Celluloid Screams 2014: The ABC’s of Death 2 Review.

Following a mixed bag of toilet humour, taboo subjects and in some cases unimaginative segments in the first anthology, The ABC’s of Death 2 held low expectations for me. The light at the end of the tunnel was the exception of seeing shorts by some talented directors including Jen and Sylvia Soska, Aharon Keshales and Dennison Ramalho to name a few. Its a collaborative piece that allows variations of different filmic styles and horror ideas that made the first film so successful therefore opening up the void for a sequel to see what else could be done with the concept. In a surprising turn of events, ABC’s 2 is actually pretty solid with a consistent number of creative and appealing segments that are guaranteed to engross diverse horror fans who want a bit of everything from gore to psychological terror. This time round there’s 26 new directors who offer up a number of grizzly and gruesome ways to die!

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The opening credit sequence is simply stunning. It features stop-motion animation of skeletal schoolchildren being murdered by their teachers within a storybook, the sequence is accompanied by haunting theme music of the classic childlike ‘la, la, la’s’ resulting in a chilling effect. The creepy tone is therefore set as a selection of various horror shorts from all over the world unfold on screen.

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E.L. Katz kicks things off with A is for Amateur, a gut-punching, action-packed and well shot sequence that depicted a hitman who’s assigned job goes horribly wrong.

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Julian Barratt, a British comedian best-known for The Mighty Boosh delivers plenty of laughs in the satirical B is for Badger, documenting an agitated wildlife television presenter who get’s more than he bargained for when he and his crew encounter a not so cuddly badger!

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Julien Gilbey is up next with a harrowing and realist look at lynch mob behaviour in C is for Capital Punishment. A young girl goes missing and a local man is accused by an emotive bunch within his village who are out for blood. Without revealing too much, the letter C cuts close to the bone, providing a disturbing take on what humans are prepared to do based on assumption!

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D is for Deloused by Robert Morgan had to be one of the most visually creative contenders within the anthology. With gore-tastic stop-motion animation, there’s plenty to feast your eyes on. The short tells the tale of a giant bug that assists a executed man to exact revenge on those who killed him. D displays a sense of uniqueness about it.

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Next up was a twisted but comedic segment from Alejandro Brugues titled E is for Equilibrium. Two castaways who appear to be stranded on a tropical island following a stag party have their world turned upside down after a beautiful woman enters their life. Will friendship win out in the end or will the two men be blinded by infatuation for the same woman?

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The next entry directed by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado was eagerly anticipated following the gut-wrenching, phenomenal thriller Big Bad Wolves from last year. Keshales explores similar thematics to his successful 2013 feature, the tension between the Israeli’s and the Palestinian’s. A young military woman is stranded up a tree where her parachute has landed and is discovered by a Palestinian boy who displays hostility toward her. F is for Falling demonstrates an intense power struggle that ends spectacularly.

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Where to start with this one? G is for Grandad is one of the more obscure entries this time round. A generational clash between a long-haired Grandfather and Grandson takes a turn for the strange! This is one that has to be seen to be believed, there’s lashes of dark and twisted humour galore. From British director Jim Hosking, the letter G is a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the dependent of the youth on the old while striving for their own independence.

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H is for Head Games is a surrealist offering depicting a power struggle between a hand drawn man and woman. It’s difficult to quite ‘get’ what this one is trying to do however its inventive in its own right as the only segment in the anthology to take this filmic approach.

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Letter I, which stands for Invincible was one of the highlights from the ABC’s sequel. Directed by Filipino filmmaker Erik Matti, I is for Invinvible’s concept takes a satirical look at a group of siblings determined to get their hands on the inheritance from their Grandmother who just won’t die! Echoing The Evil Dead in style, I is a very comical segment, representing themes and ideas of greed and entitlement.

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Dennison Ramalho presents a poignant short; J is for Jesus. Taking on a brave subject matter, J is for Jesus comes across as heartbreaking and purely devastating as a man is martyred for being a homosexual. With striking visuals, J is for Jesus tells an uncomfortable story that reminds us there is unfortunately still prejudices in this world when it comes down to religious views.

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K is for Knell is an interesting entry directed by Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper in which a woman comes across some insidious black liquid that has the ability to transform people into killers.

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L is for Legacy is an African-themed segment that depicts a ritual sacrifice that has dire consequences for the inhabitants of the village.

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Now for the winner of ‘The Search for the 26th Director Competition’; that in my personal opinion was a rather underwhelming choice. M is for Masticate is played for laughs as a zombie-like man runs down the street in slow-motion. Robert Boocheck’s winning entry suggests that there could be something supernatural going on with this character however the end twist shows otherwise! While most definitely selected for its humour, there were so many more shorts that had much more interesting premises that were more deserving.

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Larry Fessenden’s N is for Nexus is the perfect segment to put you into the seasonal spirit ready for Halloween. With a specific aesthetic filled with pumpkins, costumes (including  a reference to You’re Next) and trick or treaters, Nexus focuses on a couple donning a Frankenstein’s Monster and Bride of Frankenstein costumes. The male sets out to meet his monstrous bride and rushes as fast as he can but something happens along the way which puts a downer on the whole holiday. Beautifully shot and captivating, N is for Nexus is one of the strongest contenders incorporated in ABC’s 2.

