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ABCs of Death 2
The ABCs Of Death 2 brings you ANOTHER twenty-six different short stories, each to do with death, from twenty-six different filmmaking teams and presented in alphabetical order no less. As it was in the first film, so too is it in this sequel, hopefully the first of many. These shorts run the gamut from hilarious to horrifying and involve all different manner of techniques and tactics. Producers Ant Timpson and Tim League once again searched high and low for a wide array of talent from not only their native United States but also Canada, South America, Europe and Asia as well. Some of the names here will be pretty familiar to horror fans, others maybe not so much and the end result is as eclectic as you'd expect. The only thing that the films really have in common is that they have to deal with death and they had to be made fast and cheap. Keeping this low budget at the forefront of our minds while evaluating this production, it should not come as a surprise then that the emphasis here is on wild creativity more so than on spectacle, but we get a surprising amount of the later quality in addition to the first.
Some vague descriptions of the movies, trying to avoid spoilers:
A Is For Amateur by E.L. Katz: a hired killer puts an insane amount of effort into planning his next hit, but of course, it won't go as he hoped.
B Is For Badger by Julian Barratt: A team of documentary filmmakers run into trouble when they encounter a huge killer badger.
C Is For Capital Punishment by Julian Gilbey: A man is sentenced to death and beheaded but there is reason to believe he is not guilty.
D Is For Deloused by Julien Maury: A man is executed but before that happens he sets into motion a revenge plot involving a giant bug.
E Is For Equilibrium by Alejandro Brugués: Two men are living as castaways on a deserted island but come into conflict when a beautiful woman mysteriously washes ashore.
F Is For Falling by Aharon Keshales: An Israeli woman parachutes from a plan but gets caught in a tree only to be found by a Palestinian boy, and he's not particularly friendly.
G Is For Grandad by Jim Hosking: A man finds out that his elderly grandfather has taken to sleeping under his bed.
H Is For Head Games by Bill Plympton: A kiss between a man and a woman takes a strange turn and becomes very much an extension of the battle of the sexes.
I Is For Invincible by Erik Matti: When the matriarch of a well to do family receives a massive inheritance, the other family members who were hoping to get in on that plan her murder.
J Is For Jesus by Dennison Ramalho: A gay man is killed for his homosexuality only to be made into a martyr.
K Is For Knell by Kristina Buozyte: A woman comes into contact with a strange black liquid that turns normal humans into killing machines.
L Is For Legacy by Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen: A group intent on committing a ritualistic sacrifice learn first-hand the error of their ways.
M Is For Masticate by Robert Boocheck: The police are forced to go to extreme measures to stop a man who they catch eating another person in the middle of the street.
N Is For Nexus by Larry Fesseden: On Halloween night a man rushes to meet up with his girlfriend, but soon discovers strange things are afoot.
O Is For Ochlocracy by Hajime Ohata: A woman is put on trial and a courtroom full of shambling zombies sentence her to death.
P Is For P-P-P-P Scary! by Todd Rohal: Three prisoners on the lam encounter after their escape a strange man and an equally strange baby.
Q Is For Questionnaire by Rodney Ascher: When a man takes a random intelligence test on the street, we see how his brain is transferred into the body of a gorilla.
R Is For Roulette by Marvin Kren: Three people, a woman and two men, play Russian roulette in a dreary basement.
S Is For Split by Juan Martínez Moreno: While speaking on the phone to her husband from the safety of her home, a woman is attacked by an intruder.
T Is For Torture Porn by Jen & Sylvia Soska: A woman auditions for a part and is treated poorly simply because she is a woman. When she's asked to take off her clothes for the part, things go horribly wrong.
U Is For Utopia by Vincenzo Natali: A rather unattractive man walking in a mall full of ‘beautiful people' is singled out by them and then put to death.
V Is For Vacation by Jerome Sable: Two men hire a prostitute who turns out to be a murderer savvy enough to strike when one makes a phone call home.
W Is For Wish by Steven Kostanski: Two kids who want to live out their lives in a fantasy world they are obsessed with wind up whisked away there only to find it's controlled by an evil villain.
X Is For Xylophone by Alexandre Bustillo: A young woman babysits a kid for the night and is strangely affected by a xylophone the child insists on playing.
