2012 saw the release of The ABC’s of Death. Despite a great concept and some solid talent the film just didn’t work out as well as it could have. More often than not the shorts were a letdown (Ti West’s entry), weren’t as funny as they thought they were (K is for Klutz) or were just plain terrible (F is for Fart). Still the movie did well enough and the concept is unique enough to give it another shot. Does it work out? Let’s take a look at each entry and find out.
A is for Amateur (directed by Evan Katz)
We open the movie with perhaps the best representation of the movie. Neither the goriest nor the funniest it certainly sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Telling the story of a first time assassin it’s not only funny but a good parody of some typical action clichés.
B is for Badger (directed by Julian Barratt)
The idea of a nature host getting attacked, funny. Badgers as the killer animal, always good for a laugh. Throw in some decent gore effects and you have the recipe for a funny, if fairly predictable, short.
C is for Capital Punishment (directed by Julian Gilbey)
Funny story I was going over the shorts with the Mrs. over dinner one night. Just talking about this different ones and we couldn’t remember this at all. It took looking at Wikipedia the next day before either one of us could even remember it. When we did, eh. Despite some good effects and sound work at the end it didn’t stick out in the least. The fact that it took a couple of days to remember should give away what I thought of this one.
D is for Deloused (directed by Robert Morgan)
The annual claymation short is here and it’s definitely a step up from T is for Toilet from the last movie. So there’s this guy and he’s being turned into a bug but he kills his captors but they don’t die and there’s a giant bug that kills people by sucking them up its ass. So yeah, obviously this is pure insanity. Despite some confusion early on the more time I step away from the short the more I appreciate it as the oddity it is.
E is for Equilibrium (directed by Alejandro Brugués)
The story of two guys stranded on a desert island trying to impress a girl. That’s about it. While there’s a decent little montage of them trying to impress the girl it just wasn’t funny to me. Even worse the pay off wasn’t that humorous either. Maybe it works for some but for me it was a bore to get through.
F is for Falling (directed by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado)
The Israel duo succeeds again in their entry. An Israeli soldier gets her parachute stuck in a tree when she is found by a Palestinian boy. What I found most interesting is that in a short format Keshales and Papushado were able to mix horror and comedy perfectly. That isn’t to say it’s perfect. Despite being well written and a decent concept it hardly stood out of the pack. Regardless while I haven’t seen Rabies this short and Big Bad Wolves definitely make me want to keep up on what these two do next.
G is for Grandad (directed by Jim Hosking)
And we have reached the first real WTF entry of the movie. It’s about a man staying with his grandfather. A total douche the guy is surprised to learn that the grandfather is sleeping underneath the guy and trying to steal his identity. It gets weirder. If you dig shows like Psycoville or Inside No. 9 this is definitely one to see.
H is for Head Games (directed by Bill Plympton)
Remember as a kid when MTV would show one-off shorts on Liquid Television or Cartoon Sushi that you would instantly forget? That’s what this was. Makes sense considering Bill Plympton did some animation for early 90’s MTV. The animation is nice but it’s not really anything special and won’t leave much of an impact.
I is for Invincible (directed by Erik Matti)
This story of a family trying to kill the matriarch for their inheritance works surprisingly well. While fairly basic stuff watching this family’s attempts to kill their mother builds up to the perfect crescendo. What fascinates me more is the fact that this is from Erik Matti who did the Filipino action/thriller On The Job. Between those two movies and seeing poster for Gagamboy it makes me want to look into more of his movies. If that isn’t a success I don’t know what is.
J is for Jesus (directed by Dennison Ramalho)
Can a short about death be preachy? Darn tooting it can. A gay man is taken hostage by two priests to be tortured/exorcised of his sin before he is saved by Jesus. Visually the short is great and the story is decent enough. Heck murderous Jesus should be enough to sell me. My problem is how preachy it feels. While I am all for horror with a message when it’s this blatant it can feel annoying. The segment is fine but I just found the message to be a bit too heavy handed.
K is for Knell (directed by Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper)
Despite a strong start I found this to be lacking… something. So the world is being invaded by some sort of black goo. We follow a woman watching people affected by it from her apartment. Seeing the complex across the way it turns the tenants into murderers. It’s an interesting concept but in all honesty the pay off didn’t work for me. It’s enjoyable but just wouldn’t think of it as one of the best shorts.
L is for Legacy (directed by Lancelot Imasuen)
This is awful in the best way possible. The story of a monster summoned when a sacrifice is skipped by a small village. It’s corny and stupid with dirt poor effects. Yet I couldn’t help but love it. If Miami Connection were a monster movie it would be L is for Legacy. For anybody that likes bad movies this is definitely worth a look.
M is for Masticate (directed by Robert Boocheck)
This will sound insanely bitchy but I thought this ran a bit long. This segment is a pretty simple joke with a decent little punch line. Yet I can’t help but feel it could be shortened. I know it’s silly but going longer than a minute for this just feels unnecessary to me.