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The next segment came in the shape of Japanese director Hajime Ohata’s O is for Ochlorcracy (translated to Mob Rule). A woman is tried in court and sentenced to death by none other than a group of zombies. O is for Ocholoracy is a gripping short that comments on the possible apathetic state of the judicial system. O is sure an interesting one.

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P-P-P-P Scary is another obscure little entry as well as incredibly stylish with homage paid toward black and white comedy films of the past. Filled with strangeness and oddball effects, the Letter P is incredibly enjoyable to watch. Todd Rohal creates a segment that stands out from the rest as it captures that 1930’s, Three-Stooges style comedy mixed in with what would have been considered controversial horror at the time especially for its in-your-face imagery. P-P-P-P Scary is unexpected in what direction it will take next!

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Q is one of the more cleverly-crafted entries that brings  a sense of paranoid horror and the compelling thriller into the mix. Q is for Questionnaire uncomfortably gets under the skin as it depicts a man answering flawlessly on an intelligence test. The scenes intercut with those of lab experiments foreshadowing the purpose of said test, its jaw-dropping! Directed by Rodney Ascher.

 

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Marven Kren’s R is for Roulette is reminiscent of Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds (2009). It’s a suspenseful entry that sees two men and a woman playing a game of roulette to the death, but which one of them will actually pull the trigger? R has a consistent flow of intensity throughout that will leave the audience on the edge of their seat.

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Spanish genre filmmaker Juan Martinez Moreno’s continues the intense tone in the next segment S is for Split. With the quite literal use of a split screen, S shows a husband working away on “business” on the phone to his wife who is isolated in their enormous house. There’s an intruder at the door that rockets this segment into a cat and mouse game as the husband traumatically listens to his tormented wife, fearing that she is about to be brutally murdered by her attacker. This is a must-see as it takes the home invasion concept up a level. It’s frightening and shocking at the same time.

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The Soska Sisters team up once again with American Mary breakout actress Tristan Risk in T is for Torture Porn where they take on the M of all evils, misogyny! Playing an actress at an audition, Miss Risk’s character is appallingly treated by the director played Astron-6 favourite Conor Sweeny who has other ideas for his upcoming star. When he forces the seemingly vulnerable young woman to strip, he and his film crew get more than they bargained for as Jen and Sylvia provide us with a highly entertaining spectacle of a segment conveying the crazy side of horror alongside a smart commentary on the treatment of women within the industry.

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U is for Utopia comes from Cube and Splice director Vincenzo Natali. This segment displays a profound message surrounding the world’s obsession with vanity. With emphasis on appearance, a man who’s considered ‘unattractive’ is singled out in the middle of a mall by those who are deemed attractive, he is subsequently executed making U is for Utopia a truly haunting segment.

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Another highlight, V is for Vacation takes advantage of our endless methods of communication through technology and the dangers it potentially possesses. While on holiday a young man is face-timing his girlfriend (essentially the point of view of the audience). When his unsavoury friend emerges and decides to taunt her about her boyfriend not being entirely faithful she is horrified to discover that he has slept with a prostitute but the worst is yet to come. Jerome Stable’s V works well as it supplies the shock factor to disturbing effect as both the girlfriend and us the audience are placed in a position of powerlessness.

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Steven Kostanski of Astron-6 delivers W is for Wish with the collective’s signature 80’s aesthetic. Remember those old toy commercials that made the toys actually look better than what they were? Well W is for Wish is the embodiment of a child’s imagination and the fantasy of where that imagination takes them. Events however take a turn for the worst when the children are captured by the evil villain from the fantasy world they have entered. There’s also a short but awesome cameo from the Soska’s who look right at home in the zany world Kostanski has created.

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The tone shifts considerably with the next segment from Inside directors Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, X is for Xylophone. This French short has disturbing undertones as it features a traditional woman in charge of babysitting a young child who is happily playing her xylophone. There is shock and horror on the horizon for when the parents return home!

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Heading towards the end of the anthology, Y is for Youth is significantly memorable as it uses frightening and quirky visuals to convey a young girl’s frustrations toward her parent’s neglect of her.

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The ABC’s of Death 2 closes with Z is for Zygote, an imaginative body horror from the perspective of an expecting mother who literally won’t give birth until her husband returns home. Its unusual and unique in its own way and an extreme closure to what’s been a rollercoaster ride of inventive, gore-tastic visuals and dark humour.

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As a full film, The ABC’s of Death 2 is a great improvement on the original with each segment standing out in their own right. Its a must-see this Halloween as there is something to satisfy every aspect of our horror-fuelled cravings!

Check out my review of the original here, written back in April 2013.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

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One Response to “Celluloid Screams 2014: The ABC’s of Death 2 Review.”

  1. […] Goosebumps, however also translate well to segment styled films such as Creepshow and most recently The ABC’s of Death and V/H/S. Tales of Halloween is a cut above the rest, showcasing a whole lot of talent from […]

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