Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here. Happy Birthday to AICN HORROR which celebrates its fourth year in October! Always hoping to pass on new and exciting films for all of you ravenous readers, I have once again compiled a list counting down to my favorite horror film released since last October and covered in this here AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Some of these films might be new to you since there isn’t a lot of horror in theaters these days that aren’t toothless remakes or watered down sequels. Theaters just don’t seem to be the place where the horror is at these days, I’m sad to say. Some of these films have only seen the light of day on Video on Demand or simply go straight to DVD/BluRay pr digital download.
As far as how I compiled this list? Well, I simply looked over my AICN HORROR columns over the last year since October 1st , 2012 (which happens to be the birthday of this little column four years ago!) and worked and reworked a list until I had 31. No real method to my special brand of madness. We’ll be counting down every day until Halloween to my favorite horror film of the year. I’ll also provide a second film suggestion at the end of each column for those who can’t get enough horror which may include films that almost made the list or goodies from the past I’ve covered.
So let’s get to it! Chime in after the article and let me know how you liked the film I chose, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, and most importantly, come up with your own list…let’s go!
ABC’S OF DEATH deserves a spot on this countdown for the painstaking efforts it took to be made as well as the talent amassed to make it. Overall, I felt it was a bit of an uneven anthology as it, for the most part, plays as a comedy of horrors rather than real horror. I would have loved to have seen some scary stories mixed in with all of the gore and guffaws. Still, it’s an impressive piece of work and is worthy of the Number 23 spot.
THE ABC’S OF DEATH (2012)Find it on Netflix here
Directed & written by Bruno Forzani, Helene Cattet, Kaare Andrews, Angela Bettis, Adrian Bogliano, Jason Eisner, Ernesto Diaz Espinoza, Xavier Gens, Lee Hardcastle, Noboru Iguchi, Thomas Malling, Jorge Michel Grau, Anders Morgenthaler, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Jbanjong 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
Produced by Ant Timpson & Tim League
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
As I watched THE ABC’S OF DEATH, it felt as if I were taking a guided tour of some of my favorite horror filmmakers in the last few years. Every one of these installments were pretty amazing and though the range of this collection varies a lot, the quality never wavers. I’m going to go letter by letter through this anthology to let you know why this ambitious project is one of the best horror anthologies ever made.
“A is for Apocalypse” by Nacho (TIMECRIMES, EXTRATERRESTRIAL) Vigalondo This quickie is one of those stories we enter midstream as a bedridden husband is surprised by his wife with a knife and other household tools just in time for the apocalypse. This one has a wicked sense of humor and is surprisingly gory with a nice little homage to FRIDAY THE 13TH THE FINAL CHAPTER in the effects department. Though it won’t blow your doors off and is somewhat predictable, it is a nice way to introduce this series of shorts which are often devilishly funny despite the dark story content.
“B is for Babysitter” by Adrian Garcia (HERE COMES THE DEVIL) Bogliano This is another devious one centering on a young couple who just want to make the beast with two backs, but are being distracted by the child they are supposed to be babysitting. Funny that Bogliano’s hit film HERE COMES THE DEVIL starts out with that exact same theme of parents neglecting children because of their desires for one another. Again, with the cautionary tale the babysitters tell the little girl in order to get her to sleep, this one is easy to predict, still the ride’s a lot of fun.
“C is for Cycle” by Ernesto Diaz (MANDRILL) Espinoza Reminiscent of Vigalondo’s TIMECRIMES, a man finds a wormhole in his backyard and ends up battling himself to see who gets to be in this time period. This one is paced s that you only get bits and pieces of the story and it comes at you out of sequence, which makes the whole thing feel like a mystery unfolding on celluloid. Though I’m not a fan of time travel films, this one keeps things nice and tight, so it doesn’t unravel or make you scratch your head too much along the way.
“D is for Dogfight” by Marcel (DEADGIRL) Sarmiento Awesome! This is definitely one of my favorites if not the best of the bunch. Filmed entirely in slo mo, so you can feel every punch, chomp, and even subtle eye movement, you’re going to find yourself wondering how the hell they made this film with the up close and personal feel of the brutality going on. But have no fear, animal lovers, this man vs dog boxing match isn’t exactly what it seems. Still in so little time, this is the most fully satisfying of the bunch when it comes to story, though you will leave yourself scratching you head and asking one question; What the hell’s up with that baby?
