Michael vs. Thomas: THE ABCS OF DEATH and THEY’RE WATCHING
Michael Rich and our Editor-in-Chief love horror films and hate each other. In the spirit of the great horror face-offs of history, they’ll be going toe-to-toe in the ring and covering the horror films of Netflix in Michael vs. Thomas.
Logline: A is for Apocalypse. T is for Toilet. Twenty-six sick minds envision the weirdest, most inventive ways to die.
Michael: Alright, Thomas. I’m going to try and keep my emotions in check here. Please explain why this godawful, ahem… special horror anthology is worth a watch.
Thomas: I don’t understand how anyone can watch this and have anything less than a good time! It’s such a ridiculous, overblown premise that the film clearly doesn’t take itself too seriously, which makes it an ideal midnight movie! Is it ever scary? No, but it’s often chuckle-worthy and features a handful of legitimately good shorts. You really can’t admit that this is fun?
Michael: I’m sorry, but ABCs is objectively a bad movie. Poorly made. Overly long. Offensive at times (and I’m pretty lax on stuff like that). I deeply respect many of the filmmakers who made segments in this, such as Ti West, Jason Eisener, Adam Wingard, but, as an overall movie, it is irredeemable.
Thomas: Alright, in theory I don’t like this defense I’m about to make, but wouldn’t you say that since it’s so unapologetic in its disjointed presentation (considering that a lack of consistent quality is practically inherent in the premise) that the film can somewhat sidestep this claim of being an “overall bad movie”? I will admit that not every segment is enjoyable (your boy Ti West’s is the worst by a mile), but finding the good makes them all the more better! Lengthy? Sure. But you can’t say everything about it is poorly made!
Michael: The first time I watched this movie, I was almost in a state of shock that someone thought this was a releasable movie that they could charge money for. I’m really not trying to be a dick, but I want to be honest. There is no hint of cohesion. You have directors I love putting together terribly amateur segments about miscarriages. Luckily, a handful of the 26 directors took their segments at least semi-seriously, with “D is for Dogfight” and “Q is for Quack” standing out among the utter crap.
Thomas: “D is for Dogfight” is among my top as well, but I think “Q is for Quack” is one of the most skippable… How about “X is for XXL”? That’s my personal standout.
Michael: That segment is a little creative, I guess. Like most of them, the filmmakers fumble with the execution. From what I understand, each segment was given $5,000. I guess some of the blame should go to that?
Thomas: I would argue that that’s a great way to give first-time directors a chance to cut their teeth and get their name out there, but I think we’ve both drawn lines in the sand here. I still maintain that, especially if you don’t read Wikipedia beforehand, there’s a good bit of fun to be had in seeing what the next letter entails. You won’t even give it “good drunk movie”?
Michael: No. The team that made this has collaborated on many of my favorite films, including the V/H/S series. Just avoid this and give their other films a go. I also want to give mention to ABCs OF DEATH 2, which I consider infinitely better.
Thomas: That, my friend, is an argument for another time…
Logline: The squabbling crew of an American TV show ends up on the wrong end of a witch hunt when they start shooting in a remote European village.
Thomas: I was pleasantly surprised by this, considering how bad it could have gone with lead creatives from THE SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS MOVIE and CALL OF DUTY being at the helm. It definitely puts most of its eggs in the comedy basket, but until that horrific ending scene, I found it entertaining.
Michael: Yes, I remember when this film was playing in the local theater and being amused by the choice of previous credits on the poster. Ok, my disdain does not reach ABCs OF DEATH level, but THEY’RE WATCHING breaks the number one found footage rule: Why are they filming all the time?
Thomas: I wasn’t too offended by their justification, I would assume a reality TV show has the camera on most of the time. In hindsight, I suppose the two leads hooking up is a little strange to include in the footage, but for the most part it was never jarring enough to take me out of the story…
Michael: Do you consider this a horror movie? The horror aspects don’t kick in until the last 20 minutes and, even then, it’s more comedy.
Thomas: I think it makes a strong enough case for itself to be considered a “horror comedy,” since I think they do some generally creative playing around with the standard “ignorant Americans abroad” horror trope. It most definitely succeeds more at comedy than horror though, as Vladimir is pretty hard to not smile at. The horror though… oh, boy. I despised that closing special effects bonanza. It reminded me of V/H/S: VIRAL in the worst way possible.
Michael: Ah, good ol’ V/H/S: VIRAL… THEY’RE WATCHING is essentially HOSTEL, but found footage. The whole time I was waiting for a twist that never came. You have all the standard horror characters: idealistic lead, obnoxious friend, and blonde chick. It’s standard stuff. I’m just going to throw my hands up in indifference.
Thomas: It wasn’t quite as recyclable as you claim! It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but the villagers of Pavlovka were ultimately not trying to kill the crew, which is kind of a twist, and I would say the general use of a premise with so many inherent horror tropes to make what is mostly a comedy is at least shaking things up a bit. But I still would not recommend this, since I can’t express my distaste for the final act enough.
Michael: It’s better than ABCs, at least!