Review: ABCs of Death 2 Brings More Creativity, Finesse to Grisly Anthology

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file_176635_1_shock-score-7.90x72ABCs of Death 2 PosterLess farts and giant dicks and more polish and focus. That seems to have been the mantra for filmmakers going into ABCs of Death 2, a sequel to the 2012 anthology horror film which called upon 26 different directors to tackle a grim story inspired by the letter they were assigned. The follow-up is a vast improvement. Watchable from start to finish, in fact, unlike the predecessor that had you riding the remote and hitting the fast-forward button to get to the good entries. And those were far and few between. This time out, producers Ant Timpson and Tim League have wrangled a strong crop of filmmakers who have brought more creativity and gut-wrenching twists, but less perversity (nothing tops the first film’s “L is for Libido”), to this macabre assortment of gnarly tales.

If you’re familiar with The ABCs of Death you know there’s no wraparound segment (there’s no time – these films are a meaty 2 hours length); it takes an in and out, thank you very much and mind the bloodshed as you move on to the next segment approach. ABCs 2 flows a lot better this time and I’m going to spend the following paragraphs on the segments I especially loved and/or liked and that made me cringe, laugh sadistically or simply say…what the fuck?

ABCs 2 starts out strong with E.L. Katz’s “A is for Amateur,” a rapid-fire flurry of Luc Besson-like images – beautiful women, drugs, guns – as a hit man prepares to take out his target, but we’re jarringly flung into reality and not everything is as it seems. Darkly comedic (no surprise from the fella that gave us Cheap Thrills), this one is a solid appetizer for the truly grim material that follows.

Julian Gilby (A Lonely Place to Die) packs a punch with “C is for Capital Punishment” which finds a man facing a harsh execution for a crime he may or may not have committed. It’s a swift, stressful entry that presents a lot of story in a short amount of time. Big Bad Wolves‘ Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado offer a heartbreaking installment with “F is for Falling” (holy shit, these guys are maturing in promising ways as filmmakers before our eyes) and “G is for Granddad,” by Jim Hosking, cracked me up and definitely falls under the category of WTF. Dennison Ramalho’s “J is for Jesus” is a powerful bit of work almost undone by an EC Comics-like turn. “K is for Knell” by Vanishing Waves‘ Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper finds a young woman watching the world come undone before her very eyes thanks to…some alien orb made up of black viscous fluid. This one is haunting and delivers a Lovecraftian sense of dread.

Robert Boocheck – who won a place in ABCs 2 – presents “M is for Masticate,” which is clever and the amusement factor rests on the seeing the expressive leading man in slow motion as he tears down a city street. “N is for Nexus” by Larry Fessenden is likely the best edited entry of the bunch (it’s also definitively “Halloween in New York”). There’s a terrific Twilight Zone-esque role reveal in “O is for Ochlocracy” that spins the zombie genre in a new directed courtesy of Hajime Ohata.

Juan Martinez Moreno goes for the throat in “S is for Split.” It’s a home invasion scenario with a wife at home and her husband in Paris and it plays out with the two of them on the phone while the story is told in split screen. Brutal stuff! And, a change of pace for the director who last gave us Game of Werewolves. Alexandre Bustillo and Julian Maury continue to work out their aggression towards children (a running theme, it seems, from the unborn child in Inside to the adolescents in Among the Living) in “X is for Xylophone.” This entry reunites them with Inside‘s Beatrice Dalle; it’s short and nasty and features the level of bloodshed you would expect from the French duo.

And then there’s… “Z is for Zygote” by Chris Nash. Whoa, baby. This one is out there. It’s Cronenberg by way of some screwed-up fairy tale. Easily my favorite of the bunch and the less said about it, the better. To date, Nash has only done short films. Get this guy a feature ASAP.

The rest of ABCs 2 is fun. There’s only a handful I flat-out didn’t care for, but they don’t hold me back from giving this anthology a hearty recommendation.