Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Movie Review: The ABCs of Death 2 (2014)

Oh man, here we go again. No time for much of an introduction for today's film, kids, because I've finally gotten around to seeing The ABCs of Death 2 (so I'm lazy and waited for it to come on streaming, what) which means I have 26 little films to talk about here. So let's just get into it.

I did the same kind of rating system that I did for the first ABCs of Death to make it a little easier for me - a star for ones that I really liked, a half-star for ones that I sorta liked but didn't really wow me, and a sad face mostly for ones that I was too stupid to get. So if I mention stars and half-stars and sad faces, that's what I'm talking about.

"A is for Amateur"
Directed by E.L. Katz
Not a bad way to start things out. I have not seen Katz's other directorial effort Cheap Thrills, but I have heard many good things about it. And I totally believe it after seeing Amateur. There's a really good flashy montage with funky music at the beginning to set up the story of a hitman going after his next mark - and then things go very wrong. Apparently those air ducts that people crawl around in are not always as clean as they are in the movies... Wonderfully funny twist at the end of this one.

"B is for Badger"
Directed by Julian Barratt
Things are starting off good. There are a couple attempts at found footage with ABCs of Death 2 and Badger is the first one. It is a very funny and simple story of a camera crew shooting a segment for their nature show called "Toland's World" about the supposed death of a badger colony or whatever because of a new power plant built nearby. The host is a bit of a douche so you'll like what happens here and hopefully you'll chuckle a bit, too.

"C is for Capital Punishment"
Directed by Julian Gilbey
Another simple story here, but one that really packs a punch with its intent and message. There's a missing girl in an obviously close-knit village and some poor guy has been accused and convicted by his peers. This segment has some great, horrific special effects and I really liked its comment not only on the death penalty, but also on the idea of the court of public opinion with the scene at the beginning.

"D is for Deloused"
Directed by Robert Morgan
The first of only two animated segments in the whole film and the first segment to get a sad-face notation from me. The animation is odd, as is the story that it tries to tell, so it was hard for me to really get a grasp on it. I'm not saying it was bad at all, just that it didn't really do anything for me.
"E is for Equilibrium"
Directed by Alejandro Brugues
A different location for a horror film, Equilibrium concerns two men that have apparently been stranded on a island for some time, when a woman suddenly washes ashore to join them. The story is very tongue-in-cheek but also just the slightest bit insulting so I can't totally give it my approval. I did love the filming technique they used, though, with the constantly moving camera to make it look like it was all mostly one shot but there are really several scenes and transitions within it.
"F is for Falling"
Directed by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado
I thought the guys who gave me the two amazing films Rabies and Big Bad Wolves would do the same here. Sadly, though, their segment Falling left me a little perplexed and not sure how to feel about it just yet. It involves a female soldier stuck in a parachute in a tree and the guy who comes to rescue her. Actually the quick series of unfortunate events reminded me of Rabies a little. However, the segment didn't have near enough punch that I know these guys are capable of giving us.
"G is for Grandad"
Directed by Jim Hosking
Oh my. What was this? Very, very odd little tale of a grown man living with his dear old Grandad - and then some weird shit happens. I really don't know what else to say about this one! I'm scared to learn where the idea for this one came from, that's for sure. Still, it does look good and has a nice setting and look for the actors, who are quite committed to their roles and really sell... whatever the hell this is supposed to be about.
"H is for Head Games"
Directed by Bill Plympton
The other animated segment of the anthology, and another one that I couldn't find myself getting behind. The animation is like pencil sketchings and has a male head and a female head starting out kissing, and then their bodies start to do weird stuff to each other with lots of exaggerated sound effects in the background. When the title comes up at the end of Head Games, it does make a bit more sense what they were trying to do but not enough for me to really love it.
"I is for Invincible"
Directed by Erik Matti
Haha, very nice shift from the last couple of segments! Invincible has a group of four people, supposedly relatives, who are torturing and trying to kill a bound old woman for her inheritance, but she just doesn't seem to want to die. There's a great sense of humor here and again, some very cool effects. The setting was also unique as well. They could have shot this anywhere, really, but instead chose a place where the set dressing was elaborate and plush and the colors were great.
"J is for Jesus"
Directed by Dennison Ramalho
There are few segments in this sequel anthology that actually have a really great story and I think this is definitely one of them. A gay man is tortured by two people apparently trying to exorcise the gay out of him when he is saved by a very special person. Good bloody scenes, and great makeup on one of the characters later on, and an important message. Nice work.
"K is for Knell"
Directed by Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper
Ugh, another one that is technically really good, but that I really didn't get! A "knell" is like a death knell, when a bell rings all solemnly meaning impending death or something. The knell in the story is this weird, unexplainable thing that appears in the sky and how its effects come after one woman in her apartment. Again, the segment looks good and is really well shot, but I needed a bit more information and/or explanation to help me out a bit.
"L is for Legacy"
Directed by Lancelot Imasuen
The weakest segment of the bunch so far. The story is okay - some guys in a tribal village are about sacrifice some other guy but stop and then a big hairy monster walks around and kills people - but the execution is not as impressive as most of the other segments, especially the gore effects. The acting is also quite weak and lazy. However, I do really hope that the director's name is actually Lancelot.
"M is for Masticate"
Directed by Robert Boocheck
A quick, fun segment that just shows a fat, sweaty, hairy man running down the streets (in slow motion) attacking people. The final shot explains it all with one line of dialogue and it was actually pretty funny, so I have to at least half-like it for that.
I also really hope that the director's name is actually Boocheck.
"N is for Nexus"
Directed by Larry Fessenden
I'm only familiar with four of the directors this time around, and Larry Fessenden is definitely one of those. His contribution is Nexus, a cute but then tragic story about two people meeting up in the city for Halloween (dressed as Frankenstein and the Bride of Frankenstein), and one person who ruins it all. Fessenden found a wonderful way to actually work the title and the letter of his segment into the story, which kinda makes it all the more sad and all the more meaningful.
"O is for Ochlocracy (Mob Rule)"
Directed by Hajime Ohata
The real "wow" segment of ABCs of Death 2 doesn't come until the very end, but Ochlocracy is one of those gems that comes pretty close. The story they came up with here is absolutely fantastic, one of the ones that I would love to see get made into a full-length feature. In the short, a woman is being tried in a court of zombies for the murders that she committed during the zombie outbreak (shortly after the outbreak, a cure was found and the zombies are sorta alive and sentient now). Excellent idea for turning the zombie story on its head and coming up with something really interesting and unique.
"P is for P-P-P-P Scary!"
Directed by Todd Rohal
 Now that doesn't start with the letter P, like, at all. I'm calling shenanigans. Again, I didn't really get this segment at all. The style is sort of like The Three Stooges or something similar but the story just makes no sense. Definitely more comedy than horror here, and even then, more just weird goofball stuff that wasn't even funny than actual comedy. Nah, didn't like it.

