Interview: Jason Eisener discusses 'The ABCs of Death'
You have to wait through decapitations, deadly flatulence, bugs, clones, and killer toilets, but eventually you will get to Jason Eisener’s insidiously creepy four-minute horror short about revenge.
The ABCs of Death, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2012 and makes it’s way back to Toronto and across Canada at least for one night – Thursday, May 23rd – is a collection of bloody, sinister, quirky, odd, and at times simply insane short films cataloguing death in all its variations. In 26 parts, by 26 directors around the world, the film proceeds alphabetically, and the only guarantee is that each short starts and ends on a red frame, and someone, somehow, will die.
Canadian filmmaker Jason Eisener is in the ‘Y’ position, meaning should you watch it in theatres, you have 24 cases of disturbing and weird deaths to experience beforehand. In at least one case (and probably, many, many more), a man did not make it all the way through.
“Some guy came bursting through the theatre doors looking for a garbage can, puking everywhere,” says Eisener of one screening he attended. “’I’m sorry,’ the guy said, ‘I can’t stick around for your part.’”
What the ill-at-ease gent missed out on, among other things, was Eisener’s 80’s music-infused story, sans dialogue, about a young boy seeking vengeance on a creepy older man. It is uncomfortable and sweaty and gross, and of course, bloody.
“It was, ‘what can we do that is different than everyone else has done,’” says Eisener from his home in Darmouth, Nova Scotia. “By the time you get there, the audience is going to be desensitized, so I wanted to do something to make people react.”
Initially, however, Eisener’s short was slated for the ‘N’ spot, positioned in the heart of the film. He was asked to switch letters, however, to facilitate other filmmakers. The switch though, did not lead to any changes in the film, despite the curious way in which the anthology is viewed, and how one film may inform the others that follow.
“Watching 26 shorts can be tough, so I wanted to do something to get people pumped up,” adds Eisener. “It has this music video vibe; I tried to do something cool, something that can play to all countries.”
Eisener also tells me of a different ‘n’ idea, a hysterical and bloody battle scene, but one that was too lofty to be realized yet, and one that I don’t want to spoil here should it ever come to fruition. All I’ll say for now is that ‘n’ was for nunchuk.
“I’m stoked where we ended up,” says Eisener, proud that his film is among the finale, number 25 of 26. “I thought it was going to be a tough watch, a hard slog, but it goes by fast, and it’s so much fun.”
His definition of ‘fun’ might be different than some, but the greatness and the curse of The ABCs of Death is that each short is a different vision. They will alternatively elicit shrieks, boredom, discomfort, laughter, and horror. Some hit, and some don’t.