The ABCs of Death

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The ABCs of Death
Theatrical release poster
Directed by See below
Produced by Ant Timpson
Tim League
Written by See below
Music by Various composers
Cinematography Various cinematographers
Edited by Various editors
Drafthouse Films
Timpson Films
Distributed by Magnet Releasing
Release dates
  • September 14, 2012 (2012-09-14) (TIFF)
  • January 31, 2013 (2013-01-31) (VOD)
  • March 8, 2013 (2013-03-08) (North America)
  • July 20, 2013 (2013-07-20) (Japan)
Running time 124 minutes[1]
Country United States
New Zealand
Language English
Box office $21,832[2]

The ABCs of Death is a 2012 anthology horror comedy film produced by International producers. The film contains 26 different shorts, each by different directors spanning fifteen countries. It premiered at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival. In 2013, it was released on VOD January 31 and in theaters March 8.[3]

The end credits of the film features Australian band Skyhooks' 1974 song "Horror Movie", and also states that a sequel, ABCs of Death 2, will be released in late 2014.[4]


The film is divided into twenty-six individual chapters, each helmed by a different director assigned a letter of the alphabet. The directors were then given free rein in choosing a word to create a story involving death. The varieties of death range from accidents to murders.[5]

A contest was held for the role of the twenty-sixth director. The winner was UK-based director Lee Hardcastle, who submitted the claymation short for T.[6]


