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ABCs of Death 2
Magnolia Home Entertainment // Unrated // October 31, 2014
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Fandango]
Not even a year after The ABCs of Death, horror fans will be able to enter the Halloween season with another entry featuring a new roster of 26 directors. This is a fun concept for a feature, although most anthologies are mixed bags, while others are ultimately major disappointments. Since so many directors are involved, the feature is at great risk of becoming an inconsistent compilation of shorts, which is why films such as V/H/S try to connect them with a central plot. ABCs of Death 2 is entirely focused on the entertainment factor. While it won't keep you sleeping with the lights on, it proves that this structure can be successful. Fortunately, the shorts prove to be far more consistent than those seen in the first one.
Summer is over, and class is back in session. Get ready to learn your ABC's once again, but with 26 new directors. Each filmmaker has been given a letter of the alphabet, from which they must come up with a word starting with that letter inspired by death. These shorts are edited together in order to assemble a compilation of gore-filled inspirations that will teach you a few things about death.
This time around, we have quite a bit more creativity seen from one short to the next. Among the strongest are A, C, D, J, O, R, S, W, Y, and Z. The film kicks off to an effective start with E.L. Katz's (Cheap Thrills) "A is for Amateur," which perfectly captures Katz's sense of humor. Much like Cheap Thrills, it most certainly has horror elements, although it works so well due to its ability to captivate us with its sense of unpredictability. Director Julian Gilbey's (A Lonely Place to Die) "C is for Capital Punishment" has a brutal nature that works rather well. It's extremely straight-forward, although it really packs a punch that is difficult to simply shake off. Next is BAFTA nominee Robert Morgan's (Bobby Yeah) "D is for Deloused," which will surely split audiences. It's incredibly strange and disturbing, but it commands our attention in a way that is hard to forget. "J is for Jesus" is an insanely dark look at homophobia from director Dennison Ramalho. It offers an incredible ending with an abundance of symbolism and a hefty impact. "O is for Ochlocracy" is a truly unique twist on a tired sub-genre by director Hajime Ohata. We know exactly what to expect from zombie flicks nowadays, but this is so fresh and smart, it instantly deserves its rank amongst one of the most intriguing entries.
The next strong entry is "R is for Roulette," which is directed by Marvin Kren (Rammbock). We're placed directly in the middle of a film, and the context of this roulette game isn't revealed until the short's eerie ending. Filmmaker Juan Martínez Moreno took a huge risk on "S is for Split." It could have been an absolute mess if it wasn't filmed properly, but the risk paid off. This takes an intriguing look at the home invasion sub-genre, providing perspective from every character at the same time. "W is for Wish" is an excitingly cheesy short by director and makeup effects artist Steven Kostanski. It's so self-aware and silly that it makes for a hilariously entertaining look at a brutal sci-fi world. Sôichi Umezawa's "Y is for Youth" is extremely strange, as it features a teenage girl who resents her parents for her lack of a childhood. It's over-the-top, but it's still a worthwhile entry, even if it doesn't really possess any horror elements. Chris Nash's "Z is for Zygote" is highly disturbing and gross, but it truly leaves its mark. It's a grotesque fable that you will be thinking about long after the credits are done rolling.
Just as the previously mentioned shorts are memorable, others are decent enough, although not quite as powerful. This includes B, E, F, H, I, K, M, N, Q, T, U, V, and X. Julian Barratt's "B is for Badger" is amusing with a wonderfully nasty final bit, but it doesn't really go anywhere. It's simply worth seeing for the gag. "E is for Equilibrium" is Alejandro Brugués' short about two men abandoned on an island who encounter a woman. It's good for a couple chuckles, although it doesn't leave much of an impact. Ahron Keshales' "F is for Falling" makes an interesting statement about war and offers a unique perspective, but it simply doesn't quite pull through for me. It feels like an incomplete thought rather than a full statement. Two-time Oscar nominee Bill Plympton has created "H for Head Games," which has symbolism, but it falls flat. The idea of two people destroying each other is clear, although it's superficial. "I is for Invincible" is clearly inspired by films, such as Evil Dead, but it leaves audiences with a sense of dissatisfaction. However, it sports some impressive makeup.
Director Kristina Buozyte's "K is for Knell" starts off to an insanely strong and creepy start. However, it loses itself fairly quickly, as it takes an odd direction that will most likely confuse most audiences. This year's contest-winning entry is Robert Boocheck's "M is for Masticate." The slow-motion makes for a surreal experience, although it gets a bit tacky, as it ultimately comes across as a bit uninspired. "N is for Nexus" has a nice build to it that allows for some tension to grow within the audience. However, Larry Fessenden's (Stake Land) short offers far too familiar of a finale that leaves us a bit disappointed. Director Rodney Ascher's (Room 237) "Q is for Questionnaire" has a cool twist to it, but it takes too long to get moving for a film that needs to be as short as it is. Directors Jen and Sylvia Soska's (American Mary) "T is for Torture Porn" touches upon misogyny found within the porn industry, which builds to a gruesome finale. Although interesting, it could have been much stronger with a slightly different direction. Next is Vincenzo Natali's (Splice) "U is for Utopia," which offers an awesome kill, but the statement is uninteresting. This concept doesn't work very well in the context of this short, but it's far from the worst entry. Director Jerome Sable's (Stage Fright) "V is for Vacation" shows what can happen when a trip gets a little bit too crazy. The problem is that it doesn't quite hit the right notes. Finally, Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury's (Inside) "X is for Xylophone" is brutally dark and sinister, but this is another short that simply feels incomplete, but at least it will get a reaction.
Even though some of the shorts don't work quite as well as others, that's to be expected from an anthology. Nevertheless, this is a massive improvement over its predecessor. By including directors who have taken the project more seriously, audiences are able to enjoy a feature that presents a variety of shorts that are much more consistent in quality. "G is for Grandad," "L is for Legacy," and "P is for P-P-P-P Scary!" are the worst of the bunch, but only having three duds is impressive. Even so, this film isn't for everybody, but if this is your thing, then you're sure to enjoy. ABCs of Death 2 is a step in the right direction for what seems to be an expanding anthology series. Recommended.
ABCs of Death 2 is currently available on VOD and will be released in theaters on October 31, 2014