ABCS OF DEATH 2 (2014)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 5 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

ABCDeath2 poster

Directed by, Written by, and Starring: Too many to list

In 2013, THE ABCS OF DEATH was released and underwhelmed nearly everyone it came across. The film was a severely mixed bag with far more misses than hits. There were definite standouts (Dogfight, Libido, Unearthed, XXL). However, much of the massive anthology suffered from lots of Asian shorts that veered into WTF territory rather than all out horror stories among other problems. When a sequel was announced, horror fans had reasons to be skeptical. Many of the directors were newcomers with a handful of short films to their names and the trailer looked iffy. Thankfully, ABCS OF DEATH 2 is a huge step-up in quality from the first film in the same way that V/H/S/2 beat V/H/S! This is a creepy epic horror anthology that has a whole lot of dark humor, fun, and scares packed into a massive package. It’s well worth your time this Halloween season! Below are my brief thoughts and a grade for each of the 26 short films (I promise there are no spoilers!), then an overall grade for the film as a whole…

ABCDeath2 A

A is for AMATEUR: E.L. Katz (CHEAP THRILLS) starts things off strong in this darkly comic segment about a hitman with a vision. Unfortunately, his vision and reality are two entirely separate things. I laughed pretty hard at the grisly punchline and didn’t completely guess where it was heading. B+

ABCDeath2 B

B is for BADGER: A cocky documentary host is doing a special about how rare badgers have gone extinct due to a nuclear power plant…only to get a nasty surprise. More dark comedy with some gore in this second segment. It’s clear that most of the budget went into an effect used near the end and we never fully get a glimpse of what causes this bloody display, but it’s great fun indeed. B

ABCDeath2 C

C is for CAPITAL PUNISHMENT: A suspected killer is put in a tough situation when his small town decides to take matters into their own hands as opposed to calling the proper authorities. Needless to say that the situation will get messy. There was a neat little twist on this short, but it tries to have a profound underlying message that just didn’t work too well for me. B-

ABCDeath2 D

D is for DELOUSED: An animated segment that uses nightmare logic with a couple of cool visuals, but ultimately comes off as a bad WTF short. It almost felt like a student film that had snuck its way into this anthology. D

ABCDeath2 E

E is for EQUILIBRIUM: Two castaways on a desert island find their routines and friendships threatened when a woman washes ashore. This segment excelled in what A and B managed to pull off so well. It’s quick, to the point, and very funny. B

ABCDeath2 F

F is for FALLING: Directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado (BIG BAD WOLVES) pull off one of the better segments in this simple short about a parachuting soldier stuck in a tree and an unlikely good Samaritan. Seeing as this is a horror anthology, it goes without saying that things don’t end well for anybody involved. Professionally shot and tightly scripted. I dug this letter a lot. A

ABCDeath2 G

G is for GRANDAD: A snobby punk is staying with his grandpa and making the old man’s life a living hell. Things get real weird, real fast. By weird, I mean stupid. Nothing jives well in this short and it feels like it’s trying too hard to be silly. This is an awful segment that makes me wonder what Jim Hosking was thinking. D-

ABCDeath2 H

H is for HEAD GAMES: The best thing I can say about this letter is that it doesn’t last very long. An animated couple start making out and it quickly turns into a war of the sexes where body parts in their head are weapons. It’s as out-of-place as it sounds and doesn’t elicit any positive reaction. D

ABCDeath2 I

I is for INVINCIBLE: A group of four siblings are trying to kill their ridiculously old mother who doesn’t seem to die. This segment was fairly predictable as soon as a certain plot device reared its head, but the style it was executed in looked great. The sets, make-up, and cinematography milked the low-budget for all it was worth. It’s not good story-wise, but looks really solid visually. C+

ABCDeath2 J

J is for JESUS: I have mixed feelings on this one. The story is about a man who’s kidnapped by his religious zealot father who wants to rid him of a “demon” with the most barbaric exorcism possible. I liked the overall conclusion of this short and dig on the message behind it, but it revels a little too long in the torture-porn aspect and the execution of gore near the ending sends a few mixed messages. C

ABCDeath2 K

K is for KNELL: A woman goes out onto her apartment balcony and sees something she can’t explain. From there on, the short becomes a waking nightmare of Lovecraftian horror. Nothing is fully explained, nor does it need to be. I was beyond creeped out and this is an instant winner. It kind of makes me wish directors Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper will go off and produce a feature of this. Absolutely loved this letter. A+

ABCDeath2 L

L is for LEGACY: An African tribesman is taken away from his village to be sacrificed by his father. Without a shred of a doubt, this is the worst segment and features some of the worst special effects I’ve seen in my entire life (both practical and CGI). To make matters even more painful, the story is playing itself so straight-faced that you can’t even gain some unintentional laugher from it. L is downright incomprehensible. F

