DIRECTOR Kaare Andrews; Angela Bettis; Hélène Cattet; Ernesto Díaz Espinoza; Jason Eisener; Bruno Forzani; Adrián García Bogliano; Xavier Gens; Jorge Michel Grau; Lee Hardcastle; Noboru Iguchi; Thomas Cappelen Malling; Anders Morgenthaler; Yoshihiro Nishimura; Banjong Pisanthanakun; Simon Rumley; Marcel Sarmiento; Jon Schnepp; Srdjan Spasojevic; Timo Tjahjanto; Andrew Traucki; Nacho Vigalondo; Jake West; Ti West; Ben Wheatley; Adam Wingard; Yudai Yamaguchi WRITER Ant Timpson; Nacho Vigalondo; Adrián García Bogliano; Ernesto Díaz Espinoza; Marcel Sarmiento; Simon Rumley; Jon Schnepp; Dimitrije Vojnov; Yudai Yamaguchi; Noboru Iguchi; Simon Barrett; Ti West; Kaare Andrews; Bruno Forzani; Hélène Cattet; Yoshihiro Nishimura; Srdjan Spasojevic; Lee Hardcastle STARS Ingrid Bolsø Berdal; Iván González; Kyra Zagorsky CINEMA 26 April
Conceptually inventive, The ABCs of Death is an anthology with a difference; no wraparound story ties these 26 vignettes, helmed by different directors, together, the films’ only linking factor eponymous. A treasure trove to surely be had, as many festival goers would agree, the well-loved shorts marathon rarely seeing empty seats. The only obvious flaw is that confrontation with what is essentially rapid-fire death, no matter of filmmaker or style, will lose impact… and that is certainly the case here.
So a wise decision, then, that Yoshihiro Nishimura (Tokyo Gore Police) be assigned the last letter of the alphabet, his “Zetsumetsu” typically, deliciously deranged, punctuating the inevitable mixed bag. The good, thankfully, outweighs the bad, the competitive environment fuelling these filmmakers’ desire to stand out from the crowd. It is unfortunate that Ti West (The Innkeepers) did not feel the same pressure; as his contribution to V/H/S was the weakest, so it is here, “Miscarriage” thrown out with little thought. It could be argued that this particular short’s climax supports the notion of indifference, the lackadaisical feel in fact a complement, however this would seem kind. Fortunately, this is sandwiched between two of the better offerings: “Libido”, a toe-curling experience that brings new meaning to masturbating within an inch of one’s life; and “Nuptials”, a humorous story that endlessly sprays the screen with blood for its off-camera death.
It is not a surprise to see some of the strongest shorts courtesy of Jorge Michel Grau (We Are What We Are), Simon Rumley (Red White & Blue) and Ben Wheatley. “Ingrown” (Grau) and “Pressure” (Rumley) are the only sociopolitically engaged stories, the former almost unbearably bleak in its comment on Mexican femicide, while the latter challenges the audience with the taboo of animal death, and Wheatley stamps his identity firmly on “Unearthed”, evoking the final scenes of Kill List in tone. Also excellent is competition winner Lee Hardcastle’s “Toilet”, by far the most funny, as to be expected from the maker of claymation series Done In 60 Seconds. But the real standout here is “Dogfight”, from Marcel Sarmiento, director of 2008’s excellent Deadgirl. Beautifully shot with a palpable tension, the dog’s ferocity is expertly conveyed in this man-versus-canine fight club. It’s an unsettling piece that lingers longer than any other story here.