“E is for Exterminate” by May herself Angela (ROMAN) Bettis After the dog-punching extravaganza, the theme of man vs animal, or in this case, insect, continues as a lonely man takes on an especially deadly looking spider in his apartment. I love the “spider’s eye” POV in this almost entirely wordless film. This one’s got some fantastic effects, a great payoff and has me wishing Bettis would direct more, since the only other thing she’s done was the haunting ROMAN which feels like a male version of her role in Lucky McKee’s MAY. Plus its got a soundtrack that makes it all feel fun.
“F is for Fart” by Noboru (DEAD SUSHI) Iguchi Ever wonder if Japanese schoolgirls ever fart? Me neither, but regardless if the question has ever been asked before Noboru Iguchi answers that very question with a vengeance. When is caught letting one loose, it unleashes a series of events that trigger the end of the world. It’s immature. It’s guttural. And I laughed my ass off the whole way through to the trippy ending. Never have the words, “So stinky!” been more gut-jigglingly hilarious!
“G is for Gravity” by Andrew (THE REEF) Traucki This one is very short and given my knowledge and appreciation for Traucki’s work with animals gone wild in his films BLACK WATER, THE REEF, and his upcoming THE JUNGLE, I was waiting for something toothy to attack this first person POV shot film of an eager surfer going for a ride on the waves. But Traucki plays with those expectations smartly and this one definitely leaves you with that “how the hell did they film that” feeling, so I appreciate this simple little story from a technical level and from my knowledge of what the director is capable of standpoint. I especially love the final moments of this one in which an upright surfboard becomes a floating headstone on a rocky ocean. Fantastic imagery.
“H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion” by Thomas (NORWEGIAN NINJA) Malling This one schmelds a Tex Avery cartoon with those with a furry fetish and sets it during World War II. It’s Allies vs Nazi’s with all sorts of cartoonish antics, naked fox people, and complex contraptions one would expect from this Pepe LePew cartoon of lust and horror. I have to say, though my tastes don’t really go for chicks with fur, the fox in this one is pretty hot and I don’t blame the bulldog soldier for going so gaga over her. Fun, gross-out, and extremely imaginative, this cartoon brought to life is COOL WORLD with modern CGI and a shot of 1000 volts of pure energy.
“I is for Ingrown” by Jorge Michel (WE ARE WHAT WE ARE) Grau The tone shifts to deathly serious in this little short about a syringe that looks to be full of motor oil and a woman in a bathtub. Jutting between midrange and close up shots, this one tells both a story beneath the story in one violent and desperate act. Is this an homage to PSYCHO? Maybe bits of it. But for the most part this is a tragic tale of two people in bitter conflict. Powerful stuff, yet it feels out of place as most of the other shorts have a tongue in cheek aspect to it.
“J is for Jidai-Geki (Samurai Movie)” by Yudai (VERSUS, YAKUZA WEAPON) Yamaguchi The tongue goes right back into the cheek with this riff on samurai films. Goofy facial gestures and poses seem out of place in the stoic genre of the samurai, but here it makes for a damn funny little ditty with some really great practical effects used. I really liked the sense of humor of this one.
“K is for Klutz” by Anders (PRINCESS) Morgenthaler This is a cartoon about a woman in a public restroom and a piece of poop that just won’t flush. Now if that offends, then skip to the next one, but I found this one to be damn funny from start to end. The animation is pretty simple, but a struggle between one woman and a piece of poo has never been more entertaining, in my book. Though the logistics of the ending may be debatable, it still leaves a lasting impression.
“L is for Libido” by Timo (MACABRE) Tjahjanto Falling firmly into the realm of “that’s just plain wrong” is Timo Tjahjanto’s twisted contest of will as a man is strapped to a chair and forced to masturbate to various things. The winner gets to move onto the next round. The loser dies like a native in CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. Now, in my neck of the woods, he who lasts longest is the champ. But apparently, that’s not the case here as the winner is the one who arrives with the delivery first. As the stakes rise, so does the level of perversity in this short that is not for the squeamish or delicate of disposition.
