The ABCs of Death 2 is a far more accomplished and enjoyable anthology horror than its predecessor. My hopes had perhaps been too high for the first instalment, expecting the epic project (26 directors, 26 short films all instigated by a letter of the alphabet) to showcase the future of horror whilst simultaneously saving it. Well, The ABCs of Death 2 literally streaks past the first to deliver a whooping containment of disgraceful goodies courtesy of the most exciting people in the business.
The nice thing about the ABCs is that it doesn’t seem to favour one director more than the other. The first instalment had problems with consistency mainly because some of the films were crazy longer than others, but here it seems everyone’s been given a max run-time. It just helps to keep the film moving and- more to the point- the less interesting ones won’t be on for long. But what an eclectic array of phantasmagorical delight and nightmarish titillation! The entries are a spectrum of horror if ever there was one. They go from grungy to sleek, gory to squeaky clean, it’s all impressive as an argument for horror’s flexibility. Sci-fi dystopia, folk tales, thrillers, slashers, creature features, character pieces, there’s a wealth of great material.
A is for Amateur (E.L. Katz – Cheap Thrills) and S is for Split (Juan Martinez Moreno – Lobos de Arga) go down the thriller route, tackling synth beat pulp and split-screen home invasion respectively. The Japanese entries are 2 of the best this time around with innovation overriding bamboozlement in both Hajimi Ohata’s O is for Ochlocracy and Soichi Umezawa’s Y is for Youth. Y is particularly impressive, the stunning stop-motion manifestations of a young girl’s rage prove a grotesque but entirely unique presentation for Umezawa’s debut.
Other animation ventures strike gold by pushing the boat out and having fun with the ideas of horror. If you haven’t checked out Robert Morgan’s animations then I urge you to do so; never before has the landscape of nightmares been so aptly manifested. His particular style is a haunting ode to Kafka and Cronenberg, a foul Wallace and Gromit that crawled up out of your subconscious, and in D is for Deloused he’s on tip-top nasty form. On the other hand, Bill Plimton’s H is for Head Games is effortlessly funny and just plain pleasing in its simplicity.
Rodney Ascher’s Q is for Questionnaire is strangely obvious considering the filmmaker’s exquisite deconstruction of The Shining and clear understanding of subtext in Room 237. Even then it’s still entertaining to watch. The only really bad shorts are Todd Rohal’s P-P-P-P Scary! and Alejandro Bruques’(Juan of the Dead) E is for Equilibrium, though even E doesn’t infuriate as much as Rohal’s excruciating waste of a letter, which fails to get laughs from a hoakey exploitation of stuttering and Lynch.
The most impressive films are K is for Knell (Bruno Samper), a stark and haunting sci-fi tale with a plethora of terrific imagery, Robert Boocheck’s M for Masticate for shameless hilarious drugsploitation and Marvin Kren’s black and white treat R is for Roulette. Steven Kostanski (Manborg) delivers more dark retro fun in W for Wish and proves yet again that he is a particular and talented filmmaker. In the end, The ABCs of Death 2 leaves us on a higher note than the first, climaxing with Chris Nash’s Z is for Zygote and stealing the show as the most ideologically horrific, practically disgusting, film of the anthology.
I could write a few hundred words on each film, but that would be pointless and to be honest I just wouldn’t want to ruin it for you. Even if you hated the first, give the second a go, it’s a consummate expression of horror in all its forms and a showcase of the most vibrant and enjoyable kind.
At this rate, I cannot wait for The ABCs of Death 3.
Dir: Julian Barratt, Rodney Ascher, Alexandre Bustillo, E.L. Katz, Robert Morgan, etc…
Stars: Eric Jacobus, Andy Nyman, Beatrice Dalle, Tom Bonington