"Q is for Questionnaire"
Directed by Rodney Ascher
You know, I always knew that taking intelligence tests from random people on the street was a bad idea. And now the main character of this segment does, too. This part of the story is intercut with what ends up happening after the character finishes his questionnaire, and it deserves a half-star for this easily readable technique that gets right to the punch and the point of the short. Are you starting to see what kinds of things I gravitate more towards? I can't help it, that's what I like.

"R is for Roulette"
Directed by Marvin Kren
Another one that deserves a half-star for being well-made and at least coherent, but is still shy of doing something that really wowed me. Roulette is shot in black and white and is set in the 40s, with three people in a basement playing Russian roulette. It doesn't look like they are being forced to or anything, but there is something outside the room that seems fairly sinister to them. There's a small twist to the story, and I really would have liked to know what was outside - another short that might qualify for a longer treatment - but otherwise nicely done.

"S is for Split"
Directed by Juan Martinez Moreno
Now, this one gets a full star for sure. Split refers to the editing technique used in the short which fans of the TV show 24 will love seeing again. The short feels like a quick re-cut of an action or thriller movie, especially because of the story - a man calls home from his trip away and while talking to his wife, overhears someone breaking into their house and then... you'll have to find out. Again, just a good simple story with a nice twist. Like the perfect cocktail, that's all you need.

"T is for Torture Porn"
Directed by Jen and Sylvia Soska
Oh my little Soska twins, I wanted to like your segment so much but I really wasn't feeling it. The turn in the story from a woman being filmed by a bunch of douchebags to audition for a movie was way too over-the-top. I will say that it definitely got the point across of what they were trying to say about the treatment of women in films and in filmmaking. However, the fantastical manifestation they came up with for that wasn't to my personal liking and seemed to overshadow the message, which was actually a really good one. 

"U is for Utopia"
Directed by Vincenzo Natali
Perfect! Utopia is another segment that works the letter into the story. In a futuristic mall of sorts, all the people are perfectly dressed and coifed, and there is one guy that obviously is out of place and ill-fitting of the rest of the patrons. He is scanned as a "sub-norm" and immediately dealt with by the utopian police. Another good message that hits a lot harder once the title pops up at the end, backed up by a well made short. Full star!

"V is for Vacation"
Directed by Jerome Sable
I grudgingly gave Vacation a half-star. It's another attempt at found footage, where a guy video chats with his girlfriend while he's on a vacation with his friend - and he's been naughty. I hate, hate, hate douchebaggy characters like this in movies but something still made me appreciate the segment in some small way. Maybe because they both die, I don't know. Maybe the blood and the little twist. Still didn't wow me. Now I'm thinking about changing my half-star to a sad face. I'll get back to you on this one.

"W is for Wish"
Directed by Steven Kostanski
This was another segment that came up with a cool concept. It starts out like a toy commercial with two little boys playing with the "Champions of Zorb" and all the fun they are having - until they are actually transported to the world of the toy. And this world is definitely not kid-friendly. I like the dark comedy of this segment and the way they turn a seemingly innocent child's toy on its head. "Fantasy Man"? Not really the kind of fantasy man you want him to be...

