EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: THE ABCs OF DEATH Director Thomas Malling on His Horrific Homage to Classic Actioners 'H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion'
Inspired by children's educational books, the feature is comprised of 26 individual chapters, each helmed by a different director assigned a letter of the alphabet. The directors were given free reign to choose a word to represent a form of death based on their letter.
Twenty-six directors. Twenty-six ways to die. The ABC’s OF DEATH is perhaps the most ambitious anthology film ever conceived with productions spanning fifteen countries and featuring segments directed by over two dozen of the world's leading talents in contemporary genre film. Inspired by children’s educational books, the motion picture is comprised of twenty-six individual chapters, each helmed by a different director assigned a letter of the alphabet. The directors were then given free reign in choosing a word to create a story involving death.
Director Thomas Cappelen Malling's feature film debut was the 2010 action comedy Norwegian Ninja, which turned real-life convicted spy Arne Treholt into the leader of a ninja group saving Norway during the Cold War. The film spun an alternate universe story out of Treholt's autobiographical book, and was a hit overseas. Domestically it won plenty of accolades during its festival run, leading The ABCs of Death film makers to target Malling as one of their 26 directorial candidates.
"I first heard about the project when [producers] Tim and Ant asked me if I was interested. Of course I was! I have a lot of respect for both [of them] and the directors who had signed. My debut feature, 'Norwegian Ninja', premiered at Fantastic Fest in 2010. It won best Director and Best Actor in the Next Wave competition there. Fantastic Fest being Tim League’s festival, I guess I was invited because of the probability of my contribution being kind of 'out there' [laughs]."
For his 'H' segment in horror anthology, Malling chose to create an eclectic piece that also served as a twisted homage to classic action adventures:
"The story itself is a re-love of legendary situations from Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies in the guise of a live-action cartoon. The facemelting at the end of 'Hydro-Electric Diffusion' is stolen from the climax of Raiders of the lost Ark – but that movie never gave face-melting a proper word. I guess with my segment I’m suggesting the scientific name for it! I sure hope it sticks but wouldn’t bet on it [laughs].
Norwegian Ninja is rooted heavily in Cold War espionage, so the militaristic trajectory of this short seems like a natural progression. Here, though, Malling dove further back into time, utilizing World War II iconography -- from fighter pilots to Winston Churchill -- with a fantastical twist.
"I love World War II technology and style, femme fatales, old cartoons and animals. My segment is made to be like a propaganda-film from the 1940s. I love propaganda as an art form, so I love the cliché of the action hero who wins despite his stupidity, as propaganda portrays intelligence and planning is as evil – although propaganda is evil and well planned in itself, because propaganda creators dislike their audience and assume they are stupid. Are we? Maybe.
"The World War II references came from the need of making the audience understand the coming conflict without spending screen time. The Churchill connection was used for exposition in the beginning, in an attempt to make the universe bigger by means of suggestion, as everything to follow would be shown from two angles in a black room. The Churchill connection was repeated later to reveal something intimate about the Bulldog in order to promote coherence and increase [his] need of winning – it becomes more than personal, it becomes a conflict between doom and salvation."
With a background in commercials, making a short film fit right into Malling's comfort zone. In the end he found The ABCs of Death to be a fun challenge and rewarding experience, especially the collaboration with other film makers.
"Well if you break it down to what matters to your own task, it’s not so large. I’m used to [doing] commercials. This process was very similar: Small team. Tight deadlines. Just a few shooting days and just a few editing and post-production days. A lot of fun. Traveling with the movie to Fantastic Fest Austin and Sitges and some other places I’ve come to appreciate all the directors I met. Some of them have become good friends."
The ABCs of Death is now available on VOD, iTunes, Amazon, VUDU, Xbox Zune and Playstation; coming to theaters starting March 8th, 2013.
26 different sites spoke to the 26 directors of The ABCs of Death and all the interviews are posting today! Visit the film's official Tumblr page HERE to see where to find them all including conversations with:
Kaare Andrews (Altitude), USA
Angela Bettis (Roman), USA
Ernesto Diaz Espinoza (Mirageman; Mandrill), Chile
Jason Eisener (Hobo With A Shotgun), Canada
Bruno Forzani & Héléne Cattet (Amer), Belgium
Adrian Garcia Bogliano (Cold Sweat), Mexico
Xavier Gens (Frontiers; Hitman), France
Jorge Michel Grau (We Are What We Are), Mexico
Noburo Iguchi, (Robo Geisha), Japan
Anders Morgenthaler (Princess), Denmark
Yoshihrio Nishimura (Tokyo Gore Police), Japan
Banjong Pisathanakun (Shutter), Thailand
Simon Rumley (Red, White & Blue), UK
Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), USA
Jon Schnepp (Metalocalypse; The Venture Bros.), USA
Srdjan Spasojevic (A Serbian Film), Serbia
Timo Tjahjanto (Macabre), Indonesia
Andrew Traucki (The Reef), Australia
Nacho Vigalondo (TimeCrimes), Spain
Jake West (Doghouse), UK
Ti West (House of the Devil; The Innkeepers), USA
Ben Wheatley (Down Terrace; Kill List), UK
Adam Wingard (A Horrible Way to Die), USA
Yudai Yamaguchi (Yakuza Weapon), Japan