N is for Nexus (directed by Larry Fessenden)
Meh. The story of three people being in the wrong place at the wrong time I thought this was okay. Seeing people meeting before the worst moment of their life is interesting and there are some fun horror easter eggs throughout. In a movie with ass bugs and killer Jesus it’s fairly forgettable though.
O is for Ochlocracy (mob rule) (directed by Hajime Ohata)
Of the horror/comedy entries this is probably the best of them. Asking the question “What happens after the zombies get better” it’s a funny and unique look at an overdone genre. I know I’m being short on this but I don’t want to reveal too much. All I’ll say is that this is definitely one of my favorites of the film.
P is for P-P-P-P SCARY! (directed by Todd Rohal)
This was bad. Not fun Legacy bad but bad-bad. It’s trying to pull off some sort of Keystone Cops silent film thing without really being funny or scary or even about death. Heck look at the title they couldn’t even do that right. This is definitely the worst of the movie.
Q is for Questionnaire (directed by Rodney Ascher)
So not all on-the-street questionnaires are scientology scams. Well that’s good to know. Overall I thought this was alright. While some of the gore effects and mad scientist twist to the story was neat they gave their hand away a bit too early. Still while not the best short I do think it’s a fun entry for a difficult letter.
R is for Roulette (directed by Marven Kren)
This might be the weirdest short of the bunch. Not because it’s odd or outlandish but because of how normal it is. A tense game of Russian Roulette is played by three people. That’s it yet the short is terribly effective. Shot perfectly with a minimal and effective twist at the end it proves that you don’t need over-the-top gore to be great.
S is for Split (directed by Juan Martinez Moreno)
Personally this is my favorite short. One of the few straight up horror segments it uses split screen to show two different sides of a home invasion. Slick, brutal it’s probably the most haunting of the shorts.
Rating- Good (Favorite)
T is for Torture Porn (directed by Jen and Sylvia Soska)
I’m split on the Soska sisters. While I think they put out visually interesting movies I don’t think their stories are good despite a good premise. Unsurprisingly their ABCs of Death short is no exception. Torture Porn, despite its title, has nothing to do with Eli Roth or Saw 421. It’s about a woman going in for an exploitive porn audition before turning the tides on the crew. It’s a decent enough idea but the whole thing becomes childish as it goes on. Maybe I’m just a snob but it didn’t work for me.
U is for Utopia (directed by Vincenzo Natali)
Every dystopian future ever. A future where undesirables are disposed of is as cliché as
you expect. One of the slickest looking entries it can’t overcome its unoriginal premise.
V is for Vacation (directed by Jerome Sable)
Taking a break from horror/musical hybrids Jerome Sable (Stage Fright) proves that dudebros are the worst people ever. The second found footage style short I can’t say I was impressed. Besides crafting the douchiest characters not played by 80’s James Spader I found this to be a slog to get to. The pay off of a hooker killing these douches wasn’t very satisfying for me.
W is for Wish (directed by Steven Kostanski)
Leave it to the Astron-6 crew to develop one of the craziest and 80’s-est (now a real word) entry. When two kids wish their not-quite-He-Man toys were real they enter the toy world and things aren’t as cheery as they expected. Mixing live action and claymation this short is an absolute blast.
X is for Xylophone (directed by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo)
Babysitting sucks. Xylophones can be crazy annoying. Maybe you see where this is going. While you can say this is predictable it’s done fairly well. Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo bring the same sense of style and cruelty they do with their other projects. And heck, few do crazy like Béatrice Dalle. This may not be the most memorable of the segments but it certainly pays off in the end.
Y is for Youth (directed by Soichi Umezawa)
It took awhile but we finally get our glimpse into Zany Japan. Directed by makeup artist Soichi Umezawa this is a crazy and surreal look into an abused girl’s mind. This short’s success depends on your opinion of the crazier Japanese movies. If movies like Helldriver are your thing then you’ll love it. If you’re the type to find that grating you’ll hate this. Featuring a gigantic penis, a killer cheeseburger and a werewolf this nonsensical short proves that that, for better or worse, Sushi Typhoon’s influence is still alive and well.
Z is for Zygote (directed by Chris Nash)
What better way to end the movie than body mutilation and incest? Z is for Zygote is the story of a pregnant woman and her husband leaving her. Of course it isn’t THAT simple. I won’t spoil the short but it takes an insane and gruesome turn for the worst. Mixing gore and humor this body horror short is the perfect way to cap things off.
While the stats can be a bit disheartening I’m happy to say ABC’s of Death 2 is leaps and bounds better than the original. With a more cohesive vision of what the movie wants to be we get a nice collection of scary and darkly comedic shorts. Despite some downright awful entries I can’t say I was ever bored or felt like I was wasting my time. Hopefully Drafthouse and Magnet continue this experiment because ABC’s of Death 2 has proven itself as a good way of promoting unknown and established creators in genre cinema.