  • A is for Apocalypse (directed and written by Nacho Vigalondo): A man is sitting and eating in bed, when a woman sneaks into his room and clumsily attempts to stab him with a knife (leaving the knife stuck in his neck), throws hot oil over his face, and repeatedly beats him on the head with the frying pan. Calmly, she sits down next to him and explains that it was not supposed to be this way, revealing that she has been poisoning him since last year and he was supposed to have died already. He asks her why and she responds that she's been listening to the news all morning and ran out of time. As he closes his eyes and dies, she sits next to him and says, "I'm sorry, it was going to be better. But we don't have time." The camera zooms into the large window beside the bed, with the white curtains turning red.
  • B is for Bigfoot (directed and written by Adrian Garcia Bogliano): A couple is about to have sex, when the man's young cousin, Xochitl, interrupts them when she says she cannot sleep because it is too early. After sending her back to her room, the man tells his date that his parents lent him the house on the condition that he look after Xo. The man goes to Xo's room and orders her to sleep; however when she refuses, he tells her that if she does not sleep the Abominable Snowman will come—an idea he improvised by glancing at a comic book in her room. Xo is undaunted by this as she knows it does not snow in Mexico. The man's date appears and quickly agrees with Xo and begins to tell the tale of a vicious snowman that kidnaps children, tears their hearts out, and eats them. She claims that Benito Juarez made a truce with the snowman, agreeing that he could live in a cold-storage container on the condition that he was only allowed to go out at night and take children who do not lay down by eight. When he does this, he pushes a cart to carry the children's bodies and rings a bell. Xo attempts to sleep and anxiously counts sheep. The couple return to the living room and have sex. Outside the building, a man presumed to be the trash collector pushes a cart and rings a bell, which further frightens Xo. When the trash collector knocks on their door to receive their trash, the man hands it to him. A scream is heard and the woman is shown stumbling into Xo's room with a large hole in her chest as she dies. The scar-faced man enters the house and then Xo's room with a bloody and serrated wheel-cutter, but does not notice her as she remains under the covers counting sheep. He leaves the house with trash bags and pushes his cart off.
  • C is for Cycle (directed and written by Ernesto Diaz Espinoza): A man sees a puddle of blood on the ground outside of his home. He is then shown sleeping in bed with a woman. She hears a noise and wakes him up to investigate. He goes out into the living room, sees nothing suspicious, and returns to the room. Upon waking, he sees that the woman is gone. Going outside to call for her, he sees a hole in a thick bush and walks toward it. He wakes up to find himself on the ground and that it is night time. He goes into his house and bedroom to find his previous self, in bed with the same woman. Frightened, he runs out of the bedroom and hides, which turns out to be the noise the woman heard and asked him to investigate earlier. The man is confused when he sees himself doing what he did before. In the morning, he waits behind some woods and watches himself inspect the hole in the bush as he had done earlier. After the other man disappears, he comes out only to find that the other man had appeared behind him and strangled him with a barbed wire-wrapped rubber hose. The man dies, leaving the puddle of blood shown in the beginning of the short, and the other man drags his body to the hole in the bushes.
  • D is for Dogfight (directed and written by Marcel Sarmiento): The entire short film is seen and heard in slow motion. A tired and sweaty fighter is shown leaning against a wire fence, getting his red boxing gloves taped on by his coach. He is also shown to be wearing a military ID tag saying "BUDDY: if found please call Los Angeles Men's Shelter, (213)555-4124". Looking behind him, he sees a defeated and bloody fighter sitting on the floor. A cork poster board is shown covered with Missing Dog flyers, where there is a quick shot of a flyer with a picture and a poorly hand written message that matches the ID tag worn by the fighter. We see that the fighter is about take part in a "dog fight" with an actual dog. Deep apprehension is shown on the fighter's face as the dog is released. A long and vicious fight ensues, filled with bites to the fighter as well as punches to the dog's face. The fighter bites the dog. After one of the punches to the dog's head, the dog seems to hesitate and look quizzical as if he recognizes the fighter. As the fight concludes with the fighter lying on his back and the dog's mouth locked onto his throat, the fighter whispers the word "Buddy" to the dog. The dog lets go and the fighter stands. The flyer is shown again, implying that the dog is actually the fighter's missing dog, and the fighter is there to get his dog back and seek revenge. The fighter and the dog fiercely stare at the dog trainer/thief before the dog attacks him. We next see the dog trainer crawling out of a door, bloody and on the ground, as the fighter attacks him with the butt of a fire extinguisher.
  • E is for Exterminate (directed and written by Angela Bettis): A man discovers a large black spider in his home. In an attempt to kill it, it escapes him and bites him on the back of the neck. The spider is seen, from its perspective, spying over the man over the next few days as the man shows slight pain in the back of his neck. One night, while the man is asleep, the spider crawls over the man's face. The man increasingly tends to aches and sores, specifically complaining of ear pain. He finally kills the spider and as he laughs and flushes it down the toilet, he groans as the pain in his ear has greatly increased. He turns to the mirror as many baby spiders emerge from his ear.
  • F is for Fart (directed and written by Noboru Iguchi): In Japan, a school girl claims that she does not believe God exists; if he did, sensitive girls would not be so ashamed when they had to fart. She farts and is discovered by a female teacher, Miss Yumi, whom she has romantic feelings for. An earthquake comes and releases a poisonous gas that kills everyone. The girl and Miss Yumi run away and escape to a room where the girl confesses she would rather die by smelling Miss Yumi's gas. The girl kneels to receive Miss Yumi's fart. The yellow gas envelops the girl and eventually sucks her into Miss Yumi. There, the girls are shown naked inside a yellow area where they are happy.
