majority of the first movie.
I actually sent it in to the Recommended Anthropomorphics list with the caveat that they could either list the entire movie in the movies section, the "H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion" segment in the shorts section, or both in both, or neither in either. That last was meant as a joke, but apparently that's what they went with ...
Also, the number of commenters comparing this to porn is really freaking creepy. What the hell are you people jacking off to?
You don't have to be aroused or jack off to something to realize something is a bit fetishized. And that's what this movie felt like, disgusting and stupid to the vast majority of viewers but targeted to a niche market that would enjoy a girl dying of farts and being sucked up into her teacher's ass to exist in a scat'ish limbo (that's what happened in F, right?) or Z ending with a fight using a giant dildo-sword against a bloodied up naked mutant chick, or all of Libido... I mean the majority of the movie felt either really poorly written, boring, or inspired by a narrow subset of Fetish.
I mean even with H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion you gotta wonder why they chose furry characters (especially with the Fox lady who looked like a latex-ish sex suit inspired by MTV's Sex2k or the Vanity Fair article). And of course also in that one the extreme abuse the dogs nuts take... and that was one of the better shorts in that anthology!
I don't think it's off the mark to see this movie as having an underlying pornographic vibe to it.
sorry to interupt (and for my bad english, french dude here) but i just watched this movie and jump into google to look at the reviews online.
And here i am, reading a lot of point of view, learning things about the background of the shorts in this antologies and ... whait a minute did thoses furry guy's actualy arguing about ... what the morality and the "disgusting and stupid " fetishes of the filmmakers ? Realy ?
Not judgin' , just sayin' ... a man who love to dress as an animal for arousal pointing finger on the japanese who like girl fart it's ... prety funny.
Im not into any of this stuff, more the "vanilla" kind of guy but i liked this movie (exept a few segments, to be fair the "O" pissed me off "look i'm making art it doesent mean a shit but .. art" ). It's creative, really funny, perfect when you don't what to think, just be entertained with some random WTF stuff.
Being a dick about the other people weird fetish when you got yourself a prety scary one (yeaw i'm a linx and i whant to fuck you) it's a proof of a mind closed to anything exept the stuff YOU are into and those who like anythig else are "a narrow subset of Fetish" "disgusting and stupid " ... seriousely man grow up.
And BTW this vincent guy crack me up. "I love horror movie" ? What saw and paranormal activities ? Did you even KNOW what horror is ? No do your typical butthurt américan thing, go to your rental store and DEMAND to the guy to put the movie in a box burried in the parking 'cause ... you didn't like it.
HORROR IS ABOUT SEX GUYS ! EVERY.FUCKIG.HORROR.MOVIE.has is strong sexual innuendo. since the dawn of the gothic horror. but now, luckyly for you, you dident need to hide your distubing fetishes like bram stoker ;)
Anyway just wanna say that, don't judge other people creepy fetishes especialy when your fesish is like ... one inch before the average cow focking redneck farmer ;)
You can't really interrupt a dead conversation ... (and that needs to be the tagline of a horror movie).
Wait, wasn't "O" the French short? Anyway, how quaintly stereotypically French of you to think everything revolves around sex.
Anyway, I'd beg to differ on the "all" horror is about sex thing. It is when it is; it isn't when it isn't. And sometimes it is and it isn't at the same time (paraphrasing a Stephen King quote, but he points out that, on one level of unease, one of David Cronenberg's movies is about uneasiness with the "sexual revolutions" of the 60s and 70s, and on one level, it's about our uneasiness with having a leech jump up and attaching itself to our face; these are not the same areas of unease at all). For instance, in The ABCs of Death, I dare you to bring a sexual reading to "A is for Apocalypse," and that's the first short in the movie. Even Freud would have trouble (I'm sure he could, but that's kind of his thing).
The only thing I'll grant to the "it's porn" crowd is that some shorts were obviously about pornography (obviously "P" and "L"), but if you have trouble realizing a. being "about something" and being "something" are two different things, and b. being "about something" and being "for something" are two different things, maybe you're not very smart.
