by

April 11, 2013

Do you like this?

It seems that I’m not a fan of horror films—at least not of the type depicted in “The ABCs of Death,” the latest film brought to Chattanooga by Mise En Scenesters. As a film critic, I get asked frequently about my favorite types of film. My answer is always the same —I like good ones. I’ve never been one to prefer one genre over another. All genres have something to offer the audience if done with care and thought. But if being a horror fan requires me to enjoy a film like “The ABCs of Death,” I’ll just bow out gracefully.

It may be that my definition of a horror film is somewhat narrow. I like a good story with convincing characters and motives, a dynamic and believable setting, a genuine threat of danger lurking somewhere unseen. But among hardcore horror directors, there seems to be a movement toward topping previous achievements in depravity, forsaking storylines and characters for decapitations, child and animal abuse, sexual degradation and mutilation. I can simply do without it.

“The ABCs of Death” is a collection of short films by some of the top names in horror filmmaking. While I haven’t heard of any of them, intrepid MES leader Chris Dortch assures me that they are all highly sought-after genre directors. The film follows the alphabet, Sue Grafton style, with each letter standing for a different death scene. Some are weird, some are disgusting, some are decent, but overall the film doesn’t establish any real continuity or believability. The tagline for the film is “26 Ways to Die,” but this is only true if time, space and reality have no meaning.  

There is a surprising amount of humor peppered throughout the film, adding levity to a bloody affair. The experience is similar to watching the fake horror movie trailers found in Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriquez’s “Grindhouse.” The only difference is that it is even more extreme and lasts for more than two hours.

For those horror fans out there dead set on seeing the film, watch for “C is for Cycle” and “U is for Unearthed.” Both shorts do a great job at creating a unique and comprehensible narrative in a thought-provoking way. Among the others, “Q is for Quack” and “N is for Nuptials” are at least funny. “E is for Exterminated” seemed to be pulled directly from the elementary school Book Fair legend “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.” The rest of the films lie outside my area of expertise, as I don’t understand why anyone would make them.

To help me understand, I asked Dortch, who finds these movies appealing. His answer was fairly straightforward:  “While I fully admit this type of movie isn’t for everybody, for adventurous and hardened horror fans it’s a curiosity to behold,” Dortch said. “[It] definitely is off the deep end but I guess to answer your question, I see the appeal as just simply being that the whole thing was a neat experiment and something fans of horror cinema would want to take a look at.”  

To me, horror fans are a bit like metal fans (the director of Cartoon Network’s “Metalocalypse” is even featured in the film). To them, anything that isn’t metal is inferior and anything that doesn’t push the envelope of heavy metal music is selling out. Metal musicians are thus heavier and more intense than ever, leaving classic bands like Black Sabbath sounding positively melodic. Much the same way, horror movies are increasingly violent and gory. It’s an arms race of mutilated body parts.

If any of this sounds intriguing, by all means check out “The ABCs of Death” on Friday at the Barking Legs Theater. There are likely to be plenty of likeminded individuals discussing busty women with chainsaws and the men they dissect.

Mise En Scenesters Presents “The ABCs of Death”

$7 • 8:30 p.m. • Friday, April 12 • Barking Legs Theater • 1307 Dodds Ave. • (423) 624-5347 • barkinglegs.org

by

April 11, 2013

Comments (4)

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RomCommie

This dissection would have been better executed by a busty woman with a chainsaw.

I am still trying to wrap my mind around the confluence of space and time that created the reality of this guy getting paid actual dollars to write. Before the content of the review even has a chance to rustle my jimmies, the egotistical writing style dissolves them in bile. Who did he intern with, Chuck Crowder?

If Mr. DeVore finds the contemporary horror genre distasteful and dead to begin with, he should have delegated someone else (like Danielle's grandmother) instead of writing this insipid complaint and patronizing the "intrepid" Mr. Dortch.

Luckily for your readership, it's a lot easier to turn the page than it is for Mr. DeVore to turn a phrase. Please deduct the cost of a thesaurus and a cultural idiom handbook from his next paycheck, if there is a next paycheck.

After dodging his punitive stabs at puns and being left holding a flaccid analogy at the end, I barely had enough energy to turn up the nu metal and type this response.

Anyone with half a sense of humor and half a gonad should come out tonight and give this fun collection of short films a try, while simultaneously supporting a great non-profit film club and theater.

The besnuggied Mr. DeVore will of course be staying home to re-watch The Notebook and grandiloquently judge the rest of us.

Mander more than 1 years ago

Give the film a chance...

Hey, great job being condescending to metal fans and horror fans!! Go see this film, you'll laugh at and probably be disgusted by some of the shorts. Think of it this way: 26 directors, 26 letters, $5000 per short and free reign to make whatever they want. It's going to come off as an art school project because that's the budget they're working with. It never promises continuity or believability. Since when does a horror movie, hell, any movie have to be believable? If I wanted reality, I'd avoid films all together.

Bryan Center more than 1 years ago

A is for arrogance...

As stated this film probably isn't for everyone. Sorry horror films don't make this reviewer feel all warm and fuzzy, '42 style. But putting down hardcore horror fans is elitest and frankly kinda douchey. I love the opportunity to see films on the fringe. Tell this critic to go watch Lincoln or something and next time let my Grandma review your films, as she sounds a lot less crotchety than this dude.

Danielle Walker more than 1 years ago

Are you kidding me?

Your editor should give you a talking to for complaining the film doesn't "establish any real continuity or believability." Why, it's almost as if it's a collection of 26 short films from 26 different directors, each with complete freedom. Did you do any research before you started writing?

Why would you bother to review something when all you have is contempt for the subject matter? Nothing better shows what is wrong with this review than this segment.

"To me, horror fans are a bit like metal fans (the director of Cartoon Network’s “Metalocalypse” is even featured in the film). To them, anything that isn’t metal is inferior and anything that doesn’t push the envelope of heavy metal music is selling out. Metal musicians are thus heavier and more intense than ever, leaving classic bands like Black Sabbath sounding positively melodic. Much the same way, horror movies are increasingly violent and gory. It’s an arms race of mutilated body parts."

The writer did not take the time to look into how the different cultures of the 26 different directors effected the film or their outlook. He made the choice not to address the experimental nature of the film. He chose not to try and understand anything about the movie beyond his own silly review of "it's gross and the people who like it are dumb." I've seen the movie. I think about half of it is brilliant and the other half is interesting. It's an experimental film that requires you to treat each segment as a product of the person who made it. Some are better than others. Some make no sense. I still do not understand what the hell is going on in any of the Japanese segments. But you know what?

It's something different. It's not a sign of a trend in horror or anything like that. it's a fun art experiment that you didn't understand so you had to insult everyone around. A critic might have tried to actually do some criticism. You know, research the directors and try to understand what was going on. But it was gross and research is hard so why not be insulting to horror fans.

This is lazy and I'm disappointed.

John-Michael Bond more than 1 years ago

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