  • G is for Gravity (directed and written by Andrew Traucki): All shown from a man's point of view, the main character drives his car to the beach, places bricks in a bag, and takes his surfboard out into the water. Swimming far and breathing short and heavily, he falls underwater for a long time and floats back up, presumably dead.
  • H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion (directed and written by Thomas Malling): A male dog with a human body dressed as a British pilot is shown at a strip club where he is aroused by a female fox. As she strips, she reveals a Nazi swastika band on her arm. A small toy-like tank rolls up and punches him between the legs with a metal fist. A series of contraptions emerge that restrain and electrocute him by the testicles. Encircled by more mini-tanks with chomping metal teeth, he is hung over spikes in water. He focuses on the locket around his neck which reveals encouraging words alongside a voice echoed in his head, "Keep calm, my son. Carry on. Never surrender." This inspires him to escape and defeat the fox, pushing her into the teethed-tanks and the spikes where she is electrocuted, melts, and then explodes.
  • I is for Ingrown (directed and written by Jorge Michel Grau): A man is in a bathroom wearing gloves, holding a red bottle and a syringe. A wedding ring is shown on his finger. He walks to the bathtub and pushes open the bath curtain to reveal a bound and gagged woman. She struggles as he administers the drug in the syringe. He stumbles away as she reaches out to him. In the tub, she violently scratches her skin until it bleeds, vomits, and dies. A wedding ring is shown on her finger. Throughout the short, the inner monologue of the woman reveals she is not an intruder or stranger, that he "changed and marked" her, that he's "not brave or original", that he is "basic and primal", that she arrived "without looking or worrying", and that she "didn't see the angle" and "didn't see this happening".
  • J is for Jidai-geki (Samurai Movie) (directed and written by Yûdai Yamaguchi): A Japanese man in blue is holding a sword over another man in white. The man in white makes several ridiculous facial expressions, making the man in blue sweaty and nervous. It is revealed that the man in white has committed seppuku. The man in blue then cuts the man in white's head off, laughing at the final expression on his face.
  • K is for Klutz (directed and written by Anders Morgenthaler): A cartoon short about a woman using the bathroom. After struggling to defecate, her stool refuses to be flushed and crawls out of the toilet towards her. Rushed by others outside the bathroom, she tries several methods in attempt to flush it that all fail. When she thinks she has gotten rid of it, she goes to wash her hands but hears something and bends over to see what it was. The stool is above her on the ceiling and noticing that her dress has slid down and revealed her underwear, it drops and reinserts itself back into her before emerging out her mouth amongst pooling blood, killing her.
  • L is for Libido (Directed and written by Timo Tjahjanto): A bag is pulled off a man's head. He looks around to see other people wearing masks watching him, as well as another man who, like him, is half-naked and restrained to a chair with leather straps. As the screen denotes "Stage 1", a naked woman appears on stage in front of them. Both men begin to masturbate and the first man ejaculates first. A woman who had been sitting next to them presses a button that impales the other man with a wooden spike. The first man continues to compete and win in subsequent stages against different opponents. At "Stage 12", a one-legged woman in a wheelchair is placed on stage and begins masturbating with her prosthetic leg. The man, increasingly exhausted, is about to win again when he sees the woman sitting next to them spread her legs and reveal an eye between them. When the spike to kill the losing man does not work at first, she kicks the box until the spike shoots up too fast, killing her along with the man. In the next stage, the opponent is a skinny, old man attached to an IV and the subject on stage is an older man having sex with a young boy. The opponent masturbates and ejaculates while the first man vomits. He then wakes up, reinvigorated, to a woman straddling him and sees that he is now on stage as two new contestants are strapped to the chairs. The woman wields a chainsaw and kills him as she climaxes.
  • M is for Miscarriage (directed and written by Ti West): A woman is shown after using a toilet. She attempts to flush it, but it does not work. After a long search for the plunger, she finally finds it and returns to the toilet. Then, the inside of the toilet is finally shown: it is filled with blood and something else, presumably a dead fetus.
  • N is for Nuptials (directed and written by Banjong Pisanthanakun): A man shows off his pet bird to an uninterested woman. He has trained it to do tricks and speak but the woman is not impressed. The man reveals a ring and proposes to her. As the woman tears up with excitement, the bird says, "Don't worry, Joy, my girlfriend won't find out." The woman becomes suspicious of who Joy is but the man insists the bird remembers it from a movie. The bird continues to reveal things and the woman grows more upset and kills the man.
  • O is for Orgasm (directed and written by Bruno Forzani and Héléne Cattet): A series of extreme-closeups of a man and woman in sensual and provocative scenes. Sounds of whips, crinkling leather, and her moans can be heard as she throws her head back and bubbles emerge from her mouth. Sighs and moans of painful ecstasy accompany whips and cigarettes as they pop each of the bubbles.
  • P is for Pressure (directed and written by Simon Rumley): A woman is shown caring for three children by prostituting herself. While she is gone, a man, presumably her boyfriend, is searching her home for cash while the children huddle scared in a corner. At a bar, she rejects a man who approaches her; he leaves her a card. She returns home and finds her money gone. Troubled for rent, she calls the man with the card and meets up with him. She poses in front of a camera, stroking and crushing a cat's head with her heel.
