The ABCs Of Death 2
Various (2014) Dirs. Various
It was somewhat inevitable that the horror compendium The ABCs Of Death would spawn a sequel since the concept is so simple – give twenty six directors a letter of the alphabet and have them make a short horror film with something in it relating to that letter.
The first film was a hit and miss affair, as the format almost assures will happen, but it seems lessons were learned as this time the entries are limited to five minutes maximum – this conciseness resulting in the stories getting to the point much quicker and improved quality on a consistent basis.
But that doesn’t mean every clip here is a winner; there are still a few that miss the mark, being either to obscure, unresolved or just plain weird. Most films are in English (no subtitles for us hard of hearing folk however) but they come from all over the world as before, providing us with an eclectic selection of ideas.
Humour is very much a prevalent element in this collection, beginning with the opening offering A Is For Amateur about a rookie hitman assigned to kill a drug dealer. Setting the scene for the others to follow, this film neatly plays with our expectations, delivering a delicious twist at the end. E is for Equilibrium is the next film with a nice swerve for a conclusion, set on a desert island where two stranded males are joined by a gorgeous woman.
Not all the set ups initially lend themselves to horror which makes the gruesome finales that much more surprising and shocking when they arrive. G is for Granddad, P is for P-P-P-P SCARY! and X Is For Xylophone, starring former French sex kitten Béatrice Dalle as a grandmother. The two former films are among the weaker ones submitted, with P-P-P-P Scary making a case for the “P” to meaning “Pointless”.
Regional variances mean some films are suffused with their nation’s own cultural traditions and folklore as themes and motifs. The most apparent of this is L Is For Legacy, a Nigerian entry which boasts the smallest budget but is just as earnest as the other bigger budget films, standing out the most due to its overall ethnic aesthetic.
Similarly the Filipino submission I Is For Invincible could have taken place in any country but feels distinctly a product of Far East Asia. Speaking of which, Japan has two inclusions here, the subversive O Is For Ochlocracy (mob rule) which puts a fresh spin on the zombie concept and Y Is For Youth, a much darker, surreal but visually ambitious tale of parental neglect.
As with the first collection a contest was held for amateur filmmakers to earn a spot in this anthology, the winning entry out of 541 being M Is For Masticate from the US. Shot in slow motion it leaves it to a flashback denouement to explain itself in this tongue in cheek outing.
Some of the filmmakers use their efforts to impart a message, such as J Is For Jesus commenting on religion based homophobia and T Is For Torture Porn from the Soska Sisters, paying male filmmakers back for the abuse female characters take in their grotty misogynistic films. In F is for Falling from Israel, Girl Power unfortunately only takes a female paratrooper so far when she is caught hung up in a tree.
Horror also breeds ideas which are just plain bizarre and this aspect of the genre is well represented here too. K Is For Knell begins as a promising tale of a young woman witnessing a series of concurrent murders happening in the apartment block opposite hers but the supernatural conclusion is a tad obscure.
Arguably the most upsetting and boundary pushing premise of the entire collection is the final film Z Is For Zygote, a truly mind numbing piece in which a pregnant woman stave off the birth for thirteen years after her husband walks out on her. It’s certainly different I’ll give you that.
The two animated entries – D Is For Deloused and H Is For Head Games – very much fit the weird bill with this particular medium allowing for an unfettered exploration into the surreal. Deloused is a claymation work about a bug saving a tortured man while Head Games is a pencil drawing piece depicting a tender kiss which gets out of hand.
Modern technology is exploited both visually and conceptually to bring the scares up to date and the satire relevant, with two films being very ambitious in their execution. U Is For Utopia introduces us to a perfect world where imperfections are mercilessly eradicated while W Is For Wish takes two young boys deep into the world of their favourite game.
S Is for Split and V Is For Vacation both feature mobile phones as a key component of their stories but with startling different results. Conversely R is for Roulette takes us back to the old school days of tense drama while Q Is For Questionnaire and C Is For Capital Punishment similarly have their roots in classic horror concepts albeit both being in a modern day settings.
Finally the last two films to be discussed are in a league of their own. N Is For Nexus is a cautionary tale set on Halloween about paying attention to the road whilst driving. Fans of comedy duo The Mighty Boosh will recognise the star and director of B Is For Badger, Julian Barratt, who delivers a typically British slice of gore and black humour.
Judging the films individually is going to be subjective, making rating this anthology as a whole a little difficult. Fortunately the stronger efforts are superior enough to negate the weaker ones so ABCs Of Death 2 deserves be called an improvement on its predecessor, laying the gauntlet down for the third instalment due out this year to try to top it.