PLOT: 26 more killer short films from an international conglomerate of directors.
REVIEW: The challenge I face reviewing ABCs OF DEATH 2 is the same I faced with the first anthology. That is, it's nearly impossible to judge it as a whole, because it's such a mixed bag by its very nature. 26 short films, all seen in a row, is a lot to take in; some leave impressions, others are forgettable. You leave the movie remembering the really good ones and the really subpar ones; the average get lost in the shuffle.
I was at odds with myself after the first film. On the one hand, I saw it as an achievement of creativity and a gift to horror fans; on the other, I was a tad underwhelmed by the entire experience, despite my generally positive rating. I guess when you go into something like this, knowing there are 26 talented (to varying degrees) artists presumably working at the peak of their imagination to do turn in something unique, you can't help but hope every single one of them will knock it out of the park. When there are as many misses as there are hits, it's a bit of a bummer. But that's the nature of this particular game.
I'll say right now that I think ABCs OF DEATH 2 is superior to the first one. It's a stronger group of shorts - interesting considering the filmmakers this time around are by and large much more obscure. (I honestly had to look up the majority of them; producers Tim League and Ant Timpson really did their homework here.) It seems to me the sequel is a bit more playful; I laughed just as much as a cringed. There are only a handful of outright flops, which is nice to see considering the first film had a larger helping of stinkers.
With the first film, I stuck to pointing out the highlights; the ones you should watch out for. This time, I've decided to give capsule reviews to them all; it just seems like a more judicious way of going about it. There is a simple rating system for each segment: Must see it, see it, and skip it. Should speak for itself.
A is for Amateur - Directed by E.L. Katz. Clever subversion of expectations; showing what would really happen if a hit man attempted to pick off his target by crawling through an air duct. Must see it!
B is for Badger - Directed by Julian Barratt. An obnoxious nature show host finds his latest topic might be the end of him; funny, with a pretty nifty gross-out gag at the end. See it!
C is for Capitol Punishment - Directed by Julian Gilbey. A man accused of killing a young girl is dealt with by bloodthirsty townsfolk; semi-serious, but has a bit of fun with a gory finale. Very well shot, too. See it!
D is for Deloused - Directed by Robert Morgan. A chilling and utterly bizarre stop-motion animation segment, the plot of which is completely impossible to explain (or really even understand). It is, however, very impressively made, and easily one of the highlights of the anthology. Must See it!
E is for Equilibrium - Directed by Alejandro Brugues. Nice looking but very slight morsel about two men shipwrecked on an island who encounter a beautiful woman. Doesn't leave much of an impression. You can skip it.
F is for Falling - Directed by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado. A female Israeli soldier, trapped in a tree, is confronted by a young Arab man in this dramatic and interesting statement on war. See it!
G is for Grandad - Directed by Jim Hosking. Absurd British comedy about an obnoxious grandson receiving a much-deserved comeuppance via his wacky grandfather. The final shot is very off-putting, you've been warned. See it!
H is for Head Games - Directed by Bill Plympton. Anyone familiar with the famous cartoonist Plympton will immediately recognize his wonky style here, as two lovers destroy each other via giant tongues, ears on the warpath and spewing noses. Yeah, weird, but superficially so. You can skip it.
I is for Invincible - Directed by Erik Matti. Freaky make-up effects highlight this grisly dark comedy about a family trying to kill their immortal grandmother. Should please fans of Raimi's EVIL DEAD flicks, which appear to be the inspiration. See it!
J is for Jesus - Directed by Dennison Ramalho. Disturbing and poignant story of a young gay man kidnapped by deranged priests determined to exorcise him of his depravity. Definitely resonates after it's over. See it!
K is for Knell - Directed by Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper. Begins well but becomes rather abstruse. A young woman sees the residents of an entire apartment building commit murder through each of their windows; she is then visited by a weird black liquid that seeps through the front door. Not sure I "got" this one, honestly. You can skip it.
L is for Legacy - Directed by Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen. Incoherent story about a tribal sacrifice that doesn't go as planned. Some shoddy FX toward the end sink this entry. You can skip it.
M is for Masticate - Directed by Robert Boocheck. The winner of the "26th Director" competition, this one features a rabid man's brief reign of terror on a sidewalk in slow motion. Funny and well shot. See it!
N is for Nexus - Directed by Larry Fessenden. Tragedy awaits a handful of costumed New Yorkers on Halloween. Builds tension but the finale isn't very satisfying. You can skip it.
O is for Ochlocracy (Mob rule) - Directed by Hajime Ohata. Entertaining spin on the zombie genre; a young human woman stands accused of murder in a world where zombies are judge and jury. Nicely alternates between comedy, drama and horror. Must see it!
P is for P-P-P-Scary - Directed by Todd Rohal. Three frightened jail-breakers encounter a strange man in a rocking chair within a dark void. Over-the-top silliness makes this kind of tough to swallow. The main characters are very annoying, but the creepy fellow they meet is a bit more fun. You can skip it.
Q is for Questionnaire - Directed by Rodney Ascher. A man taking an intelligence test finds out the dire consequences for answering every question correctly. Nothing spectacular, though the last few moments make it a... See it!
R is for Roulette - Directed by Marvin Kren. Grim black & white drama about three people playing russian roulette while something foul attempts to break into their cellar. Doesn't really have an ending, but it's compelling and well made. See it!
S is for Split - Directed by Juan Martinez Moreno. Tense, Brian De Palma-esque thriller about a man talking to his wife while her home is invaded by a hammer-wielding intruder. Very nice use of split-screen, brutal finale. Must see it!
T is for Torture Porn - Directed by Jen and Sylvia Soska. A group of sleazy pornographers find out in horrific fashion they've hired the wrong girl for a photoshoot. Freakout of an ending makes up for a fairly predictable set-up. See it!
U is for Utopia - Directed by Vincenzo Natali. An average man learns to consequences of not being one of the beautiful people in an antiseptic future. Production design and cinematography are top-notch. See it!
V is for Vacation - Directed by Jerome Sable. Nasty little number focusing on the price to be paid for getting too out of hand while on vacation - especially in Thailand. Packs a punch, to be sure. See it!
W is for Wish - Directed by Steven Kostanski. Hilarious and weird; starts off like a toy commercial from the 80s but quickly descends into grim madness when two kids find out what it would really be like to join their favorite superhero on his home planet. Must see it!
X is for Xylophone - Directed by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustilo. Curiously brief segment about a deranged babysitter; doesn't have much in the way of a story but it does indeed feature a rather upsetting, ghastly visual toward the end. See it!
Y is for Youth - Directed by Soichi Umezawa. A young girl imagines exacting fitting vengeance on her irresponsible parents in this terrific segment, which is filled with wild, disturbing practical effects. Outrageously entertaining. Must see it!
Z is for Zygote - Directed by Chris Nash. Supremely upsetting fable about a pregnant woman in a farmhouse who doesn't want her baby to leave her body; the end of this one is a grotesque showstopper. Must see it!