ABC’s of Death 2 (2014) Review

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The 2012 film, ABC’s of Death, was a pretty intriguing concept. 26 directors each making a short film that showed, from A to Z, various ways of kicking the bucket, things related to, in some fashion, death. Sadly, at least in my view, most of the 26 films in that anthology missed more than they hit, with a couple of gems (including the excellent D is for Dogfight) amid a plethora of duds. My interest in the concept was still alive though, and I was interested to see if they could pull it off with the sequel, unimaginatively, but sensibly, called ABC’s of Death 2. 26 more directors, many of them up-and-comer’s in the horror genre, making their way from A to Z with little films about death. With complete artistic freedom with their films, the sky was the limit as to what these minds could come up with regarding the broad topic at hand.

I will begin with some good news in that I had more fun with this sequel than I did with the disappointing original film two years ago. Whether that is down to the fact that I didn’t have high hopes this time, or that the films were better, is still undecided. After sitting through two 26 more short films about dying I was left with another feeling of “wow, that could have been better” but the disappointment wasn’t as deep this time, perhaps because of seeing it fall flat the first time around. I did like some of the films, I will say that, and I would have liked to have seen some of them adapted into longer films, explored in more detail with build up’s and conclusions and that in itself is a good sign. I had fun, like last time, guessing what the word might be for each specific letter, and it was cool to see that the directors took this into account at times and gave various possible words that it might be.

The film begins, obviously, at “A”, a film called “Amateur” by E.L Katz. This was a decent start, bringing some silliness, some humour and some horror-gore into the mix of a pretty original short about an assassin (possible word number one) getting stuck in an air-vent (possible word number two). A fairly strong opening short, it was followed by some other okay ones, though the humour was something I found to be used in most of the films, with very few of them using a serious tone. “D is for Deloused” by Robert Morgan was a standout, using Claymation to deliver a nightmarish and bizarre story of insects and heads. Weird doesn’t even explain it. “G is for Grandad” by Jim Hosking was one of my least favourites here, feeling like a fan of The Mighty Boosh decided to have a go at being peculiar for three minutes. I found it annoying and stupid. “K is for Knell” was another of my favourites, delivering a great atmosphere and a really intriguing premise. This is one I would love to see explored deeper. This was basically how the film went, for me. Some shorts were just terrible (P is for P-P-P-P-Scary), some were mediocre (X is for Xylophone), and some were really enjoyable (W is for Wish), but many were forgettable and didn’t have much to say. The aforementioned “W is for Wish” by Steven Kostanski was a joy. Played like an old 80’s toy advert and descending into a sinister and gory nightmare world of brilliant weirdness, this was my favourite of the lot. I also thought that Jerome Sable’s “V is for Vacation” was an effective one, gory, disturbing and crazy, it did a lot in the short time it was afforded by the rules of the game.

There are plenty of directors here who I’m familiar with and have seen feature films by. The Soska Sisters (who did “T is for Torture Porn”), E.L Katz, Larry Fessenden (N is for Nexus) and others, but no one really stood out in terms of style and pushing boundaries. As much as I did enjoy a few of the entries, it was just a very uneven and uneventful series of films that were trying to be funny more than they were trying to be sinister, enlightening, scary or memorable. I think people will enjoy this though, particularly those who liked the first one. There are some interesting thoughts behind some of the entries, and some of the practical effects were really quite entertaining to watch.

I expect that this film series will continue, and I’m happy to keep giving it a shot because, while it doesn’t do anything big, and I tend to forget about most of the short films pretty quickly, they can be entertaining while they last, and now and then there’s a couple of really good shorts involved. An improvement on the first one (though some might say less shocking, and played more safely), but still not hitting the mark that it should hit, I’ll be interested to see if they do another one of these, and if they can improve again, perhaps passing on some of the attempts to be bizarre and choosing some entries that give horror fans some demented tales of death to remember.

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