An alphabetically-organized horror anthology that’s often unsettling but only sporadically rises above mediocrity and sometimes descends into absolute awfulness, “The ABCs of Death” comprises twenty-six short films by directors who were instructed to begin and end on the color red and to include a death in their contributions. The pieces come from numerous countries and are in various languages, including English, Spanish and Japanese.
Overall, the more humorous entries come off best. A couple of animated shorts focused on toilets—one a conventional 2D job about a woman who has trouble flushing, the other a Claymation one about a boy with nightmares arising from toilet training—are amusing bits of scatology. And a live-action contribution about a couple of low-rent filmmakers who decide to make their entry stand out by including a real death in it is amateurish but might draw a chuckle.
Occasionally one of the more explicitly gruesome offerings is impressive. That’s true of “D is for Dogfight,” about man biting dog and vice versa, which is frankly repulsive but compelling. Even the crudely obvious “F is for Fart” brings some eye-catching visuals. But generally the grosser or more surrealistic entries fall flat. “L is for Libido,” about a forced masturbation contest, seems endless, with a weak punchline, and “O is for Orgasm,” besides being obvious, is just repetitive.
As for the remainder, there are far fewer hits than misses, and most are pointless exercises in stylistic excess. There are undoubtedly going to be points in “The ABCs of Death” that will cause a bit of squeamishness, but after the torture-porn blitz of movies like “Saw” and “Hostel,” you might find yourself stifling a yawn rather than suffering from the shivers.