Although it’s rooted in the alphabet, this infernal anthology produced by Ant Timpson and Tim League is really all about the maths.
Running at 124 topsy-turvy minutes, it comprises 26 segments by (mostly) horror directors such as Ben Wheatley (Kill List, Sightseers) and Ti West (The Innkeepers), each lasting between 30 and 300 seconds, and costing £5,000 to make.
Each tackling a different letter, and spanning 15 countries, the films range in style from Aardman-ish animation to Asian extreme, and in quality from five stars down to one and back.
Two segments hit the upper end of the scale.
D by American writer/director Marcel Sarmiento (who made 2008’s excellent Deadgirl) is a blast of pure cinema: wordless, witty, thrilling. Almost as good – and harder to forget – is L by Timo Tjahjanto, a disturbingly sexualised death match with the courage of its convictions.
We’ll see this Indonesian whiz kid again in the forthcoming V/H/S sequel – if PC Plod doesn’t come knocking first…
Six efforts veer closer to catastrophe, including West’s insultingly throwaway M, the rootless surrealism of W (for WTF?), and the flatulent J-horror F (which stands, you’ll note, for Fart). Tot up the star ratings for the individual entries and the average score works out at three.
Despite dependable work by Nacho Vigalondo (Timecrimes), Jason Eisener (Hobo With A Shotgun) and Xavier Gens (Frontier(s)), and some exemplary budget-stretching by Canadian Kaare Andrews (Altitude), who goes for all-out sci-fi in V, the 26-film format discourages quality control, and the viewing experience is accordingly choppy.
Two hits in a row and everyone’s happy, two duffers and it’s dead in the water.
You can’t fault the value for money – or the ambition – on show here, but whether ABCs adds up to a worthwhile investment of two hours for anyone but the most forgiving of fans is something you’ll have to figure out for yourself.
This erratic portmanteau offers something for everyone – even those with no taste – alongside bursts of genuine invention. But maybe DVD, and the skip button, is its natural home.