ABCDeath2 M

M is for MASTICATE: Winner of the letter M fan contest and for good reason, this awesomely constructed segment is all around great. It begins as a fairly standard short featuring a monster that has become overused in recent years, but is shot particularly well. The final seconds sell the entire thing as darkly hilarious and one of the best shorts here! A+

ABCDeath2 N

N is for NEXUS: A man dressed as Frankenstein is trying to make his way across busy city streets to meet up with his Bride of Frankenstein date. This short was fairly predictable, but director Larry Fessenden still managed to get up some solid tension even when the short pretty much spells out how and why the death is going to occur. It also goes slightly darker than I originally expected as well. B

ABCDeath2 O

O is for OCHLOCRACY: This one plays out almost like a condensed TWILIGHT ZONE episode. It gives a brief glimpse of a future that has survived the zombie apocalypse and zombies are putting humans that allegedly murdered them on trial. There are a couple of clever moments, a few dodgy effects, and an underwhelming conclusion. However, I thought this was a decent short film with some big ideas. B

ABCDeath2 P

P is for P-P-P-P SCARY!: Sort of a THREE STOOGES entry in this anthology (right down to the slapstick and over-the-top acting). This one has all style but no substance. It lacks in giving us what the title of this movie promises: a solid death. C-

ABCDeath2 Q

Q is for QUESTIONAIRE: A man takes an intelligence test with freaky consequences. I really liked this one a lot. It was goofy, but also kind of creepy in a few instances. There was a solid editing in the storytelling that cuts between his questionnaire and his results already in progress. In some ways, it seemed to be homage to 1966’s SECONDS. The final image of the segment is a little too out-there, but I dug it overall. B+

ABCDeath2 R

R is for ROULETTE: An intense game of Russian Roulette with a nifty twist. Need I say more? I didn’t think so. A

ABCDeath2 S

S is for SPLIT: A phone call between husband and wife takes a dark turn when a stranger arrives at her door. Told through multiple split screens, this letter took me through an unexpected story. I thought I had figured things out long before the short had concluded, but was dead wrong (pun, get it?). Really solid short! A-

ABCDeath2 T

T is for TORTURE PORN: Oh, Jen and Sylvia Soska (AMERICAN MARY), what have ye wrought? T plays out like a truncated version of the AMATEUR NIGHT story from V/H/S. It feels exploitative and tired, but with the added bonus of nearly seizure-inducing flashing lights. Pass up on this segment. F

ABCDeath2 U

U is for UTOPIA: Vincenzo Natali (CUBE and SPLICE) delivers an eerie little piece of science fiction with this glimpse into a seemingly perfect future. Told without much dialogue at all and delivering a message as subtle as a sledgehammer, U is pretty awesome. This idea could easily be fleshed out into a feature-length story, but also serves just fine as a creative few minutes. A

ABCDeath2 V

V is for VACATION: Another great entry! Disturbing, dark, and a swift kick to the senses. This little piece of found footage chronicles a video call between a guy and his girlfriend that takes a very wrong turn…and keeps taking more wrong turns. It’s fast, vicious, and very freaky in the sense that only real world horror can be. A-

A005_C061_0922Y2

W is for WISH: Two brothers wish to be inside the world of their action figures and that wish comes true in a horrifying way. Easily one of the most creative and fun of the bunch, WISH also sports a very nasty mean streak in terms of its dark humor. It might turn some people off, but I had a blast watching this one. I’ll go as far as saying its one of the very best shorts in this sequel! A+

ABCDeath2 X

X is for XYLOPHONE: Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo (INSIDE and LIVID) actually got a vocal “Holy Shit!” out of me at the end of this short. It’s grim and the story is so simple that even summing it up in a sentence might give away too much. Suffice to say, that this is one hell of a disturbing short film! A

Y is for YOUTH: A flawed but very cool look into the mind of an imaginative teenage girl stuck between her two bickering parents. We see inside her consciousness and this supplies an excuse for a lot of surreal imagery. However, sometimes it can get a little too silly for the emotional impact it’s trying to land. It still winds up being good, but not quite as good as it wants to be. B

ABCDeath2 Z

Z is for ZYGOTE: I’m thanking Chris Nash for the nightmares! This final segment is the best one in the anthology. It definitely goes off on a high note with this body-horror tale about a woman whose pregnancy doesn’t quite go as well as she hoped. That’s putting it lightly. This short was wrong on so many levels. It’s disgusting, arguably the goriest one, and features a very twisted conclusion. That’s exactly why I love it so much! A+

ABCDeath2 Overall

There are a few stinkers (G, L, and T), but a whole lot of real winners as well (the best being F, K, M, R, U, W, X and Z). This second anthology takes a little while to get fully going, but not nearly to the degree that the first film took. There’s also a solid streak of six shorts that range from good to the best one of the bunch to close everything off on a truly creepy note. Believe it or not, ABCS OF DEATH 2 is a massive improvement over the first film. It seems that nearly everyone learned from the mistakes and complaints of the original. If you’re up for two hours of mostly solid short horror films, then sit down and enjoy this second round of deaths in alphabetical order!

Grade: B

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