  • Q is for Quack (directed and written by Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett): The filmmakers themselves are shown speaking about the movie and trying to come up with ideas for a story with the letter Q. They decide to be the only short in the movie to show an actual death and decide to kill a duck. After approaching a duck in a cage, the first man decides not to do it and the second man's gun jams. While attempting to fix it, he accidentally shoots the first man who then accidentally shoots the second man. As they die, the soundman runs off.
  • R is for Removed (directed and written by Srdjan Spasojevic): A man attached to an IV has skin surgically removed from the his back which is then used to create 35 mm film. In a cage, he is taken out to a crowd of women cheering, taking pictures, and touching him. At another skin removal session, the patient attacks and kills the doctor. He retrieves what they had taken out and leaves the building, killing all those who try to stop him. He walks to a train-track house, where he slightly pushes back a small train and collapses under it due to a heart attack. Moments after the attack it begins to rain blood.
  • S is for Speed (directed and written by Jake West): A woman with a gun leads another handcuffed woman through a building in the desert. Pursued by a hooded man, the armed woman shoots him. When the handcuffed woman taunts the other to shoot her, the gun is out of bullets and the hooded man resumes pursuit. The handcuffed woman gets locked in a trunk and the other woman uses a flamethrower on the man. She drives off in the car, using the radio to silence the screaming and kicking woman in the trunk. She soon runs out of gas and a truck, driven by the hooded man, catches up to her. She takes the other woman out of the trunk and tries to convince him to take her instead. He says it's not her time. She pleads for her life and he admits respect to her as no one has ever been so difficult to chase but that she cannot run forever. She touches his hand and falls dead into a filthy room next to another woman lying on the ground. The other woman finds a bag of drugs sticking out of her bra, injects them into an infected wound, and then sees visions of the desert and car.
  • T is for Toilet (directed and written by Lee Hardcastle): The parents of a young boy wonder and argue why he fears the toilet. After encouragement, he goes to use it but the toilet bubbles up and turns into a monster, which kills his parents. The boy wakes up to find out it was all a dream and goes to use the toilet. When a loose screw causes the toilet back to slip, the boy screams and ends up falling and getting his head stuck in the toilet seat. His father laughs until the top of the toilet falls and crushes his head, killing him. The short ends with the father screaming in agony.
  • U is for Unearthed (directed and written by Ben Wheatley): Shown entirely from the point of view of someone, presumably a vampire, being chased by an angry mob. He kills many of them but is eventually knocked down by three men who pull out his fangs, drive a stake into his heart, and chop his head off with an axe.
  • V is for Vagitus (The Cry of a Newborn Baby) (directed and written by Kaare Andrews): In a futuristic New Vancouver in 2035, women are made infertile by the government but can earn back their fertility through service to Propagation Control. A female police officer applies to have a child and, although she is approved, she finds out she is biologically infertile. Some time later, she enters a building with her robot companion, searching for and successfully killing many rebels. She corners a couple with a child. The woman hypnotizes the officer but as they attempt to escape the police robot regains himself and shoots the couple and decapitates the little boy. Returning from the trance, the upset female officer angrily confronts the robot about killing the boy. More officers enter the building and one with skeletal tattoos on his face explains that the robot was only doing its job and responding to the para-psychic activity in the family of "mentals", those with mind control abilities. The corpses are retrieved for genetic research and study. When she goes against her superior's instructions, he shoots her. The baby's body goes missing and begins crawling around the room and attacking people. The tattooed man instructs the robot to shoot the head which will stop the body. The rebel man tells the female officer that the baby is the prophet and that she must protect him as she is his mother now, as the baby's head causes the tattooed man's head to explode.
  • W is for WTF! (directed and written by Jon Schnepp): A series of random and vulgar scenes, including the filmmakers deciding what to do with the letter W.
  • X is for XXL (directed and written by Xavier Gens): A middle-aged, overweight woman is harassed and made fun of as she rides the train and walks home, as she is constantly reminded of an advertisement of a beautiful model in a bikini. She eats everything in her refrigerator, then strips and vomits. She takes out a large knife and cuts various parts of her body. Bloodied, she goes into the bathtub to peel off her skin and fat. She emerges as a mutilated, thin woman, collapses, and dies.
  • Y is for Youngbuck (directed and written by Jason Eisener): An old man teaches a boy to shoot a deer. He chops the deer's head off and spreads blood on the boy's face as he sits and watches in horror; the man also takes his pants off in front of the boy. The old man is shown to be a school janitor and he spies on a group of boys playing basketball in the gym. As the boys leave the gym, he turns to see the same deer in the school hallway. Then he enters the gym and licks up the boys' sweat from the bench they were sitting on. The boy appears to him in the gym, covered in blood, pierces the old man's eyes with the deer's horns, and rips his head off. The boy puts the deer's head over his own and begins to take his pants off.
  • Z is for Zetsumetsu (Extinction) (directed and written by Yoshihiro Nishimura): An abstract series of events dealing with revisionist views of Japanese relations with the West. The short is teeming with graphic nudity, the game show environment, cultural elements from World War II such as U.S. occupation and nuclear energy, metaphors and symbols of modern society like rice and sushi, and blatant references to Dr. Strangelove that include a common theme that not only has evil persisted but has been reborn.