Y Is For Youth by Sôichi Umezawa: A young woman is fed up with her family and has twisted, violent fantasies about their brutal deaths.
Z Is For Zygote by Chris Nash: A woman has been pregnant for thirteen years but not given birth even as the fetus has grown inside her into a teenager.
And not to be outdone, there's a post-credits sequence worth sticking around for directed by Jill Sixx Gevargizian featuring Laurence R. Harvey (he of The Human Centipede 2 fame) playing a man with some unusual masturbation problems that tie into one of the earlier segments.
As you'd guess, given the array of talent assembled for this project, the shorts (each of which runs roughly three minutes in length, give or take) are all over the place not just in terms of quality but in terms of content. Where one filmmaker might go for a cheap gore effect one may opt for graphic nudity. P is done in black and white as an homage to old timey comedies while T uses wild and unexpected effects work to shock. In this series, no one is safe: not the elderly, not children… no one, really. The only thing really linking the shorts is the theme: death. Aside from that they're all as different as night and day and most of them are not only enjoyable/entertaining but wildly creative as well.
This won't be a movie for everyone, of course. Those who want more focus on narrative, character development and storytelling may see this as little more than a series of set pieces rather than an anthology film. And there is some truth to that. However, those with an appreciation for the more experimental and outre side of horror cinema should definitely get a kick out of this. Some of the shorts are fairly topical, political even, while others just aim to entertain but all of them allow this slate of talent to do their own thing, free of the restrictions that would no doubt be levied on them with a bigger budget and a larger scope. For that reason alone, this is worth seeing.
The ABCs Of Death 2 is presented on Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.78.1 widescreen. Understandably, the shorts vary in quality generally because it seems different cameras were used and under different conditions at that. As such, the transfer is a bit inconsistent in terms of clarity, detail and authoring. Some look a bit soft, others are crisp and remarkably sharp and again, the variation in the look from one short to the next is part of the appeal here. Variety is the spice of life, right? Color reproduction is consistently good across the board and there are no issues with heavy edge enhancement or any sort of dirt or debris (shooting digitally eliminates that). Overall things do look quite good here, just keep in mind that like the shorts themselves, each visual representation will differ from the next. Which is as it should be.
The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio tracks again differ from one short to the next. Some shorts are a little quiet, some shorts are pretty loud and completely over the top, aggressive even. Levels are consistently well balanced and dialogue is generally quite easy to understand. When music is used it sounds good and if rear channel activity isn't a constant in each and every one of these twisted little stories, it's definitely there when the filmmakers need it to be. Bass response is fine, and there are no issues with hiss or distortion. You have the option of watching the movie without any subtitles, with English subtitles for the foreign language shorts only or with English closed captioning enabled for the entire feature. Optional French and Spanish subtitles are included here as well.
Each one of the twenty-six shorts that makes up The ABCs Of Death 2 is accompanied by a commentary track wherein the director, usually but not always accompanied by a partner in crime such as an editor, cast member or producer, discusses their experiences working on the project. Here we learn where various ideas came from, what it was like working under time and budget restraints, how they feel about the finished product and more often than not why they took the material in the direction that they took it. For the most part, these are pretty interesting and they're often done with the same sense of humor that the shorts themselves are. These are worth listening to, they're generally pretty interesting. If you think you're going to get a recap of each track here, no dice, but these are quick, efficient and most of all interesting ways to glean a little more about these projects and the people who made them.
From there, we move on to a series of featurettes that go behind the scenes of A, D, E, L, N, Q, S, T, U, W, Y and Z. Some of this stuff is pretty amusing and almost all of it is quite interesting. We get a glimpse into some of the effects pieces, insight from the cast and crew members and a fair bit more. Still galleries are provided for C, D, E, F, I, J, L, N, O, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, Y and Z. We also get storyboards for Q, U and Y as well as audition footage for U. An AXS TV that is basically an extended trailer is included, as are menus and chapter selection. Trailers for a few other Magnolia presentations play before the main menus load but there's no trailer for the feature itself included here.
The ABCs Of Death 2 is a very worthy follow up to the first movie. It's just as creative, bizarre, Disturbing and yes, hilariously horrifying as that original movie and it's a very safe bet that if you appreciated or enjoyed that earlier entry, you'll dig this one too. Magnolia's Blu-ray looks and sounds good and contains a pretty impressive array of extra material as well. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.