And please, jacking off to cartoon animals is about .002 on the "weird-shit-o-meter" of jacking off to cartoons, never mind human sexuality (I think "being French" actually bumps you up to a solid 3).
While I could go about saying that furries are a little more complex than you make them out to be, I think it's more important to note that the horror genre is more complex than you point it out to be.
Heck, to me it's not about fetishism or sex. Sure horror plays off a base emotion of survival but it's different than the one of procreation, rather survival. A good horror plays on the fear of the unknown, it doesn't explain the motives behind the phenomenon going on or the phenomenon itself, it leaves you in the dark. Because people fear what they don't know.
My biggest criticism of horror as a genre, going along that line, is playing to the ignorance of the majority of city dwelling society of rural life. While isolationism is always a fear of many, it seems to me a lot of horror films take place outside the city, which is why it's a popular genre for those in the city, because the movie already throws them into an environment they don't know. So they could tell them the 'average redneck farmer' fucks cows and heck, they'd believe it. Oh.. and by fucks cows I actually meant skins the flesh of decent city folks driving through who just seem to always break down on that side road which for some reason they were using instead of an interstate... Stay in the city kids, there be sharks in those rural waters.
Of course I understand the above is kind of my own little tongue in cheek simplification of the genre. I can think of a handful that don't ride the coat-tails of "Children of the Corn". Heck, it's been argued that zombie flicks are sort of the anti-thesis of the above isolationist fear. It instead grows on the fear of feeling overcrowded and surrounded by a resource hungry mass, you know, city living.
As a final note, two of the anonymous comments (Vincent and Timothy) complaining about it being a 'fetish' flick were not furrys. Clearly they are just random people who ran across this article like yourself.
Though what I would agree with is that horror aims for the primal instincts: it's typically not the sexual one, it's more survival mixed with a situation that is foreign. These feelings are something you need more than a few minutes a piece to convey in my mind, so while I never watched this film, it probably has to go for the 'shock scares' instead of the deeper ones which take time to set up.
Yeaw "O" (along with another, the one with the fat woman ) was french but thrust me, french cinema is 50% pretentious-wanabe-arty bullshit and 49% cheap and stupid comedy. That's why most of us learn english by watching foreign movies ^^
Yeaw okay i made a big (how did you say that ? ... pointing a part of something and make it the whole thing ? can't remember the word but in french is "une généralité") but still there is a huge part of the genre full of sexual imagery, more than every other genre i mean.
This appart i didnt realise the "anon" part of the butthurt comments, my bad. And don't take the "farmer" taunt too sériousely it was just to highlight my point ;)
Ps : sonious don't think i'm a big city jerk spiting on the rural life, im curently living in south west france like, in the midle of nowere and there is curently zero cow fucker around ^^
Well at least I learned the cow-fucker thing is a stereotype all rural farmers share world wide and not just one American ones. I guess I should be relieved— well, unless I was a cow, then I'd be horrified that there is no escape from ornery rednecks, they're everywhere apparently.
Looks like the word you were searching for is actually a shared word; in English it's "generality," which looks like it might even be pronounced the same if weren't for those accents in the French spelling.
I don't know about Sonious, but the "redneck" comment did rile me up; I've self described as a redneck and actually raised cattle (though never fucked them), so if I went a bit too far with the French jokes, that's why. My feeling is I'm allowed to make fun of it, but I don't like it. That being said, sounds like you're in the same boat, and it was self-deprecation, so now I'm okay with it.
If Sonious wants to feel better, there is a sub-genre of romantic comedy where big city folks come to small, rural towns which presents the urban in a harsh light (though admittedly rarely as inherently evil) and the rural in a positive. I said "romantic comedy," but crime movies like Fargo could be an example (and there, the comparatively big city folk are murderous). My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic would be the furry equivalent of the genre.
Also, Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil, a horror movie in which the two hillbillies are the heroes, is a direct parody of this sort of thing.
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