Amoeblog

AFI 2012 - The ABCs of Death (2012)

Posted by Charles Reece, November 18, 2012 10:41pm | Post a Comment
abcs of death poster

Lets just say this film is NOT for the morally conscious.
-- Timo Tjahjanto on his "L is for Libido"

The ABCs of Death
is a collection of humorous horror shorts from around the world, each based on a letter of the alphabet -- so you know going in that, percentage-wise, some of it won't be very good. However, there are a truly inspired few that make enduring the whole worthwhile. What you'll learn, if you didn't already know, is that Americans aren't very good at making horror these days, Asians are the best, with the French and Mexicans falling somewhere in between.

The best of the bunch is undoubtedly from Indonesia, Timo Tjahjanto's "L is for Libido."  Two men are chained to chairs, forced to masturbate to whatever's put before them on a stage. The last one to ejaculate gets gruesomely eliminated, while the winner goes on to the next round, with something even more heinous being put before him and his new opponent. Without giving any of the shock value away, I'll just say that the forced fetish spectacle was sufficiently evil to get the asshole sitting next to me who couldn't stop playing with his cell phone (a video arcade was coming from his seat) to finally pay attention and leave in disgust. A good horror film can't be ignored. Despite Tjahjanto's claim of amorality, there's actually quite a bit going on here. I'm thinking about the assumption of passivity in gaze theory, both on the part of the spectacle and on the part of the spectator. What's being shown in front of the camera is under its controlling gaze (typically, this is thought to be women, objectified and fetishized), while giving the viewer the false impression of being in control of that gaze, when in fact the gaze has been ("always already") structured for him (men tend to be assumed to be in the role of the scopophiliac). The short manifests this theory as horror: the men are actually subjugated to a spectacle beyond their control. But it's unlikely to win many feminist converts, because it's played for laughs (of the gallows humor variety). The problem in gaze theory is that the spectator isn't passive, a mere product of interpellation, which is made comically apparent through sanguine literality. Intentional or not, Tjahjanto has created a perverse satire of Laura Mulvey's theory.

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