"X is for Xylophone"
Directed by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo
Oh. My. Goodness. They really saved some of the best for last. Xylophone has the badass Beatrice Dalle (a.k.a the psycho bitch from Inside) as a babysitter who just can't handle the annoying way her charge plays the xylophone while she's trying to listen to some nice, classical music. The ending is so unbelievably graphic and horrible that you wonder how they got away with it, but you are so glad they did. Would I sound completely horrible if I said I laughed a lot at this segment too? Whatever, I did. It was awesome.

"Y is for Youth"
Directed by Soichi Umezawa
Our second-to-last segment is yet another cool concept that is brought to life very well. An unhappy teenage girl is sitting between her mother and stepfather at the dinner table, and in her mind, as she goes through all the things that she hates about them, she fantasizes about what gruesome things should happen. Despite being fantastical and dream-like, I found myself liking the way her frustrations manifested themselves - even with the strange vacuum made out of fries.

"Z is for Zygote"
Directed by Chris Nash
Ah! Finally, I can talk about this one! They definitely picked the right filmmaker to end the whole shebang that is ABCs of Death 2, because Zygote is without a doubt the best segment of the whole bunch. A pregnant woman waits thirteen years for the return of her husband while their child continues to grow and grow inside her. The segment is touching in an odd way at first, though the main character is a little pathetic, and then things go totally gruesome and awesome around the middle, and then it ends with the viewer having some very bad thoughts in their head. I would love to talk more about the uber-gruesome part, but I don't want to spoil it. Let's just say there is a bit of a Lucio Fulci influence. LOVED this segment.

Much like its predecessor, The ABCs of Death 2 has about the same outcome you would expect from an anthology with so many different segments in it - some good, some bad. Unlike its predecessor, though, there were not nearly as many shorts that could easily be dismissed as just plain bad. Most of the segments this time around had something going for them with either style or substance, and even if they weren't exactly to my personal taste, I can still appreciate almost all of them. Seven segments really stood out for me in different ways, and those were Amateur, Badger, Ochlocracy, Split, Utopia, Xylophone, and Zygote.

Also something I noticed about ABCs of Death 2 was that it was overall much less wild and crazy as the first one, and that is definitely a good thing. There is nothing like F is for Fart this time, but there is also nothing like L is for Libido, either (even though Xylophone and Zygote come very close). The whole film is much more watered down and tame, and therefore, I think, just that much better.

Stay for the credits on this movie, too! There's an update for ABCs of Death 3 and a quite odd appearance from Laurence R. Harvey.

Hopefully I can get another nasty comment like I did on my review of the first film. :)


  1. hmmmm...let's see, what nasty comment can I make about you...You, you're too...FEMALE!...also, you overuse the letter e!

    lol, in all seriousness, great review I'm tempted to give it a watch, but Anthologies are kind of hit and miss with me (my mortal sin: I dislike most Tales from the Crypt episodes that I've seen, because the ideas usually seem so poorly thought-out). But, some of the ideas here seem brilliant.

    Unrelated note: Are you going to be covering The Lazarus Effect? I feel like it's a great chance to talk about a creeping problem with horror today: Film makers are so afraid of 80s cheese that they don't let the actors effectively emote. Watching the movie, I couldn't help but think "someone put their heart and soul into creating a fantastic script, and these idiots are reading it like they're bored."

    To give some perspective on how bad it was: Evan Peters was clearly intended as the comic relief, and even he was underacting. When your comic relief isn't allowed to get excited, there's a problem

    1. Dammit! I always knew I was too female! HOW DARE I.

      I haven't caught a movie at the theater in a loooong time so I don't know if I'll get to The Lazarus Effect. I am way more curious about it now though. So did you think the movie was overall bad or did it have some good points?

    2. Definitely had good points. Like I said, the story and dialogue were both good, and it had a final twist that was actually caught me off guard. So, I really feel like it was a good script handed to a director who didn't put any passion behind it.

  2. Hey! first time commenter so I apologise if I come across as a bit awkward aah.
    But if you liked the short film for B directed by Julian Barratt, I was wondering if you'd seen his kind of cult followed show The Mighty Boosh which aired here in the UK? By no means horror, but definitely has his dark surreal spin on it. It might be worth checking out..if you're into that kind of thing anyway (':

  3. wow i think your really dumb.

    NAH! Joking xDDD This time, our tastes differed a bit, though there are a few segments we both equally love the hell out of, like S, X or Z.

    Very excited for the upcoming third part. These movies are so much fun!

    1. I think they're a lot of fun, too! And if this one was a little bit better than the first one, then maybe the third one will be better than both of them!

      Hell yes S, X, and Z were easily the best. I'd like to see someone try to convince me otherwise!

  4. Yes! I just finished watching the movie (really, three minutes ago) and I loved how it ended this time! I liked A,E,S,R, O, Z... I can't actually say I which I liked the best! Personally, I think the second part of the movie was when the plots of the shorts became better, with twists and concepts that were actually horror-like. Z was my favorite, and the ending leaves you... Wondering? Disgusted? Anyway, I can't wait for the third part! At this pace it looks like each new version will have fewer crappy shorts.

    1. Zygote was amazing! Disgusting and fascinating at the same time! Let's hope the third one lives up (if they're still doing it, haven't heard anything for a while...).