John’s Horror Corner: The ABCs of Death 2 (2014), and a guide to its short films and directors.
MY CALL: Only die hard gore and horror anthology fans should even consider this schizophrenic mix of wildly inane short films. Overall this is nothing special. But I’ll bet you could make one Hell of a drinking game out of it! MOVIES LIKE ABCs of Death 2: Some other fun, decent and/or clever anthologies include (in order of release date): Black Sabbath (1963), Tales from the Crypt (1972), The Vault of Horror (1973), Creepshow (1982), Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye (1985), Creepshow 2 (1987), Tales from the Dark Side: The Movie (1990), Necronomicon: Book of the Dead (1993), Campfire Tales (1997), 3 Extremes (2004), Trick ‘r Treat (2007), Chillerama (2011), Little Deaths (2011), V/H/S (2012), The Theater Bizarre (2012), The ABCs of Death (2013), The Profane Exhibit (2013) and V/H/S 2 (2014).
This movie features a wide range of filming styles, varied and (sometimes) creative special effects, some nice use of stop-motion, standard animation and all manner of gore delivered in both serious and humorous context. Are you looking for a film that features dismemberment, murderous grandmothers that won’t die, mass murder, bath salt-induced mania, tentacles, zombie court and weird transformations? Well, depending my interpretation of what I saw in the melee of clips from this film you may be in for all that…all be it in small doses and of questionable quality. As a fan of gross-out gobs of gobbledy-gook horror and creative and/or funny and/or just plain awful twisted death scenes, I thought that this movie would NO MATTER WHAT be a big pleaser for the darker side of my soul. I was largely wrong. I had thought the same of The ABCs of Death (2013), which was in fact better than this “sequel” but also similarly not so great.
Like a child’s ABC book, the film is comprised of 26 individual chapters, each helmed by a different director assigned a letter. Each director had total freedom to choose a word to create a story involving death; 26 directors from around the world have contributed all manner of random death clips.
I’m a huge fan of horror anthology movies. They get a little flack because they come from a range of writers, directors and production quality–but that’s what I like. It also makes horror shorts available to those of us who do not attend film school or genre-geared film fests (e.g., Fantastic Fest). We get to taste a lot of stories and ideas and, if we don’t like one of the shorts after a few minutes just wait for the next one to start. If you don’t like a film in Creepshow (3 stories) you’d wait 20-30 minutes for the next story. With V/H/S (5 stories) one need wait only 15-20 minutes. However this has 26 stories, so you’d only have to wait what? Maybe 5 minutes? Sadly, because of generally low quality and uninspired shorts, you’ll find yourself waiting a lot.
Below is an ABC guide to the shorts, their directors and their past work, a few components of the short and an occasional comment…
“A is for Amateur” by E. L. Katz (Cheap Thrills)
Nudity; drug use. This humorously shifts from an edgy, sleek first-time hitman’s fantasy to a fumbling cruel reality. Beautifully shot! Good blood work. Funny.
“B is for Badger” by Julian Barratt
Humorous gore; dismemberment. Tongue-in-cheek nature documentary gone wrong.
“C is for Capital Punishment” by Julian Gilbey (A Lonely Place to Die)
Decapitation. A wrongful execution.
Anyone else reminded of a Tool music video right about now?
This short tells a truly cute story in a very cute way and it ends in a cute murder and a cute kind of happiness.
“F is for Falling” by Aharon Keshales (Kalevet, Big Bad Wolves) and Navot Papushado
Arabic (?) language; broken bone. This film didn’t seem to fit in well. Not that it was bad.
“G is for Grandad” by Jim Hosking
Full frontal elderly male nudity. Ungrateful punk visits his grandfather. Weird.
“H is for Head Games” by Bill Plympton (Mutant Aliens)
Animated slapstick gore. Lots of weird imagery and weaponized body parts and bodily functions.
“I is for Invincible” by Erik Matti
Patricide; immolation; decapitation; foreign language. Trying to kill grandma for her inheritance but she just won’t die.
“J is for Jesus” by Dennison Ramalho
Portuguese; full frontal nudity; genital torture; dismemberment; stigmata. Gay exorcism.
“K is for Knell” by Bruno Samper and Kristina Buozyte
Mass murder ensues a lunar event. Then things get weird.
“L is for Legacy” by Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen
Horrible CGI, lousy middle school quality make-up. Beyond stupid! “M is for Masticate” by Robert Boocheck (Horrific) Bath salts. Slow motion filmed crazy fat guy neck-biting some poor shlub.
Evidently bath salts also cause instant body hair growth. Lord, look at those shoulders. It’s like he’s wearing a sweater!
“N is for Nexus” by Larry Fessenden (Beneath, Wendigo)
Nudity. Extremely stupid, not in a good way.
“O is for Ochlocracy” by Hajime Ohata (Metamorphosis)
Foreign language; zombies. Zombies try and prosecute their still-human assailants in court. Fun idea. Dumb film. “P is for P-P-P-P Scary!” by Todd Rohal (Nature Calls)
So stupid that it’s annoying.
“Q is for Questionnaire” by Rodney Ascher (Visions of Terror)
Surgery. Brutally gory surgery scene.
“R is for Roulette” by Marvin Kren (Blood Glacier)
Russian Roulette, foreign language.
“S is for Split” by Juan Martínez Moreno (Game of Werewolves)
Gory. Home invasion. This one was really quite good.
“T is for Torture Porn” by the Soska twins (American Mary)
Very, very, very weird. Basically a porn job interview turns into a live-action Hentai with men as the victims of tentacle porn rape.
“U is for Utopia” by Vincenzo Natali (Haunter, Splice, Cube)
Immolation. An unbeautiful person in an otherwise beautiful world is “solved.”
“V is for vacation” by Jerome Sable (Stage Fright, The Legend of Beaver Dam)
Nudity. Morally reprehensible, but one of the better shorts.
“W is for Wish” by Steven Kostanski (Manborg)
Organ removal; stop-motion. Zany, campy, gory fantasy fun. Very funny.
“X is for Xylophone” by Julien Maury (Inside, Livid) and Alexandre Bustillo
This short film boils down to one goretastic punchline.
“Y is for Youth” by Sôichi Umezawa
Japanese; transformation; Tokyo Shock; phallic stuff; evil sperm. This is bonkers. A woman turns into a dog that spits sharpened pencils, that turn into worms, which combine into a worm hand…and that’s not even a fraction of the really weird shit.