Thursday, May 30, 2013

The ABCs Of Death (And Others)



I've written before about my affection for anthology films, and the pitfalls that this particular format invites. Almost inevitably an anthology film is going to end up uneven, it's built into the form. But even judging by the standards of the anthology film The ABCs Of Death must win some kind of record for staggering shifts in tone and quality. There are EKGs that are smoother. Say what you will about it, but it makes for a lively film.

The gimmick of The ABCs Of Death is pretty easy to grasp. Each short film is based around a mode of shuffling off this mortal coil. The tone goes from literal cartoonish to grim. The films that contain them range from so good that I'm pretty sure that it qualifies as a minor masterpiece (D) to films that though bad, I'm happy exist if only because it means that the directors were busy, and thus not out murdering people (F,H).

Oddly enough it's the big name heavy hitters who do the worst job. Ti West's entry is such a throwaway that it would have been less insulting had he simply videotaped himself walking onscreen, yawning and then flipping the audience the bird. Jason Eisener's entry though stylishly shot, is also bizarrely unworthy of the treatment it is given. It's a dirty joke that has been polished until it gleams like a black diamond. Kind of what a fifty million dollar John Waters film might look like. Except it isn't funny. Of the big names only Ben Wheatley delivers with his slight, but stylish and clever bit of first person horror.

Among the less memorable episodes are the collections two animated features. Both of which are toilet themed. Beyond suggesting that a rather unsettling Venn Diagram might be drawn between Animators and Scat fetishists, neither of the shorts does much worth commenting on.

Among the highlights are the aforementioned D, a top notch piece of silent storytelling, that seems as though it will end with one punchline before abruptly substituting it for another. It's among the most heartwarming films where someone is eaten alive that I can think of. The manic W, and the stylish O are also worth watching. And I must give a certain begrudging respect to L. Easily the most disturbing short of the bunch. Like something from Old School Takashi Miike, or Eli Roth's id. It's absolutely repulsive, but follows through on the courage of its convictions so thoroughly that I can't help but bow to it. For all the blood and bad taste that the various filmmakers flaunt throughout The ABCs Of Death, L is easily the only one that disturbs.

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I was lucky enough to get a chance to sit down and talk with Xan Cassevettes, director of The Z Channel, you might recall that I have something of a fondness for her work. To the point where I went ahead and cut my own version of the montage that ends that movie.

Getting to talk to her was a real treat and just as much fun as I hoped. She gave a great interview and I hope you enjoy it.

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I had an interview of my own to participate in, on NPR's Writing On The Air. It was a true pleasure speaking with Francois and Narrissa talking about Son Of Danse Macabre. (Which once again is available on Amazon and BN)

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And last but not least I tackled both Baz Luhrman's Pretty Good Gatsby and Jack Clayton's Not Very Good At All Gatsby, at inReads. Good times!

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Also incase you haven't seen it, there's a very cool kickstarter for a practical effects film called Harbinger Down. It's the kind of cool practical, monster film that us genre fans are always bitching for. Well lets try putting our money where are mouths are huh? I'd love to see this thing get made.

This is exactly the kind of thing that I hope Kickstarter is eventually able to fund en mass, not amateurish, soliphistic art projects, not the work of professionals seeking a handout. But talented filmmakers who don't quite fit into the studio system anymore. Alex Cox already got a film made this way. So why not Richard Kelly? Why not John Carpenter? Hell think even bigger than that, what would happen if Terry Gilliam put up a Man Who Killed Don Quioxite Kickstarter. It has to start somewhere and Harbinger Down seems as good a place as any.

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