Critical reception for The ABCs of Death has been mixed. Rotten Tomatoes reports that 38% of critics gave the film a positive review with an average score of 4.9/10, based on 60 reviews. The consensus says the film "is wildly uneven, with several legitimately scary entries and a bunch more that miss the mark."[8] Nerdist calls it "a midnight movie for folks with a sick sense of humour".[citation needed] The Austin Chronicle says it "soars to such artistic heights, and such tasteless depths, on a global scale, no less, bodes well for the future of cinema fantastique and otherwise",[citation needed] while Inside Pulse says the movie has a "brilliant concept but not great execution". Many reviewers criticized the film shorts' unevenness.[9][10][11]

Dread Central gave a mixed review for the film, saying the film is "full of installments that are more bad than good" but that it was an "easy watch" overall.[12] Film School Rejects gave The ABCs of Death a B rating, praising D is for Dogfight while saying that "M is for Miscarriage is almost insulting in its laziness".[13] Screen Crush gave an overall positive review, saying that it was "a good time at the movies".[14]

Dave Canfield writing for influential American film magazine Magill's said of the film: "The ABCs of Death is for anyone who loves horror since it is easy to skip through segments that are not to taste. Any viewer should be prepared to laugh pretty hard; feel tense; get grossed out like they would at any halfway decent horror film. But that same viewer now has a chance to find out about some of the best directors working in horror today."


  1. ^ "THE ABCS OF DEATH (18)". British Board of Film Classification. January 15, 2013. Retrieved February 6, 2013. 
  2. ^ "The ABCs of Death". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved October 10, 2014. 
  3. ^ Ryan Turek (October 3, 2012). "Get a Sneak Peek of ABCs of Death Before V/H/S This Week". Shock Till You Drop. Retrieved November 9, 2012. 
  4. ^ Nemiroff, Perri (2013). "‘ABCs of Death 2’ Directors List: ‘Splice’s’ Vincenzo Natali, Bill Plympton & More". Retrieved 24 May 2014. 
  5. ^ "Exclusive Interview: Angela Bettis on The ABCs of Death". Crave Online. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  6. ^ "Watch the Winning ‘ABCs of Death’ Short Film ‘T is for Toilet’". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  7. ^ "The ABCs of Death". Variety. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  8. ^ The ABCs of Death at Rotten Tomatoes
  9. ^ "Fantastic Fest ’12: The ABCs of Death – Review". Inside Pulse. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  10. ^ "REVIEW: THE ABCS OF DEATH (TIFF 2012)". Jo Blo. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  11. ^ "Fantastic Fest Review: ‘The ABCs of Death’". Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  12. ^ "ABCs of Death, The (2012)". Dread Central. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  13. ^ "Fantastic Fest: ‘The ABCs of Death’ – 10 Segments I Liked and 5 I Didn't". Film School Rejects. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  14. ^ "‘THE ABCS OF DEATH’ REVIEW". Screen Crush. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 

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