{2jtab: Movie Review}

The ABCs of Death - Blu-ray Review


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2 stars

Disturbing is a word that comes to mind after finally seeing this horror anthology.  Interesting also comes to mind.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t all add up to be a winning combination.  While largely uneven – and sometimes just simply too bizarre for its own good – The ABCs of Death has enough wicked fun in its 26 short serials to be at the very least watchable.  Featuring a top tier list of independent horror directors – including Jason Eisener (Hobo with a Shotgun) and Marcel Sarmiento (Dead Girl) – and a few wannabes, The ABCs of Death is a great idea that gets executed with very, very mixed results.

The movie’s creators span 15 different countries and it’s quite easy to tell what terrifies each different culture.  The Japanese really love their torture porn.  The Spanish love their folklore.  Ti West – in M is for Miscarriage – depicts the struggles of one woman as she searches for a plunger.  What’s in the toilet?  The answer is in the title, folks.

Unfortunately, of the 26 short films (titled after each letter of the alphabet), there are about eight shorts that actually succeed in their thrills and their scares.  The rest are either too incredibly screwed up to make sense or just lazy.  Some – Eisener’s Y is for Young Buck and Angela Bettis’ E is for Exterminate – are hauntingly bizarre and bring a lot of credibility to the idea.  Others are a complete waste of your time.

There’s literally no framing device for these 26 tales – other than a fade to red and a brief title card – so we shift from one telegraphed quickie to the next weird tale.  Some – like Anders Morgenthaler’s K Is for Klutz, in which a squeaking turd refuses to be flushed, are animated and some – like Xavier Gens’ X Is for XXL – are just gross live action shorts on a tiny, tiny budget.

Some of these shorts - because none of them had a budget to speak of - look visually impressive on this release from Magnet.  They are quite sleek and obviously digitally shot.  In fact, it might be the most ambitious anthology film ever produced.  I simply wish the results were a bit more even.

As far as I’m concerned, the major problem with The ABCs of Death is that you’ve got a film that outstretches its own creativity; some of these directors have the “touch” for the craft and some of them do not.  The result is that most of these entries are crap.  Sure, there are a million ways to die but are there a million ways to create a memorable death in fewer than ten minutes?  How many ways can YOU chop up a body?

The film’s tagline says it all, “26 directors, 26 ways to die” and – while it doesn’t always work – The ABCs of Death isn’t a complete disaster.

{2jtab: Film Details}

The ABCs of Death - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: This title has not yet been rated by the MPAA.
Runtime: 130 mins.
: Kaare Andrews; Angela Bettis; Hélène Cattet; Ernesto Díaz Espinoza; Jason Eisener; Bruno Forzani; Adrián García Bogliano; Xavier Gens; Lee Hardcastle; Noboru Iguchi; Thomas Cappelen Malling; Jorge Michel Grau; 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: Kaare Andrews; Simon Barrett; Hélène Cattet; Bruno Forzani; Adrián García Bogliano; Lee Hardcastle; Noboru Iguchi; Yoshihiro Nishimura; Simon Rumley; Jon Schnepp; Srdjan Spasojevic; Nacho Vigalondo; Dimitrije Vojnov; Ti West; Yudai Yamaguchi
Cast: Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Kyra Zagorsky, Iván González
Genre: Horror
26 Directors, 26 Ways to Die
Memorable Movie Quote: "Call the plumber now. It's an emergency!"
Magnet Releasing
Official Site:
Release Date: March 8, 2013
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
May 21, 2013

Synopsis: Twenty-six directors. Twenty-six ways to die. The ABCs of Death is perhaps the most ambitious anthology film ever conceived with productions spanning fifteen countries and featuring segments directed by over two dozen of the world's leading talents in contemporary genre film. Inspired by children’s educational books, the motion picture is comprised of twenty-six individual chapters, each helmed by a different director assigned a letter of the alphabet. The directors were then given free reign in choosing a word to create a story involving death.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

The ABCs of Death - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades

Blu-ray Disc
2 stars

4 stars

Blu-ray Experience
3 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - May 21, 2013
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
: English SDH, Spanish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); DVD copy
Region Encoding: A

The ABCs of Death's 1080p/AVC-encoded Blu-ray presentation is as uneven as the film due to all the different digital cameras used to shoot the film by its individual directors.  This unevenness extends to the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, as well, for the same reasons.  What can be said for certain is that the digital resolution gives a lot of clarity to the picture.  The shorts shot on higher-end cameras definitely look it, with crisp lines and textures, better color grading, and more balanced and consistent contrast, but even at their weakest none of the lower-quality shorts look harsh or overly mushy. Noise is quite heavy in some of the pieces, and on a larger screen you will notice semi-frequent pixilation but nothing too distracting. It could have been better had one type of camera been used but, as it is, Drafthouse Films’ release is fine and it isn’t going to ever look any better.



  • The 26 directors get their own individual commentary for their film.  It’s pretty impressive.  I mean, when have you had 26 different commentaries on one disc?  That’s what I thought.  If there’s a film you like, I trust you will also appreciate its commentary.  Take a listen.

Special Features:

Once I went through the commentaries, I didn’t count on their being any special features.  I was wrong.  Magnet's Blu-ray release comes with a trove of bonus material, including behind-the-scenes featurettes of one form or another for over half of the shorts in the collection, giving some sense of how the different directors approached their assignments.

  • A is for Apocalypse: Oil Burns Visual Effects (1 min)
  • B is for Bigfoot: Making Of (3 min)
  • C is for Cycle: Deleted Scenes (3 min)
  • D is for Dogfight: Making Of (7 min)
  • F is for Fart: Behind the Scenes (10 min)
  • H is for Hydroelectric Diffusion (18 min)
  • I is for Ingrown: Making Of (7 min)
  • J is for Jidai-Geki: Behind the Scenes (6 min)
  • P is for Pressure: Interviews (19 min)
  • R is for Removed: Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery (71 stills)
  • T is for Toilet: Behind the Scenes (3 min)
  • V is for Vagitus (19 min)
  • W is for WTF (13 min)
  • Z is for Zetsumetsu: Behind the Scenes (11 min)
  • AXS TV: A Look at The ABCs of Death (4 min)

{2jtab: Trailer}