“M is for Miscarriage” by Ti (THE INNKEEPERS) West Most likely the shortest of all of the entries, Ti West’s offering is no less impactful as the title says it all. Your girlfriend most likely will not like this one, but it does have a wicked sense of humor in the few moments it has to make its mark.
“N is for Nuptuals” by Jbanjong (ALONE) Pisanthanakun This one might have a bit too much sitcom humor for my tastes. Still it’s cute and fun, albeit predictable as a man buys a bird for his girlfriend in hopes to make a memorable way to propose to her. Of course, this is a horror short, so things go very, very wrong.
“O is for Orgasm” by Bruno Forzani & Helene Cattet (co-directors of AMER) Though artsy, this one by far is one of the more beautiful entries in the film as we are taken on a visual slideshow of the myriad of images one might see while having an orgasm. Though basically a montage of bizarre and suggestive imagery, the placement of said images culminates effectively. I haven’t seen AMER, but after seeing this gorgeous short, I feel like I have to. I don’t know if this qualifies as horror, but it is damn good.
“P is for Pressure” by Simon (RED, WHITE, & BLUE) Rumley I’ve become fascinated at Simon Rumley’s unapologetic and unflinching looks at the more horrific side of sex. As he did with LITTLE DEATHS (another anthology I reviewed here last year), he is unafraid to show how our deepest desires are often our darkest as this short depicts the lengths a single mom will go to provide for her daughter. Striking and powerful filmmaking and storytelling here.
“Q is for Quack” by Adam (YOU’RE NEXT, A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE) Wingard Another one of my favorites simply because of the self referential treatment of the content as director Adam Windard and writer Simon Barrett ponder and complain about what they are going to do for their segment which unfortunately deals with the letter Q. This is a funny and bitingly satirical take on this anthology project as well as a nice break from the higher production levels of other installments. The sense of humor in this one is one of the best of the bunch.
“R is for Removed” by Srdjan (A SERBIAN FILM) Spasojevic Somber and grotesque. That pretty much sums up this short about a man in a hospital whose skin is used to make movies. This feels like a statement about the artist’s sacrifice and how it is manipulated by producers and the like and Spasojevic makes it all feel like it’s boring under your fingernail and festering with a sterile, yet grimy feel to each and every shot. Again, placed in between the more jovial segments, this is one of those that feels out of place, but still, it’s a short that packs a punch both viscerally and thematically.
“S is for Speed” by Jake (DOGHOUSE) West This one starts fast as a woman holds another gal at gunpoint, trying to elude a demon from capture. There’s a lot of retro cool going on here with some grindhouse post-apocalypticism front and center. I appreciated this one for the high octane attitude and in your face style. Plus you’ve got to appreciate the flame thrower sequence. Nice stuff.
“T is for Toilet” by Lee (DONE IN 60 SECONDS, WITH CLAY) Hardcastle Claymation is a lost art form with everything going digital, so I have to give it up to Lee Hardcastle and his tale of a fear that is quite common in little boys; that of the fear of the toilet. This manic and electrifying nightmare in clay is not going to cure anyone of this phobia and it may actually cause new ones. The ending sequence is goddamn amazing in every black sense of the word and the amount of blood and gore Hardcastle is able to put into this little snippet is something to look at in awe.
“U is for Unearthed” by Ben (KILL LIST) Wheatley Ever wonder what it’s like to be a vampire? Well, Ben Wheatley takes us on a first person POV ride that will slap some sense in those who feel it’s a glamorous life. Full of camera trickery, this one was lively and one of the technical highlights of the bunch for me. The final scene with the veins…damn, that’s the good stuff. Though I thought KILL LIST was decent, it did feel a bit cumbersome at times. This frantic little short is anything but and makes me think that there are a lot of great ideas to come from Wheatley.
“V is for Vagitus (The Cry of a Newborn Baby)” by Kaare (ALTITUDE) Andrews Downright amazing stuff from comic book writer/artist and director Kaare Andrews. His comic book knowhow shows through in this future setting where having a child is against the law enforced by an army of robots and highly armed police officers. The focus is on one officer who deeply longs to have a child and a family who breaks the law by having one. Much robot machine gunning and head ‘sploding occurs in this sci fi superhero yarn that also stars BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW’s weirdo scientist Michael Rogers as, you guessed it, another weirdo scientist type. Really vibrant stuff. Somebody give Andrews a big budget to work with. This shit was awesome!
“W is for WTF!” by Jon (METALOCALYPSE) Schnepp In another installment where the director doesn’t really know what he wants to do for this anthology, Adult Swim maniac Jon Schnepp goes over one bad idea after another with his producer, each of them so bad they are awesome. I’d pay to see any of these, especially “W is for Walrus”. Schnepp will make you fear clown zombies in this trippy-ass segment too. Oh hell yes he will.
“X is for XXL” by Xavier (THE DIVIDE) Gens This one blew my mind. Gory as hell and packed with a message for our fat-phobic culture, one overweight woman decides to take weight loss into her own hands. This one starts at a crawl, but revs up the pace to such a frantic level by the end, it feels as if your nerves are shredding. This is harrowing stuff that churns the stomach and pokes at your mind. Gens never fails to impress me and here he keeps up his winning streak.
“Y is for Young Buck” by Jason (HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN) Eisner This short was the closest I came to vomiting in my three years writing and watching horror films for this column. To me, that’s a fucking compliment. Eisner has delivered one of the creepiest depictions of the school janitor ever put to film. With its 80’s synth montage score and the super slo mo, you get to experience every perverse gesture and nuance. This one will make you cringe and laugh so hard at how awfully wrong it is. And oh my god, the ending…just wow. So good. I need a barf bag. But it hurts so good.
“Z is for Zetsu Metsu (Extinction)” by Yoshihiro (VAMPIRE GIRL VS FRANKENSTEIN GIRL, HELLDRIVER) Nishimura The final segment is a kaleidoscope of sights and sounds which appears to be somewhat of a political statement about US/Japanese relations, which really wasn’t as interesting as the vivid and perverse imagery littered throughout. You will see a woman with a giant penis with a sword coming out of the end fight another woman with a cloak made of flies. You will see a swastika turn into various other things. You will see men with small penises eat sushi. And amidst it all, there’s an homage to Kubrick’s DR. STRANGELOVE. Frantic and manic, this is a bizarre way to end this anthology, but it does end it on a lively note.
All in all, THE ABC’S OF DEATH is an indication that horror is in capable hands as all of these directors delivered imaginative and powerful shorts. There seemed to be a prevalent feeling of tongue and cheekiness involved with most of the installments, making the ones more serious in tone stand out as odd additions, but the producers scattered the serious ones about capably enough like a DJ peppering in a slow jam every once and a while amidst all of the fast paced dance music. Though it requires over two hours of watching, every minute is worth it and though I know this project took its toll to put together, I’d love to see a second horror themed alphabet someday. As is, even the weaker installments of THE ABC’S OF DEATH are better than most full length horror films out there.
Still, I’m left with the question…what the hell’s up with that baby?
Speaking of international horror, today’s honorable mention is DEAD IN FRANCE. Guy Richie by way of early Peter Jackson is the best way I can explain my Number 25 film. DEAD IN FRANCE (full review here) was a strange little movie mixing the romance, heist, and gore genres in ways that are truly amazing. Anyone who loves the mix of tough talk, gunplay, and blood spatter will want to seek this gory shoot em up ASAP.
Find it on Netflix here
and check out the trailer below!
The Countdown so far…Number 31: TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D!
Number 30: DEVIL’S PASS!
Number 29: THE RAMBLER!
Number 28: THE AMERICAN SCREAM!
Number 27: BATH SALT ZOMBIES!
Number 26: MANBORG!
Number 25: ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY!
Number 24: SIGHTSEERS!
See ya tomorrow, folks, as the count down continues with the best of the best covered in AICN HORROR over the past year!
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 12 years & AICN HORROR for 4. Mark’s written comics such as THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, DEATHSPORT GAMES, NANNY & HANK (soon to be a feature film from Uptown 6 Films), Zenescope’sGRIMM FAIRY TALES Vol.13 & UNLEASHED: WEREWOLVES – THE HUNGER and a chapter in Black Mask Studios’OCCUPY COMICS. FAMOUS MONSTERS’ LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (co-written with Martin Fisher) will be available soon in trade. Mark also wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK and its follow up THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES! Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.
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